July 11, 2013

Pinkie Cooper

China Toy Expo

Techno Source Unveils New Line of Kurio Tablets

KurioTechno Source, a division of LF Products (Li & Fung Co.), has introduced a new line of Kurio Android devices for families with kids, including the Kurio Touch 4s, a 4-inch handheld; Kurio 7s, a 7-inch tablet; and Kurio 10s, a 10-inch tablet available exclusively at Toys “R” Us stores nationwide and at Toysrus.com.
The Wi-Fi enabled devices will feature an Android 4.2 operating system (Jellybean), a comprehensive Kurio proprietary suite of parental controls, and will come preloaded with free family-friendly content. Kurio Touch 4s, Kurio 7s, and Kurio 10s are available now for pre-order exclusively at www.Toysrus.com/Kurio.
Kurio has partnered with Disney to preload premium apps that feature kids’ favorite characters from Cars 2, Disney Princess, The Avengers, and more. The Kurio tablets also feature an exclusive, complete preschool-through-sixth-grade learning system. These 30-plus preloaded apps are developed based on the U.S. Common Core State Standards and provide in-depth learning while still being fun for kids.
Using the Kurio interface, families can create up to eight unique user profiles on the Kurio tablets, and up to four different profiles on the Kurio Touch 4s.  Each family member can personalize their Kurio device by uploading a profile picture and choosing from a large selection of themes and avatars. Each profile offers full separation of files, apps, search history, game progress and scores, downloads, parental control settings, music, videos, and pictures.
For more information, visit Kurioworld.com/us/.

ASTRA Breaks Attendance Record for Marketplace & Academy

ASTRA’s 2013 Marketplace & Academy, held June 16 to 19 in Nashville, Tenn., broke all previous attendance records, according to the organization. This is the sixth year in a row that ASTRA has broken its own record for attendance.
The number of retail stores represented increased nearly 10 percent over 2012 to 450 stores. A total of 1,987 members of the specialty toy industry participated in the Nashville event, which represented an increase of nearly 15 percent. 
Next year’s ASTRA Marketplace & Academy will be held June 8 to 11 in Phoenix. ASTRA will start selling exhibit space for this event in September.

Hasbro Buys Majority Stake in Backflip Studios

Hasbro Inc. has acquired a majority stake in Backflip Studios, developer of mobile games including DragonVale, NinJump, and Paper Toss. Hasbro paid $112 million in an all-cash transaction for 70 percent of the company.
Founded in 2009 by Julian Farrior, Dale Thoms, and Tom Blind, Backflip Studios is one of the fastest growing and most profitable mobile game studios with more than 300 million downloads of its popular games. Other titles in their portfolio include Ragdoll Blaster, Army of Darkness Defense, and OutWorded. Backflip will continue to develop its own intellectual property, as well as create mobile games featuring many of Hasbro’s brands. As part of the transaction, Backflip's management team will continue to run the company, which will remain in Boulder, Colo. Hasbro anticipates the transaction to be neutral to slightly accretive to its 2013 financial results.

Disney Takes Disney Infinity Game on Nationwide Summer Tour 

Disney InfinityDisney Infinity, Disney Interactive's newest video game, is embarking on a multi-city Summer of Endless Fun tour to showcase the anticipated game. The cross-country road trip, which is free to the public, kicked off on July 7 in the Downtown Disney District in Anaheim, Calif. Players will get an exclusive sneak peek at the game before it hits store shelves on August 18.
Fans will get the chance to play Disney Infinity—featuring the innovative Toy Box mode that allows players to let their imaginations run free and create their own adventures using Disney characters from multiple films.
The Summer of Endless Fun Tour will make stops in Chicago, San Diego, Boston, Detroit, and Richmond, culminating with a weekend of launch activities in New York City on August 17 and 18. Activities at each tour stop include game demos, surprise guests, photo opportunities, giveaways, contests, and entertainment provided by Radio Disney.
Disney Infinity allows players to place real-world toy versions of Disney characters onto a device called the Disney Infinity Base and transport them into the virtual game worlds of properties such as Monsters University, The Incredibles, Pirates of the Caribbean, Cars, and The Lone Ranger, as well as into a giant Toy Box.
For additional information about Disney Infinity, visit www.disney.com/infinity.

Ceaco Unveils New Thomas Kinkade Disney Jigsaw Puzzles

CeacoCeaco, a manufacturer of jigsaw puzzles, recently secured the exclusive rights to produce a series of puzzles based on Thomas Kinkade’s My Disney Dreams Collection, a group of paintings inspired by great moments from famous Walt Disney movies. The puzzles, previously only available at Walt Disney theme parks, will receive nationwide distribution starting this summer.
The initial release of Thomas Kinkade Disney Dreams puzzles will consist of the three classics: Cinderella Wishes Upon a Dream, Pinocchio Wishes Upon a Star, and Beauty and the Beast Falling in Love. The 750-piece puzzles will be available in stores by the end of July.


The National Toy Hall of Fame Accepting Nominations

The National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong is accepting nominations for new inductees. On November 7, the National Toy Hall of Fame will reveal the identity of the newest toy inductees. The induction will be followed by a public weekend celebration on November 9 and 10.
The National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong recognizes toys that have engaged and delighted multiple generations, inspiring them to learn, create, and discover through play. Criteria for induction includes icon status; longevity; discovery; and innovation. A toy may be inducted on the basis of this criterion without necessarily having met all of the first three.
Anyone can nominate a toy for induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame.
For more information on the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong, visit www.toyhalloffame.org. To nominate a classic toy, visit www.toyhalloffame.org/nominate. Submissions for nominations must be received by the museum by July 31.

Build-A-Bear Launches Expanded Smurfs Collection    

Build-A-BearBuild-A-Bear Workshop is introducing its second collection of Smurf characters in honor of Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Animation’s The Smurfs 2, set to hit theaters July 31. Kids can find the newest characters from the film, Vexy and Hackus, along with Smurfette at Build-A-Bear Workshop and online at buildabear.com beginning July 5.
To celebrate the Smurfs’ arrival, Build-A-Bear Workshop is holding an #IlovemySmurf Instagram contest. Guests are invited to take a picture of their Smurfs plush from Build-A-Bear Workshop and share it on Instagram using the hashtag #IlovemySmurf in their Instagram photo. Images will be judged on a set of criteria and the five best photos will win. Winners will receive a $50 Bear Buck$ gift card. The contest runs from July 12 to July 21.

Hasbro and EA Sign New Agreement for Mobile Games

Hasbro Inc. and Electronic Arts Inc. have signed a new agreement under which EA will develop several of Hasbro’s best-selling gaming brands for mobile platforms globally.
Under the new four-year agreement, EA will continue to develop mobile games for several of Hasbro’s most successful gaming brands: Monopoly, Scrabble, The Game of Life, Battleship, Boggle, Clue, Risk, and Yahtzee. EA’s Pogo.com gaming community will also continue to be a central hub online for digital versions of Hasbro games.

ShopperTrak: Retail Sales, Traffic to Increase in Back-to-School Season

Retailers can expect that prepared parents will shop and spend more during the back-to-school season than they did last year, according to ShopperTrak, the world’s largest counter and analyzer of retail foot traffic. National retail sales, when compared to the same period last year, will rise 4.3 percent in August, and retail foot traffic will increase 0.6 percent.
Last year, back-to-school sales increased 5.9 percent compared to the previous year. In 2011, those sales increased 4.5 percent over 2010. Likewise, while this year’s retail foot traffic increase may seem incremental, it continues the positive trend. Last year, foot traffic turned around and increased a substantial 11 percent, compared to the back-to-school traffic in 2011. That year, foot traffic declined 5.1 percent from 2010. 
The expected increases in August reflect the U.S. economy’s slow but steady gains. For instance, unemployment this year is lower than it was during last year’s back-to-school season. Though consumer sentiment does not impact retail sales immediately, the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index recently reached its highest level since the beginning of the recession. The last time consumer sentiment was as high as it was in May 2013 was in September 2007.

SMC Launches The Jungle Book Toys at Retailers Worldwide   
SMC Entertainment Group Inc. and partner Sun-Mate Corp., the global toy manufacturer for The Jungle Book, along with DQ Entertainment International, have launched The Jungle Book toy line at retailers worldwide. The toy line includes action figures, play sets, walkie talkies, outdoor adventure, electronic toys, and summer toys.
Sun-Mate has secured international distribution agreements with partners including Hunter Leisure, Target, and Toy World in Australia; Flash Toys in Latin America; Haka in New Zealand; Prima Toys in South Africa; MC Entertainment in the Benelux; Scanditoys in Scandinavia; and Hububa Clip in Israel. In addition, the toys are available at Toys “R” Us stores in the Middle East, Israel, and South Africa.
The Jungle Book toys will be available in the U.S. at Amazon.com, Walmart.com, ToysRUs.com, BabiesRUs.com, Target.com, Sears.com, Kmart.com, Kohls.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Wayfair.com, among others. 

Skyrocket Toys Lights Up R/C Aisle

As I wandered the R/C aisles at Toy Fair this year, I noticed the hobby-grade trends trickling down into mass-market toys. R/Cs were starting to become more focused on flying, instead of only ground transportation. Toy companies were trying to discover how to make quality products, such as those found at the hobby grade level, at a price point that was affordable for toy shelves. And the result is tons of cool R/C products that are unlike anything we’ve seen in this category before. Read more.

The Best of Both Worlds

My fondest childhood memories always involve some sort of book. Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, and the Baby-Sitters Club series played a huge role in my adolescence, and I still feel the pang of sweet nostalgia when I see these titles today. Part of my job is to round up toys, mobile apps, games, music, and books to feature in The Toy Insider, but in recent months I find myself frantically searching for books to include while games, toys, and especially apps appear in abundance. I am a bit resistant to change, as I still prefer to hold a book in my hand to a Kindle or Nook, so the decline of printed books had me bogged down a bit. As I began searching for books to feature, I realized that reading is reading, and anything that brings a child to find his or her inner bibliophile is A-OK with me. There are so many new platforms for reading that don’t leave out books but take them to a new level, and we have to keep up! Read more.

ASTRA Awards Specialty Toy Leaders

Terry Gannon, executive director of the Good Toy Group, and Idanna Smith, managing director of the Good Toy Group, have been honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA).
Jamie Seeley-Kreisman, past president of ASTRA, owner of specialty toy manufacturer BEKA, Inc., and a past Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, presented the award at ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy in Nashville. 
“ASTRA recognizes Terry and Idanna for their efforts to support independent toy retailers, specialty toy reps, and specialty toy manufacturers during a time that has seen rapid change in our marketplace,” said Seeley-Kreisman.  “Both have consistently and generously ‘raised their hands’ to share what they have learned during their many years of toy industry experience.  Up and down the supply chain, they are always willing to help others be successful and they are always committed to advancing the specialty toy industry.”
Other ASTRA awardees include the Boulder, Colo. toy store Grandrabbit’s Toy Shoppe and its owner Lynne Milot, winner of the Retailer Excellence Award; Toysmith of Sumner, Wash., which is this year’s Manufacturer Excellence Award winner; and Barry Wunderlich of Best Toys, Inc. in Lisle, Ill., who was recognized with the Sales Representative Excellence Award.

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