October 17, 2013

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Toys “R” Us Appoints CEO, Names President of U.S. Business

Toys “R” Us, Inc. has named two seasoned executives with deep international and domestic retail expertise to lead the global franchise and its domestic business. Antonio Urcelay has been named CEO, Toys “R” Us, Inc., effective immediately, after serving as the company’s interim CEO since May of this year. Hank Mullany, an experienced retail executive with a background in operations, finance, customer service, and strategic planning, has been named president, Toys “R” Us, U.S., effective November 5. 
Urcelay joined Toys “R” Us in 1996. He will continue to provide worldwide leadership in driving key strategies and growth initiatives in the company’s more than 1,500 stores in 36 countries and jurisdictions around the world. Known for building strong teams, implementing best practices across the organization, and focusing intently on customer service, Urcelay has been instrumental in creating strategies to drive growth in global markets by placing an emphasis on thinking locally. Prior to joining Toys “R” Us, Urcelay spent the majority of his career working in the retail and consumer packaged goods industries, including Spanish dairy company Leche Pascual, Dutch supermarket chain Royal Ahold, and the Spanish subsidiary of Procter & Gamble.
Mullany has an established track record of developing and executing strategies, revitalizing underperforming businesses, and consistently delivering results. He previously served as CEO of The ServiceMaster Company, one of the world’s largest residential and commercial service businesses, and prior to that, was executive vice president of Walmart U.S. and president of Walmart’s northern business, with operational responsibility for more than $90 billion in revenue, over 400,000 associates in 1,300 stores, and 28 distribution centers in 19 states. In his new position at Toys “R” Us, Mullany will oversee all merchandising, marketing, e-commerce, and store operations responsibilities for the 878 U.S. store division. He will report to Urcelay.

ASTRA Announces 2014 Marketplace & Academy Themes and Dates

The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA) theme for its 2014 Marketplace & Academy is “Where play means business.” The event will take place in Phoenix, Ariz., from June 8 to 11, and will feature additional seminars designed to educate manufacturers and sales reps.
For more information, visit www.astratoy.org.

Mattel Launches Playground Productions Creative Storytelling Division

Mattel PlaygroundMattel Inc. announced the formation of Playground Productions, a new division within the Mattel Global Brands group dedicated to the creation and development of strategic multiplatform storytelling. Playground Productions will drive creative storytelling across all Mattel brands—including Barbie, Monster High, and Max Steel—as well as the development and launch of the new animation, Team Hot Wheels: The Origin of Awesome, debuting next year. Additionally, Playground Productions will manage and provide creative direction for the recently announced live-action feature film for Max Steel.

Nintendo Releasing New Nintendo 2DS Portable System

Nintendo 2DSThe Nintendo 2DS system is designed as an entry point into Nintendo handheld video games. The Nintendo 2DS system maintains many of the same hardware features as Nintendo 3DS, such as touch-screen controls, StreetPass, online multiplayer functionality, and the ability to download games.
Without any hinges, the Nintendo 2DS is designed to be a first-time system for kids. It will be available in red and blue and plays all Nintendo 3DS games in 2-D. In addition, Nintendo 2DS is backward compatible and can play Nintendo DS games. Two carrying cases in either red or blue are available.


Little Tikes and Diono Collaborate on New Product Line

Diono is introducing a new line of products stemming from a collaborative partnership with Little Tikes. The new line, available early next year at major retailers nationwide and in key international markets, will include more than 50 new items, such as Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Accessories and Gear, Little Tikes Booster Seats, Little Tikes Strollers, and Little Tikes Car and Travel Accessories.

Dark Horse to Launch Game of Thrones Figures

Games of Thrones figuresDark Horse has partnered with HBO Global Licensing to provide a line of collectibles from the hit series, Game of Thrones. Building on a collection of highly anticipated figures, three new characters are making their worldwide debut this week: Tyrion Lannister, Ned Stark, and Khal Drogo. They join Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen in Dark Horse’s growing Game of Thrones figure line.
The non-articulated figures measure from 6.25 to 8.75 inches in height and are based on the likenesses of the respective actors. They arrive on shelves in April.






Hasbro Brings Classic Toy Brands Back to Europe

Hasbro Inc. is re-launching Weebles and Spirograph, two popular worldwide children’s brands. Weebles, which debuted in the 1970s, will hit store shelves in the UK, Spain, Italy, and Australia this fall through a licensing collaboration with Character Options. In a separate agreement, Goldfish and Bison will re-introduce the arts and crafts brand, Spirograph, throughout Europe next year.
The new Weebles toy range will be re-shaped with a more rounded base and molded body shape. Featuring Entertainment One’s Peppa Pig, her brother George, and friends, the line will include character figures, a car, a train, and feature play sets.
Spirograph, which re-launched with Kahootz Toys in the U.S. this year, will feature a selection of colored pens and pencils and 3-D glasses.

DreamPlay Toys Launches The Little Mermaid Toy App

DreamPlay ToysDreamPlay Toys LLC, a joint venture between NantWorks LLC and Jakks Pacific Inc., has launched the Ariel’s Musical Surprise app on the iTunes app store. Developed by DreamPlay Toys and published by Disney, the app uses NantWorks’ patented ID recognition technology. When played with select Little Mermaid toys from Jakks Pacific, Ariel’s underwater world from the film comes to life. Children can explore, paint, decorate, and create music for a unique experience.
The DreamPlay app-enabled Little Mermaid toys include Ariel Musical Light-Up Feature Dress, Musical Instrument Set, Magical Mermaid Kitchen, and Ariel Keyboard Vanity.

Fisher-Price to Continue as Master Toy Partner for Silvergate Media’s Octonauts    

OctonautsSilvergate Media, a UK-based independent entertainment company, has signed a renewal deal with Fisher-Price Inc. to continue as master toy partner for its preschool property, Octonauts. Branded toys are already on shelves across the UK, France, Germany, Australia, and the U.S.
The animated adventure series has been sold in more than 100 territories and is broadcast on CBeebies in the UK, Disney Junior in the U.S., ABC in Australia, and SuperRTL’s Toggolino in Germany. The extension of the master toy deal will bring new toys and build on the successful broadcast platform.

Funko and Underground Toys Announce European Partnership

Funko LLC has partnered with Underground Toys Ltd., a London-based global entertainment merchandise company. This alliance will allow Underground Toys to incorporate the Funko line of products into its range of licensed merchandise to be distributed among European retailers, including Toys “R” Us, Tesco, ASDA, Carrefour, and FNAC. Underground Toys will distribute the products in Europe.

Playmobil Launches PopStars! Contest

Playmobil is hosting a new “Battle of Playmobil PopStars!” contest now through November 15. To enter, fans can visit popstars.playmobil.com, choose their favorite of two Playmobil bands, and give it the perfect name.
Playmobil will select two grand-prize winners with the best band names, with each winner receiving a $500 shopping spree on www.playmobil.us. Two second-place winners will each receive a $100 Playmobil shopping spree, and 10 third-prize winners will each be awarded the full PopStars! line. Playmobil will also randomly select 100 daily winners through the end of the contest to receive a Playmobil mystery figure.

Playrific's New Kid-Safe App on the Tabeo e2 Kids Tablet

Playrific announced that its Play & Learn app will be available on the tabeo e2 kids tablet from Toys “R” Us. The device, which will be available exclusively at Toys “R” Us stores nationwide by the end of the month, will come pre-loaded with the app.
Playrific offers a new approach to Internet safety by presenting kids with a wide range of pre-screened content that is designed to encourage exploration. The Playrific app is packed with videos, games, interactive books, songs, drawing, coloring apps, and more.

Big Rewards for a Little Bit of Cash

Sometimes kids deserve a special little treat—whether they refrain from crying at the dentist, got an extra star on their homework assignment, or behaved well on a long shopping trip, it’s nice to reward them for good behavior. Candy is a cheap, instant, and enjoyable treat, but we all know kids can do with a little less sugar (and, in turn, fewer painful dentist visits!). There are some great inexpensive toys with lots of play value that will help reward kids for good behavior without breaking the bank or causing cavities. Read more…

Power Rangers Toys Power Up for 20th Anniversary

When I was a kid, I was in love with the Power Rangers, from Saban Brands. I was a huge fan of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series in the ’90s and I was even The Red Ranger one year for Halloween (They were all out of The Pink Ranger costumes and Kimberly was my favorite, so I had to compromise). I recently re-watched some episodes of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers when the series was on Netflix, and you know what? I still thought it was great in all of its ’90s glory. Read more…

Why I Love Elmo

I’ve loved Elmo for as long as I can remember… and I’m not alone! He spans generations of boys, girls, kids, and adults. And while one might be able to argue that Mickey Mouse has the same appeal (and in many ways he does), every year there’s a brand new Elmo for a brand new group of kids to bring home and to love. But be warned, not all Elmos are alike. Read more…

D3Publisher’s Upcoming Slate Captures What Makes Cartoons Great

Licensed video games can be a risky proposition. After all, a recognizable title doesn’t necessarily mean high quality. Having personally experienced some lows in licensed games over the years, I felt it was my duty to attend D3Publisher of America Inc.’s showcase ahead of the holidays, though I had my share of reservations. But despite my trepidation, a few hours later, I walked out suitably impressed. Each licensed game’s creative team seemed to get what makes their respective source material unique, resulting in a product likely to please even hardcore fans. Here’s a rundown of the games: Read more…

Saban Brands Welcomes Gustavo Antonioni as Managing Director of Consumer Products Europe

Saban Brands is expanding its operations into Europe with the appointment of Gustavo Antonioni as managing director of consumer products Europe and the opening of a new London office. This expansion marks the first international office for the Los Angeles-based company.
The London office will serve as Saban Brands’ primary location to support the growth of its UK and European business for core brands, including Power Rangers and Paul Frank, as well as newer brands such as Julius Jr. and Digimon Fusion. Antonioni and the future team will also focus on new business opportunities throughout Europe.
Antonioni joins Saban Brands with more than 18 years in the film studio business, having held senior positions at companies including ITV, Warner Bros., Sony, and Marvel.

Dragon-i Toys Appoints Alex Saussol as Sales and Marketing Manager

Dragon-I Toys recently welcomed Alex Saussol as its new sales and marketing manager based out of the company’s Hong Kong office. Saussol will head up all sales and marketing in Europe. He obtained an MBA in marketing in Paris, and prior to joining Dragon-i, interned at Hamleys in London.

Activision Blizzard and Investor Group Complete Purchase of Company Shares from Vivendi

Activision Blizzard Inc. successfully completed its previously announced acquisition of approximately 429 million company shares and certain tax attributes from Vivendi for an estimated $5.83 billion, or $13.60 per share in cash.
ASAC II LP, an investment vehicle led by Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick and chairman Brian Kelly, has also completed its purchase of approximately 172 million company shares from Vivendi for approximately $2.34 billion in cash, or $13.60 per share, in a separate transaction.
The shares Activision Blizzard purchased in the transaction will no longer be treated as outstanding, leaving the majority of the remaining 690 million shares in the hands of public shareholders. With the closing of the transaction, ASAC II LP now owns approximately 24.7 percent of the company. Vivendi has retained 83 million shares, an approximate 12 percent stake in the company.

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