The Toy Book Chats with Sherry Gunther-Shugarman, CEO, Popstar Club

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Sherry Gunther-Shugarman, CEO of Popstar Club, which is the manufacturer of the fresh, new doll line, The Beatrix Girls. Sherry gave me an overview of what makes her doll line so unique, and why girls are going to be clamoring for them this holiday season.

SherryGunther.BeatrixCEO

 

Where did you get the idea for Beatrix Girls?

The Beatrix Girls came out of the idea of tying music and dolls together. Ultimately the approach to this was to create a multiplatform brand that really reaches kids everywhere that they are, recognizing that kids are not just watching TV and they’re not just playing with dolls or toys, they’re not just online playing games or being social, they’re doing all of the above. A forward-thinking property really needed to have presence in all of those mediums and to have an integration between all of those formats ingrained in its DNA.

The webisodes are done in a very unique way. How did you come about using that style?

It’s interesting because the natural for me was to go with animation as I spent over 20 years in animation, but there were a lot of things that attracted me to doing it this way, creating webisodes that have the dolls featured interacting in real life. It comes out of the fact that the concept itself has the girls as real. So they’re real and they interact in our world. They’re a real pop star band, we9’re creating real music, not composed music like we would for a toy property or an animated show, but real, credible, pop music written by a platinum-winning writer/producer, mixed by a Grammy-winning engineer, so this is really relevant, today, great music and so we really want to sell them as true pop stars.

Animation oftentimes, especially when doing them based on a product or especially dolls, skews a little bit younger, and we really wanted to have the cool factor and have these be edgier. The medium that we used felt so much more current and fresh and innovative and YouTube generation-like and it felt much more fitting to the brand itself. It gives the dolls the credibility of being real in our world. They have a real human manager, they perform in real venues, so it allows us to play up that real factor for them. And then the scale gives us a lot of humor opportunities for 12-inch dolls interacting in a life-size world.

The really nice side effect that we found is that girls are really responding to the fact that they can relate to the way it was done because it was shot on purpose with hands showing and manipulating the dolls. The idea was that kids could really relate to it and feel like I can do that, I can get four dolls and with my friends create a scene and a scenario.

 

For some reason it reminds me of Mr. Bill, the old SNL skit.

That’s kind of what we were going for. We were going for rather than just sort of just straight, weak, almost too young-skewing animation. We wanted it to be edgier and quirky and fun and hilarious and this medium allowed us to do that, to have that feel to it.

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Mattel Launches First Multi-Brand Hispanic Integrated Campaign

logo_Mattel logoIn preparation for the holidays, Mattel Inc. has launched its first ever Spanish-language multi-brand marketing campaign, toy feliz. Already live in Los Angeles, Houston, and Miami, this Hispanic-oriented effort spans multi-media marketing platforms and key brands, including Fisher-Price, Hot Wheels, and Barbie.

The campaign includes TV and radio advertising on Univision, a retail partnership with Walmart, a bilingual website, geo-targeted coupons, and printed advertising inserts in participating markets. Mattel has even partnered with Padres Contra El Cáncer to help in the non-profit’s mission to provide emotional and financial support, as well as bilingual health education, to children with cancer and their families. As part of the partnership, Mattel is sponsoring Padres’ annual holiday parties, which provide families who have a child undergoing treatment with the opportunity to enjoy the holidays in a fun-filled and safe environment. Mattel will also make donations to Padres families at local Los Angeles and Miami hospitals.

Mattel Launches Playground Productions Creative Storytelling Division

Mattel.PlaygroundMattel Inc. has 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, along with the development and launch of the new animation Team Hot Wheels: The Origin of Awesome debuting next year.

Playground Productions has brought on Mercury Filmworks for the project in a story that delivers new Hot Wheels thrills in three formats including a 22-minute origin story for spring, 11 humorous two-minute action-packed shorts for the summer, and a 74-minute direct-to-video movie for the fall.

Additionally, Playground Productions will manage and provide creative direction for the recently announced live-action feature film for Max Steel. In co-development with Dolphin Films, the movie will have a wide release in theaters next year. The division is also partnering with Columbia Pictures on an upcoming Masters of the Universe theatrical project.

COMMENTARY: Kids Getting Older Younger—Or Younger Older?

Everyone always talks about how kids are getting older younger. Kids as young as 8 years old are swapping their Barbie dolls and Transformers for iPods and tablets—but this isn’t the case for everyone. There are big kids everywhere, and toys have a funny little habit of bringing an adult’s inner-child giggling wildly to the surface.

Nostalgia is a huge trend in toys today—classic properties such as The Smurfs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Pac-Man have resurfaced and are engaging a whole new generation. Traditional toys, such as Hasbro’s Easy Bake Oven, Kahootz’s Spirograph, and POOF-Slinky’s Slinky, all still appeal to young kids the same way they did decades ago. However, adults and older kids will find just as much fun in new products primarily targeted toward youngsters, too.

RainbowLoom.Butterfly Blossom braceletThis weekend, I was loomed. A family friend’s daughter, Karli, had her wrist covered in the colorful rubber bracelets that are a product of Rainbow Loom, from Choon’s Designs. A huge craze among kids, I was enamored by the bracelets and begged her to teach me how to make one. She did, and of course, hers came out better. I’ve been staring at it on my wrist every day since she made it for me, and I was extremely tempted to purchase my own loom when I went into a Michael’s craft store and saw the enormous display (but I thought to myself: “You’re 23 years old, Marissa! Taking home product samples is one thing, but you cannot justify BUYING a toy!”).

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Mariposa Returns in Barbie Mariposa & the Fairy Princess

mariposaThis fall, Barbie flutters back onto the small screen as Mariposa in the new movie Barbie Mariposa & the Fairy Princess, available now. As the 26th direct-to-DVD and Blu-ray combo pack release for the iconic doll, Barbie will enchant girls with this all-new tale of adventure and friendship.

Mariposa is the royal ambassador sent to bring peace between her land, Flutterfield, and its rival, the Crystal Fairies of Shimmervale. Despite a rocky start, Mariposa becomes fast friends with the princess Catania. The adventure begins when Mariposa encounters an evil fairy plotting to destroy Shimmervale. Mariposa rushes to her friend’s side to help save the fairy land and together they prove the best way to make a friend is to be a friend. Girls can create their own magical moments with a line of themed dolls and toys currently available at retailers nationwide.

Barbie’s Staying Put in New Malibu Dreamhouse

BarbieDreamhouse2013Over the past year, Barbie, the original California girl, traveled the world to find the perfect place to call home. After touring New York, Paris, even the Australian outback, she is staying in the beachside city of Malibu, Calif., in a newly renovated, three-story Dreamhouse from Mattel.

Barbie&houseThe new Dreamhouse play set features ocean views, six rooms with details that include pink “stainless steel” appliances, and two pull string elevators. It expands from the center to reveal spacious living areas and a main elevator. Meanwhile, the second elevator transports Barbie’s doll outfits between her closet and the bathroom.

Other details include lights and sounds throughout the house as well as a working doorbell. The 2013 Dreamhouse play set is suitable for kids ages 3 and up.

Barbie Partners with Girl Scouts for First Barbie Patch

barbie-logogirlscoutsBarbie and Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) partnered to create the first-ever Barbie “Be Anything, Do Everything” patch. The participation patch is designed to inspire the next generation of female leaders by encouraging girls to explore career possibilities through new program activities. The Barbie doll has been featured with more than 135 careers for more than five decades, and GSUSA has been dedicated to building girls of courage, confidence, and character for more than 100 years. In the spirit of Barbie doll’s career path and GSUSA’s heritage, the “Be Anything, Do Everything” participation patch allows Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies (girls in kindergarten through third grade) to explore career choices through the “I Can Be…” activity booklet.

The partnership is founded on the development of activities that encourage and inspire girls around the country to explore a variety of careers. With the core theme “Be Anything, Do Everything,” this partnership reaches girls online and offline, and includes an activity booklet, special patch, and a digital game and poll.

COMMENTARY: Shaping Moral Values Through Play

Photographer Dennis Di Laura Stylist Xu Job# 1249680A retouch: Peter Kaye

Toys are so much more than just playthings. All children learn through play, and aside from basic skill building, toys can teach kids moral values and help them enhance and embrace their individuality. Being “different” is often shunned at the grade school level, especially with increased bullying in schools and on the Internet. Kids need to learn how to love what makes them unique and build their self-esteem, and there are many toys on the market that help them do exactly that.

Consumers are often critical of Barbie, from Mattel, arguing that her appearance is unrealistic and leads girls to feel self-conscious about their less-than perfect bodies. However, let’s not forget that first and foremost, Barbie teaches girls that they can be anything they want, including a chef, a scientist, a doctor, and a veterinarian. Though she may love her mascara, she is a power woman at heart and she gives kids the confidence they need to pursue their dreams. In the July/August edition of The Toy Book, we featured dolls of all shapes and sizes, and many of them teach kids important moral values, including nurturing techniques, celebration of individuality, and the importance of environmental conservation. Check out the full dolls showcase on page 31.

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COMMENTARY: Dolls: Inspiring Kids Through Play

For years, Mattel‘s Barbie has been held under very close scrutiny for her appearance. She is often criticized for her unrealistic body type and the kind of message that sends to girls. But, of course, Barbie’s good qualities should not be overlooked. She is a smart woman with quite an impressive resume. Another quality Barbie is famous for is her vast array of careers. Barbie can be anything that she wants to be—and so can the kids that play with her. I use Barbie as an example because she is probably the most popular and widely known doll on the market, but there are many other dolls out there that have positive messages for young girls attached to them—and they come in many different shapes and sizes.

zelfsMoose Toys has introduced the Zelfs, collectible dolls that live in a “fab-itat” in the secret garden of Zardenia. This dolls, a little reminiscent of Troll dolls, feature colorful, spiketacular hair that can be style in all sorts of different ways. Each Zelf has its own unique persona and a Zelf power that is represented by a Zelf mark. The Zelf currently on my desk, Angelala, has the Zelf power of kindness. Each Zelf also comes with matching charms and hair accessories (Angelala’s got a pretty fabulous harp). The new line includes small, medium, and large Zelfs, and the Venus Fly Trap Spin Salon Playset that twirls and swirls each Zelf’s hair with the push of a button. [Read more...]

Barbie Reaches for the Stars with Mars Explorer Barbie Doll

The Barbie brand has long empowered girls to dream big and explore a world without limits. But this year, Barbie is embarking on a mission that is especially out of this world with the Career of the Year Mars Explorer Barbie doll, from Mattel.

MARS Teaser Image

Made in collaboration with NASA, the Mars Explorer Barbie doll is outfitted in a stylish space suit with pink reflective accents, helmet, space pack, and pink space boots. Representing Barbie’s 2013 Career of the Year, the Mars Explorer Barbie doll arrives in time to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Mars Rover Curiosity landing on August 6. Currently, Barbie has a resume featuring more than 130 careers and growing.