China Toy Fair


COMMENTARY: China Toy Expo Showcases Regional Toy Brands with Worldwide Potential

DreamBeyond2Toy trade shows are terrific places in which to catch a sneak peek of the next play product sure to take the marketplace by storm. Recently, I was covering China Toy Expo, sponsored by China Toy & Juvenile Products Association, which took place this past week at the Shanghai New International Expo Center in Shanghai. While the show featured plenty of toy brands that would be familiar to Westerners—many of them imported by Chinese companies for domestic distribution—there were also lots of Chinese toy manufacturers on-hand, bearing properties that they hope will do well at home.

And of course, if a product does well in its native market, one assumes there’s a good chance it will gain an international partner that will help it take the next step. Think of Lego, which began selling in Europe during the 1940s before expanding to North America during the ’60s. Not every new toy brand can be Lego, of course; however, it’s always fun to speculate on new products and their potential to become the next big global star due to built-in appeal, compelling features, etc. Here are a few domestically-made items from China Toy Expo, which in this author’s opinion, have a shot at breaking out worldwide. [Read more...]

Mega Brands Partners with UP&L for Despicable Me Building Sets

DespicableMe.MegaBloksOn Tuesday, Mega Brands Inc. entered a multi-year international licensing partnership with Universal Partnerships & Licensing (UP&L) to develop a new kids construction line based on the Despicable Me franchise from Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment.

Due in stores this December, the Mega Bloks Despicable Me construction sets will offer fully buildable characters, locations, and vehicles inspired by Despicable Me 2. The line’s customizable construction sets will include mix-and-match features, such as interchangeable accessories. In addition, each set will feature buildable Minions that are unique to the set, for a variety of Minions to collect, build, and play with.

To launch the line, seven fans will participate in the #MinionMontage Challenge on social media. Fans can visit the Mega Bloks Facebook page to see highlights.

Lego and Shell to Part Ways After Decades-Long Partnership

Lego.ShellOn Thursday morning, The Wall Street Journal reported that Lego is ending its co-branding relationship with Royal Dutch Shell. The move follows pressure from environmental group Greenpeace, which targeted the decades-long partnership in an online video and petition.

Since the 1960s, Lego has built play sets branded with the Shell logo, including Shell filling stations, tanker trucks, and Shell-sponsored racing cars. These have been sold at Shell gas stations and other retailers that carried Lego sets.

In July, Greenpeace circulated an online petition calling for Lego to sever ties with Shell, which it has accused of operating recklessly in exploring for oil in the Arctic. The group released an online video, Lego: Everything Is Not Awesome, which depicts an Arctic wonderland made of Lego bricks that is flooded with spilled oil, and asks viewers to sign the petition urging Lego to sever ties with Shell. According to Greenpeace, the video has garnered more than a million signatures to date. [Read more...]

Laser Pegs Announces New Peg Head Line of Building Kits, Animated Short Stories

LaserPegs.PegHeadsLaser Pegs will be featured in a new line of Peg Head-themed building kits accompanied by animated short stories.

Peg Heads building kits include customizable Mini Figures with interchangeable horn, eye, mouth, body with moveable arm, and leg blocks. The three Peg Head characters—Zippy, Peg, and Spinner—have 144 different face combinations between them.

Laser Pegs will also release three light-up Big Figures that work with other Peg Heads building pieces. Both the mini-figures and Big Figures can be integrated into any existing Laser Pegs set.

Jeffery Scott, who has written more than 700 scripts for various animated series, wrote the animated short stories.

The Peg Head kits are non-gendered, and the pieces are compatible with other major construction kits on the market today. Intended for kids ages 3 and up, Peg Heads will be available next year.

New Lincoln Logs Grand Pine Lodge and Collector’s Edition Homestead Unveiled

LincolnLogsK’NEX has added two new sets to its Lincoln Logs product line for this year:

The Grand Pine Lodge includes real wood logs, plus colorful figures, play accessories, and cowboy and horse figures. Suggested for kids ages 3 and up, this set is available exclusively at Toys “R” Us and toysrus.com.

Meanwhile, the Collector’s Edition Homestead is the largest Lincoln Logs set ever created. This building set features 330 pieces including real wood logs, a frontiersman figure, a buildable covered wagon, and two horses. When playtime is over, kids can put the parts back into the handy storage container for a quick and easy clean-up. Suitable for kids 3 and up, the set is available on knex.com and at toy retailers nationwide.

You can check out K’NEX’s new video for the Lincoln Logs: Collector’s Edition Homestead below:

License to Build: Familiar Properties Fill Up the Shelves of the Construction Aisle

This article was originally published in the July/August 2014 issue of The Toy Book. To read the entire digital issue, click here.

The construction play pattern has always allowed kids to create buildable worlds and adventures straight from their imaginations. But with a recent surge of licensed toys entering the category, kids are able to build more and more familiar worlds based on their favorite existing properties. According to The NPD Group, dollar sales of licensed building sets grew by 6 percent from 2011 to 2013. As the world becomes more multi-media driven, licensed properties are deeply integrated into kids’ daily lives. Established building toy companies, as well as those looking to get their feet wet in the category, are jumping on the bandwagon with characters and environments that are already a staple among kids—and even collectors. [Read more...]

Lego Shows Off New Products at Comic-Con International: San Diego

LEGO_LogoAt Comic-Con International: San Diego this week, Lego Systems Inc. will unveil new products, including two Lego Super Heroes: DC Comics sets scheduled to launch next year, one of which is an 1,800-piece tumbler.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of this December’s theatrical release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Lego Systems will preview one of the new Lego the Hobbit sets slated to arrive in stores this October. The company will also show off an upcoming set based on The Lego Movie, as well as sets based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series and new feature film.

Finally, Lego Systems will unveil the fourth wave of Lego Mixels characters and content, set to launch next year.

Lego Systems Maximizing Opportunities for Kids

LEGO_LogoLego Systems Inc. announced that it would be maximizing opportunities for young children to play, make, and share by working in conjuncture with the White House Maker Faire on the Junior Maker program.

The program will celebrate the company’s recognition that children are born with an urge to explore and be playful, and will provide free activities and information directly to parents to help their children discover these natural tendencies. Lego will collaborate with the Association for Library Service to Children to provide experiences for children as young as four years of age.

Starting in July, librarians will be able to download a digital toolkit from Lego for details on how to host a Junior Maker session at their library, and parents will be able to download content for their children to play in their own home.

Lego Juniors, introduced this year, are construction sets to help children learn to build independently.

COMMENTARY: Video Game-Based Toys Can Ease Kids into Other Kinds of Play

KNEX.SuperMarioDesertIt’s summertime, which for a lot of kids means playing outside in the sunshine, swimming, and maybe even going on trips to visit nature. But for others, summer means staying indoors and playing video games all day. It’s probably best to moderate any activity that involves staring at a screen; however, the question is, how to get video game-obsessed kids to take up a different form of play? The answer may be toys based on popular video game titles, and there are quite a few of those available right now.

We kick off our non-comprehensive list with K’NEX, which since 2010, has partnered with Nintendo on construction toys based on its popular Mario property. Recently, I spoke to an executive at the company, who said that no small part of the partnership’s success came from replicating game elements in K’NEX’s construction sets: For example, many of its Super Mario building sets have a mechanism that simulates the avatar’s in-game jumping ability. [Read more...]

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Licensed Products Set to Explode at Retail

guardians of the galaxy poster 2. jpgToy manufacturers including Hasbro, Lego, and Kiddesigns have developed a wide range across key product categories inspired by Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which arrives in theaters on August 1. Products include Hasbro’s 10-inch electronic figure, Lego’s The Milano Spaceship Rescue construction set, Funko’s vinyl bobble heads, Rubies Costume Co.’s and Disguise‘s Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon costumes, and more.

To date, Guardians of the Galaxy has received major mass retailer commitment, including a cross-category pallet program at Wal-Mart, top placement for Hasbro and Lego’s toy lines in all key accounts, and a heavily promoted party goods program with Party City. The Guardians of the Galaxy merchandising program will benefit from Marvel Studios‘ major marketing push for the film that will hit full force beginning later this month.