Neil Friedman to Serve as Next President and CEO of Alex Brands

AlexBrands.Copy Alex Brands has named toy industry veteran Neil Friedman as its president and CEO. Friedman, who joined Alex Brands’ board of directors earlier this year, was most recently president of the U.S. division at Toys “R” Us. He was also previously president at Mattel Brands, Fisher-Price Brands, Tyco Preschool, and MCA/Universal Merchandising. Friedman is a member of the Toy Industry Hall of Fame and the International Licensing Industry Merchandiser’s Association’s Hall of Fame.

“This is a unique opportunity to work with some of the most iconic and highly recognizable brands in the industry,” says Friedman. “In the time that I have been associated with Alex Brands, I have been extremely impressed by the company’s accomplishments, vision, and growth plans. I am most looking forward to using my experience and expertise to help this company realize the incredible opportunities that lie before it.”

Mattel Reports Third Quarter Financial Results, Including Lower Barbie and Fisher-Price Sales

Mattel_logoLast Thursday, Mattel Inc. reported third quarter financial results, including net income of $331.8 million for the quarter, or $0.97 per share. This includes a negative impact of $0.05 per share from Mega Brands integration costs and a tax benefit of $0.04 per share. This compares to last year’s third quarter net income of $422.8 million, or $1.21 per share, which included a tax benefit of $0.05 per share.

For the quarter, net sales were $2.02 billion, down 8 percent compared to $2.21 billion last year, while on a regional basis, third quarter gross sales decreased 7 percent in the North American region. For the international region, gross sales decreased 7 percent, including an unfavorable impact of currency exchange rates of 1 percentage point. [Read more...]

Mattel and Boys & Girls Clubs of America Partner Up to Share the Play

logo_Mattel logoMattel and Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) have entered into a toy and game donation program to provide children with greater access to play. Called Share the Play, for every online order placed by consumers at Mattel’s online toy stores, Mattel will donate a toy to BGCA. Through the program, up to 250,000 toys will be distributed to BGCA’s nationwide network of 4,100 Clubs.

From now through December 31, every qualifying order made online at mattelshop.com and fisher-pricestore.com will result in a toy donation to BGCA. Mattel will donate a minimum of 200,000 toys to BGCA through the program, with a goal of 250,000 toy donations to the organization.

The donation program builds on a successful multi-year partnership between Mattel and BGCA.

Dora and Friends: Into the City! Debuts in Primetime this August

DAF_Group_ShotDora and Friends: Into the City! will premiere in primetime on Monday, August 18, at 8:00 p.m. on Nickelodeon. The half-hour series will regularly air on weekdays during Nickelodeon’s preschool block. The original Dora the Explorer series will continue to air.

The new series takes place in the fictional city of Playa Verde, where Dora and her new friends will go on adventures. It features an interactive curriculum focusing on community service, problem solving, emotional skills, the Spanish language, and Latino culture. Throughout her journeys, Dora will use the Map App on her smartphone and a magical charm bracelet to navigate the city and overcome obstacles. Her new group of friends includes Kate, an avid reader who is dramatic and artistic; Naiya, a smart girl who excels at math and science; Emma, a driven and accomplished musician; Alana, an athletic soccer player and animal lover; and Pablo, a smart, playful, energetic athlete and explorer. [Read more...]

Fisher-Price Keeps on Trucking with New Power Wheels

FisherPrice.PowerWheelsFisher-Price is teaming up with Ford to unveil new Power Wheels inspired by the highly anticipated 2015 F-150 truck. The Power Wheels 2015 F-150 debuted this morning at the Further With Ford event in Dearborn, Mich. Its features include a roomy truck bed; working tailgate; chrome wheels and grill; and Monster Traction drive system that allows driving on hard surfaces, wet grass, and bumpy terrain. The Power Wheels 2015 F-150 also has a working FM radio and MP3 jack or microphone.

The full Power Wheels F-150 line includes a girls’ version with purple camo graphics, available nationwide this October; an Extreme Sport model featuring real LED lights and styling inspired by customized Ford trucks, available exclusively at Toys “R” Us in October; and a black-painted version, available nationwide in November. The 2015 F-150 is available for pre-order at powerwheels.com/F150, and will be available exclusively at Wal-Mart this September.

Exclusive Pics from 2014 Licensing Expo

Licensing Expo, the annual meeting place for the global licensing industry, occurred last week in Las Vegas. The exhibitors included a number of the top toy companies, which were on-hand showing off upcoming play products and making announcements about new licensing deals.

Check out this exclusive gallery, which features lots of the licensed toys that we’re all sure to be excited about in the months ahead. [Read more...]

All Aboard for Thomas Land in North America

Thomas Pop-Up CardA full-scale Thomas & Friends attraction is set to debut in South Carver, MA next summer. This marks the largest permanent Thomas & Friends attraction in North America.

This family amusement park – which is currently in development with HIT Entertainment, a division of Fisher-Price – will be conveniently located within Edaville USA, near the greater Boston and Providence areas.

Thomas Land will cover 11.5 acres and feature 14 rides based on the Thomas & Friends Island of Sodor. The rides will feature iconic characters Thomas, Diesel, Toby, Cranky the Crane, and Harold the Helicopter.

HIT Entertainment Will Produce First Little People Series

imageHIT Entertainment, in collaboration with Fisher-Price, has announced that a new CG-animated series, Little Peopleis now in pre-production and is set to launch late next year. The new series is based on Fisher-Price’s Little People brand, and is being produced out of HIT’s UK content hub.

This is the first collaboration between HIT and Fisher-Price since Mattel acquired HIT in 2012.

The Little People line encourages open-ended, imaginative play among preschoolers, with environments built around familiar people and favorite places such as the zoo and farm. The Little People brand has been the No. 1 property in preschool playsets in the U.S. for the past two years, according to NPD Group data.

Mattel and Warner Bros. Extend Strategic Relationship for DC Comics Universe

Batman EvergreenWarner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP), with DC Entertainment, has extended its alliance with Mattel Inc. with a new multi-year agreement granting Mattel rights to continue as master toy licensee for the DC Comics universe of characters. Under these terms, Mattel is granted unprecedented access to the DC Comics vault of characters, which includes more than a thousand DC Comics superheroes and super-villains, such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and The Joker. The deal continues Mattel’s support of DC Comics across its entire portfolio of core brands, including Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Barbie, Mattel Games, and Fisher-Price.

In addition to existing characters and content, the extension includes Mattel’s rights to produce toys based on future DC Comics films, animation, and TV projects that are developed and produced during the term of the agreement. Mattel is set to develop toy lines for two of Warner Bros.’ most highly anticipated theatrical releases: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which is set for a summer 2016 release, and the recently announced Justice League film to follow. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Discover the World of Dora and Friends

dora-and-friends-about-the-show-mainImageKids’ favorite explorer Dora will introduce a whole new group of friends in this summer’s new Nickelodeon series Dora and Friends: Into the City. Friends Alana, Emma, Naiya, Kate, and Pablo will all be available in a product line developed by Fisher-Price. The line goes beyond traditional characters such as Boots, Perrito, and even that mischievous Swiper the Fox and brings kids a fresh range of all-new friends that Dora meets in the show’s beautiful pan-Latino metropolis, Playa Verde.

These new, friendly faces will be an instant hit among kids who can choose to collect all of the friends, or obsess over their favorites. I’m naturally drawn to red-headed characters, so I already know that Kate is definitely going to be my favorite—but I’ll give the others a chance to be my favorite, too. [Read more...]