Merger Deal Between Hasbro and Dreamworks Animation Reportedly Dead

It’s been widely reported that merger negotiations between Hasbro and DreamWorks Animation have been called off, due in part to the stock performance of Hasbro, as well as the high asking price by DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Hasbro reportedly ended conversations on Friday, for reasons that included a $30 share price asked for by Katzenberg. Some analysts deemed that price high. In addition, the possible merger had a negative effect on Hasbro’s stock–it fell on both Thursday and Friday–which is said to have concerned execs at the company.

The deal would have been worth at $2.3 billion, as reported by Variety.

By joining forces with DreamWorks Animation, Hasbro would have had the means of increasing its film and TV presence, while in theory, DreamWorks would have benefited from a more diverse revenue stream via Hasbro. DreamWorks’ properties include Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, and Madagascar. Hasbro, meanwhile, owns such toy brands as Transformers and G.I. Joe.

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...]

Hasbro to Step Back from The Hub Children’s Network

Hasbro logoAs reported by The Wall Street Journal, Discovery Communications Inc. and Hasbro Inc. are ending their equal partnership in The Hub, a cable network that hoped to become a force in children’s television against Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel.

Under the terms being completed, Discovery would take a controlling interest in The Hub and reposition the channel as a family network aimed at parents as well as children. Hasbro will retain a large stake in the service and control six hours of daytime programming on the network, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Launched in 2010 with a $300 million investment from Hasbro for half of the network, The Hub was designed to be an outlet for some of Hasbro’s best-known toy brands, including G.I. Joe, Transformers, and My Little Pony.

The makeover could take place as early as the fourth quarter, with The Hub renamed Discovery Family.

COMMENTARY: Dolls for Boys Are a Sign of the Times

Fritzi, from Haba

For the most recent issue of The Toy Book, I had a chance to research trends in the doll industry, and one that stuck out is an increase in dolls with potential appeal for boys. Arklu, the creator of Lottie Dolls, is planning to introduce its first boy doll, Kite Flyer, this fall. Meanwhile, Haba will be introducing Fritzi, a doll that has no assigned gender—Fritzi can be a boy doll for boys, or a girl doll for girls. There’s also Grandmas2Share, which is marketing grandmother-themed dolls as playthings for children of both genders. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Animation Has Long Been a Promotional Vehicle for Toys

BrandonEngel1by Brandon Engel

You’ve likely heard about the massive success of The Lego Movie, and maybe you were even one of the millions worldwide who have gone to see it. Despite its financial success, some have blasted the film for essentially being a glorified, expensive commercial for Legos. I don’t think that anyone can deny that The Lego Movie is obviously commercially motivated, but does that make it wrong? Is it all that different from children’s movies selling toys based on the film?

BrandonEngel2Last Christmas, the Frozen Castle Playset and matching Barbie dolls from the Disney film Frozen were at the top of many children’s lists for Santa. Every time a commercial appeared for the movie or the toy, they advertised each other. Is The Lego Movie any different just because the toy existed before the movie? Here is the bigger question: In an age where almost no image is spared licensing of some form, where does the line get drawn between entertainment and commercial? [Read more...]

A Squared Entertainment Merges with Genius Brands International

GBIGenius Brands International Inc. and A Squared Entertainment LLC will merge to form an intellectual property (IP) and multimedia content creation and distribution company focused on branded content with a purpose for kids. The assets and experience of both companies will be consolidated under the Genius Brands International banner.

Andy Heyward, formerly CEO of DIC Entertainment and co-president of A Squared Entertainment, will assume the role of Chairman and CEO of Genius Brands International. Amy Moynihan Heyward, formerly co-president of A Squared Entertainment, will serve as president. Klaus Moeller, currently CEO of Genius, will become vice president of special markets, and will continue with the company as a member of its board of directors.

The company will utilize its combined strengths to build upon its unique “content with a purpose” positioning. In addition to producing original content with subject matter experts, the company will develop interactive digital entertainment in all formats including broadcast, online, mobile, tablets, and more. A comprehensive consumer products program will be created to extend the learning into other areas outside of digital media.

Andy Heyward is a multi-Emmy Award-winning producer of children’s entertainment. He has produced more than 5,000 episodes of award-winning children’s programs, including Inspector Gadget, Alvin and the Chipmunks, G.I. Joe, Hello Kitty’s Furry Tale Theatre, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Amy Moynihan Heyward is a brand-marketing executive who has spent more than 20 years managing, creating, and launching brands with a focus on kids.

Hasbro Showcases Pop-Culture Brands at Comic-Con

Hasbro_logo_new 3.20.28 PM

Hasbro returns to Comic-Con International in San Diego to showcase its pop-culture brands, including TransformersMy Little PonyKre-O, and G.I. Joe, as well as licensed toy lines for Angry Birds Star WarsMarvelStar Wars, and Star Trek. Hasbro will celebrate its popular brands and characters with a lineup of panels, autograph sessions, special edition toys, giveaways, and more.

Fans will also be able to experience the Telepods platform, a fully-integrated play experience for the mobile generation that “teleports” physical characters into digital gaming and app experiences. The Telepods line will be released this fall, and will be fully integrated into the new Angry Birds Star Wars II app, from Rovio Entertainment and Lucasfilm. The Telepods line uses new technology to allow kids to play in two ways—in the physical space, and through integration into top-tier apps. [Read more...]

DeNA Extends Agreement with Hasbro to Develop New Video Games

G.I. Joe: Battleground

G.I. Joe: Battleground

Following the initiative with Hasbro Inc. on the release of Transformers: Legends, DeNA Co. Ltd. will collaborate with Hasbro on two new free-to-play mobile games tied to the company’s intellectual properties G.I. Joe and the Wizards of the Coast LLC brand Dungeons & Dragons.

Arena of War

Arena of War

In G.I. Joe: Battleground, players lead and assemble teams of G.I. Joe heroes and Cobra villains to battle against each other. Arena of War puts players in the Forgotten Realms for a battle roleplaying game that combines questing, character leveling, and small team collaboration, with in-game events and massive multiplayer competitions. Both mobile games are being developed and published by DeNA and they will be available on the company’s Mobage mobile social games platform later this year for Android, iPhone, and iPad devices.

To pre-register for G.I. Joe: Battleground and receive a free exclusive in-game Storm Shadow collectible character to join your team, players enter their email addresses on the game’s website.

Players can also upgrade their characters with a free Ultra Rare Power when they pre-register for Arena of War.

Hasbro’s Comic-Con Preview Night Party

Hasbro held its exclusive Preview Night Party for New York Comic-Con on Wednesday. Complete with loads of Marvel, My Little Pony, Kre-O G.I. Joe, and Angry Star Wars Angry Birds displays and presentations, and Avengers-themed cocktails, Hasbro kicked off Comic-Con with a bang.

Angry Birds Star Wars Jenga Death Star Package

The star of the event was no doubt the Star Wars edition of the wildly-popular Angry Birds line set to launch in the beginning of November. There were new toys based on the  bird-slinging, tower-toppling Angry Birds property, including the AT-AT Attack Battle Game. The line features new products based on a variety of existing Hasbro properties, including the Jenga brand and the recently relaunched Koosh brand, to introduce new play experiences featuring iconic Star Wars characters re-imagined as high-flying Angry Birds and villainous pigs.

Also highlighted was the great reveal of the Star Trek Kre-O set, a product set to release next year to coincide with the release of the new Star Trek movie. The set comes with a light-up U.S.S. Enterprise ship  and two character figures, such as Captain Kirk or Spock, pointed ears and all.

The new extensive Kre-O G.I. Joe line was also featured–including figures and play sets based on the property. The line of G.I. Joe toys will be available exclusively at Toys “R” Us starting in February. These play sets and characters play out the G.I. Joe vs. Cobra story and will feature Kreon figures based on popular characters from both the heroic G.I. Joe team like Duke and Snake Eyes as well as the villainous Cobra organization like Firefly and Storm Shadow.

Kre-O G.I. Joe Cobra Armored Assault

Hasbro also showcased the My Little Pony brand, as well as their holiday favorites, including Marvel Avengers and Star Wars action figures and, of course, Marvel role play products.

The Toy Book’s Reyne Rice and Ali Mierzejewski as Spider-Man and Captain America

The Toy Book’s Reyne Rice as The Hulk

Top 20 Chosen by Children’s Museum Visitors and Fans

The results are in and more than 20,000 Children’s Museum of Indianapolis online visitors and fans have voted for their favorite toys from the last century. It is all part of the “100 Toys (& their Stories) that Define Our Childhood” interactive in which the museum asked people to choose the top 20 toys to represent the last 100 years. This list of 20 iconic toys includes: G.I. Joe, Transformers, Lego Toys, Barbie, View-Master, Bicycle, Play-Doh, Crayons, Cabbage Patch Kids, Monopoly, Etch a Sketch, Spirograph, Hot Wheels, Candy Land, Lincoln Logs, Raggedy Ann, Little Golden Books, Mr. Potato Head, Roller Skates, and Silly Putty.

The public is once again invited to vote for their favorites among the top 20 to rank the toys, which will ultimately determine the Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners.

Voting to determine the final order for the top 20 runs through Sept. 7, and results will be announced to the public on September 11. To view the top 20 list of toys, vote, and share your own toy story, visit The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis online at www.childrensmuseum.org/100toys.

This post was originally written by Sierra McCleary-Harris and published by ToyBook.com. For more news, visit www.toybook.com, follow The Toy Book on Twitter, and like The Toy Book on Facebook. The Toy Book is a bimonthly trade magazine covering the toy industry, published by Adventure Publishing Group.