TIA Considers Three for Board of Directors

TIAThe Toy Industry Association (TIA) nominating committee has submitted candidates for consideration by the membership, for election to the association’s board of directors. Successful candidates would serve a two-year term expiring at the annual meeting in 2017.

The proposed board members are: Bruce S. Raiffe, president of Gund; Howard Kahn, CEO of Kahn Lucas; and Kerry Cunnion, senior vice president of sales of Tomy International. Additional nominations, made in writing and signed by no less than 10 percent of the TIA’s membership, may be submitted to TIA President Carter Keithley at ckeithley@toyassociation.org no later than January 16.

Raiffe, Kahn, and Cunnion would fill the seats of retiring board members Joel Berger of Cardinal Industries Inc.; Peter Henseler of Tomy International; and D. Hugo Malan of Sears Holdings Corp.

The election of new board members will occur during the TIA Annual Business Meeting that will convene at 8 a.m. on February 16, in conjunction with North American International Toy Fair at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. The meeting is open to all stakeholders of the toy industry—both members and non-members.

Gund Brings Pusheen Web Comic to Life with New Plush Line

PusheenPlushSIDEPusheen, the chubby tabby cat who originated as an animated web comic, has been brought to huggable, plush life thanks to a partnership with Gund.

The first Pusheen plush will be available in 6- and 12-inch sizes at heychickadee.com. An expanded general release, including additional plush formats and designs as well as hard goods, is planned for next year.

Macy’s Holiday Arcade to Offer Toys from Build-A-Bear, Madame Alexander, Gund, and More

MacysLogoMacy’s will be introducing the Holiday Arcade, in-store gifting shops offering customers an eclectic assortment of distinctive and playful options for their holiday shopping lists. These shops will launch at six Macy’s locations between late October and mid-November:

The Holiday Arcade at five locations including Macy’s South Coast Plaza, Macy’s Union Square, Macy’s State Street, Macy’s Herald Square, and Macy’s Center City will be home to exclusive Build-A-Bear Workshop shop-in-shops. Visitors will have the opportunity to customize Build-A-Bear stuffed animals, as well as licensed products such as figures from Disney’s Frozen and Marvel’s superheroes. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Happy National Teddy Bear Day!

by Christine Duhaime and Phil Guie

toothpickLife—or childhood, at least—would have been simply un-bear-able without teddy bears, am I right? What other toy so effectively soothes us when we’re unhappy, or makes for a truer companion on picnics, tea parties, and other adventures? And since this is an industry blog, we should also point out that teddy bears are a perennial seller among audiences of all ages: Toddlers may receive them for their first toys, but so do young adults as college graduation presents; and grown-ups as birthday gifts, Valentine’s Day tokens, and souvenirs. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Endangered Species Toys Can Help Raise Environmental Awareness

CuipoGund

Endangered species stuffed animals, from Gund and Cuipo

Animal-themed toys are nothing new, but in recent months, I’ve been noticing a focus on endangered species. Shortly after Toy Fair 2014, BeginAgain released its Balance Boat: Endangered Animal Edition, a stacking toy featuring rubberwood versions of the panda, rhinoceros, tortoise, and more. Meanwhile, Green Tones by Hohner put out Endangered Animal Shakers, beautifully carved rubberwood musical toys that depict an owl, leopard, and turtle.

And on the plush front, Wild Republic has added vulnerable species such as the Siberian Tiger to its Cuddlekins line. Last but not least, Gund and Cuipo have collaborated on stuffed animals based on the endangered sun bear, emperor monkey, and three-toed sloth, among others. [Read more...]

Cuipo and Gund Join Forces to Save Endangered Rainforests

CuipoGundThe lifestyle brand Cuipo is teaming up with Gund for a new line of stuffed animals. For every stuffed animal sold, one square meter of endangered rainforest is saved. The partnership between Cuipo and Gund is intended to show kids how they can help care for the Earth.

The line includes Sly, a squirrel monkey; Sampson & CoCo, a sun bear and coconut, respectively; Cezar the emperor monkey; Steve, a three-toed sloth; and Tiko the toucan.

Peter Rabbit TV Series Inspires Plush Products

Nickelodeon and Nordstrom are debuting a new specialty plush toy line inspired by the Nickelodeon animated preschool series Peter Rabbit. Along with the Gund plush, two brand-new books, The Start of Spring and Peter and Friends Sticker Activity Book, published by Penguin, will also be accessible to customers.

The line includes 12-inch plush and 6-inch beanbags featuring all three series characters. These featured products will be available online and nationwide in nearly 100 Nordstrom stores in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, and other U.S. cities.

COMMENTARY: Taking Plush to the Next Level

Gone are the days when plush was simply a category of stagnant stuffed toys. Kids today can enjoy plush items that sing, dance, play music, light up, talk, and more. With technology moving ever forward, the plush category is seeing new ways to integrate interactive elements into soft products. While mechanized toys aren’t a brand new concept, many companies are producing new items that utilize today’s technologies in ways never seen before.

I’ll be honest—I wasn’t much for animated plush when I was a kid. Maybe it was the fact that interactive items didn’t really do anything cool enough to warrant sacrificing the softness and squeezability of a traditional stuffed animal. Or maybe I didn’t like the fact that you have to change the batteries. Whatever my reasons, I think I would have felt differently about interactive plush if I’d had some of the toys available today.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 1.50.19 PMPeek-A-Boo Elmo, a licensed Sesame Street item from Gund, holds a cozy blue blanket to play peek-a-boo with kids ages 18 months and up. When kids press Elmo’s foot, he lifts his blanket over his face while saying phrases such as, “Where are you?” and “There you are!” One of the nicest things about Peek-A-Boo Elmo for parents is that by pressing his foot again, he turns off. I also love that he moves his arms up and down fairly quickly, enhancing the surprise factor for little ones. Elmo’s mouth also moves consistently with what he’s saying. Peek-A-Boo Elmo is programmed to say 13 phrases. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Plush Manufacturers Show Off Awesome New Plush at Toy Fair

Toy Fair 14 was a spectacular, four-day event held at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City from February 16 to 19. Manufacturers from across the country gathered to debut new items, display classics, and make connections with retailers, buyers, and the press. We here at The Toy Book took the opportunity to forge new professional relationships, engage companies with whom we have established relationships, and discover new companies. As I walked the floors checking out the plush items, I saw dozens of great designs that I loved. Big, small, fat, tall—you name it, it was at Toy Fair. Some plush is cute, some is realistic, some is abstract, some is sculptural. While I appreciate all plush, there were some pieces in particular that really caught my eye.

toothpickToothpick, from GUND, was my hands-down, No. 1, absolute favorite plush at the show. I was already “aww!”-ing at the other bears on the wall in the GUND booth when my eyes landed on Toothpick’s skinny little body with his big, cute head and brown corduroy nose. His body is surprisingly sturdy, letting him sit up easily, but is still soft and cuddly. The material that GUND used for Toothpick’s fur is also super-soft, and has an almost curly sort of look to it. He is just adorable. [Read more...]

WIT Honors Outstanding Business Leaders with 10th Annual Wonder Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment Awards

At a February 18 dinner attended by more than 400 executives, Women in Toys (WIT) celebrated 10 visionary women business leaders with the 2014 Wonder Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment Awards. The award recipients are: Kiyomi Haverly of Mattel, Global Brands; Naz Cuevas of Rovio Entertainment Inc. and Donna Tobin of Hasbro Inc.; Rita Raiffe, design director at Gund; Stefanie Barone of M.Z. Berger & Co.; Susie Lecker of Fisher Price; Michele Litzky of Litzky Public Relations; Joan Packard Luks of The Seranata Group; Christina Jansa of Target; and Debra Sterling of GoldieBlox.

With support from major sponsors including Nickelodeon and Bandai, WIT also granted six scholarships to future toy industry leaders at toy design programs in universities worldwide.