Nearly 150 volunteers from the Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) and the National Court Appointed Special Advocates Association (CASA) gave gift packages to 7,000 foster children in need throughout Southern California as part of the TIF’s annual Play Your Part event. Forty-one companies from the toy industry participated in the event, including Funrise Toy Corp., Jakks Pacific, Mattel, Patch Products, Tomy International, and VTech Electronics North America, as Big Heart and Specialty level event sponsors.
Having recently been promoted to the position of president of Toy State, it seemed like a good time to sit down with Andy Friess to talk about the state of his company, its high-profile sponsorship agreement with Tommy Baldwin Racing, its upcoming plans for the R/C brand, Nikko, and more.
The Toy Book (TTB): How important are new licensing agreements to the growth of Toy State?
Andy Friess (AF): Licensing plays a major role in our success. With the competition so tough in all toy categories, securing rights to strong licenses can provide the point-of-difference that separates us from our competitors. Toy State’s history of developing products featuring the highest levels of quality and innovation has been a great “selling” tool as we seek new licensing opportunities. We’ve been extremely fortunate to work with a core of outstanding global licensors, and these relationships have been instrumental to the successes we have achieved over our 30-plus-year history. The 13-year, multi-category relationship with Caterpillar has been the foundation of our licensing efforts.
Wonder Workshop has appointed Raghu Sethuraman as COO and Ned Ward as vice president of marketing. Sethuraman will lead global operations, finance, customer service, and reseller partner organizations. He brings more than 16 years of leadership experience to Wonder Workshop from fast growing global e-commerce, supply chain, manufacturing, finance, and customer service organizations including Amazon.
Mattel Inc. has appointed Joseph B. Johnson to senior vice president and corporate controller, effective immediately. Johnson joins Mattel from Chiquita Brands International Inc., where he served as vice president, chief accounting officer, and treasurer. Previously, he held a number of leadership roles with Resolute Forest Products, an international wood and paper products company, including senior vice president, finance, and chief accounting officer.
Johnson succeeds Scott Topham, who has elected to retire from Mattel.
When it comes to creating great toys, games, or just about anything, it all boils down to the idea. Great things are often borne of flashes of inspiration, and more than ever, we’re seeing toy companies try to tap into the mental spark of their customers.
The new Magic 8 Ball app offers the same unpredictable, amusing answers as the classic Magic 8 Ball, and is optimized for mobile devices. For example, it gives users the ability to ask their questions on-the-go using the dictation feature.
Painting Lulu has reached a multi-year licensing agreement with Mattel that will bring the Barbie and Hot Wheels brands to the physical and digital worlds of Painting Lulu in time for the back-to-school and holiday seasons. Painting Lulu is a paper-to-digital coloring set in which kids color in the Painting Lulu coloring book with regular crayons, and then scan the page using the Painting Lulu app on any smart device, making the coloring page instantly appear. Using the Painting Lulu Digital Crayon, kids can enhance and correct their coloring with the many tools and colors available.
Mattel and Autodesk Inc. have signed an exclusive agreement to power the Mattel toy line with cutting-edge 3-D design and 3-D printing technology. The joint initiative will provide an immersive experience by combining physical toys with digital adventures. An upcoming series of apps will empower consumers to imagine, design, and customize their own toys, as well as make the toys through 3-D printing.