Build-A-Bear to Debut First-Ever Multimedia Plush Line, Honey Girls

Build-a-bear-logoBuild-A-Bear Workshop Inc. has launched its first-ever multimedia product line, Honey Girls. The three plush characters, which are available in stores and online, come to life through an interactive app featuring a story of friendship, songs, and music videos.

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Q&A, Erin Black, Founder of Lyla Tov Monsters

Lyla Tov Monsters is a line of plush dolls created by the mother-daughter team of Erin Black, and her daughter, Lyla Black. Recently, The Toy Book had a chance to sit down with Erin and talk to her about doll-making, launching a Kickstarter campaign, the future of the specialty doll space, and more.

The Toy Book (TTB): Starting from the moment that you first saw Lyla’s design for the dolls, can you take us through the development process?

ErinwMonsterErin Black (EB): When Lyla was three years old, she drew a picture of a “good” monster and asked me to help her, “make it real,” as a gift for her daddy. We raided my bins of fabric scraps, and she picked out the perfect fur for the monster body, a well as appropriate fabric for all his limbs and accessories.

My husband loved the monster and suggested we make more to sell. I had a booth reserved at a local craft fair to sell some other products I had made, so Lyla and I decided to make a batch of 20 monsters for her to sell there as well. The monsters flew off the table and into the hands of eager customers, and Lyla Tov Monsters was born.

We first sold a few Monsters on Etsy, and then quickly moved to having a web site of our own, from which people could order their one-of-a-kind Lyla Tov Monster. Soon we had some local retail shops interested in carrying Lyla Tov Monsters, and the demand for our product outgrew what Lyla and I could produce off the dining room table.

We ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund our first run of factory-produced Monsters. Once we had sold enough of these initial two Monsters, we reinvested the money to create two more styles. We now have four limited edition Lyla Tov Monsters in our line.

TTB: The doll space is a very competitive one. How do Lyla Tov Monsters stand out amidst a crowded field?

ForrestEB: I think Lyla Tov Monsters are appealing for several reasons. Their bright colors and interesting patterns and textures make them stand out on a store shelf. Also, they are somewhere between doll and plush toy, so children can hug and snuggle them like they might a teddy bear, but also give them the same life and personality that they might with a doll. Because Lyla Tov Monsters were designed by a child, they resonate well with a young audience that connects to their simple shape and cheerful faces.

TTB: According to the Lyla Tov Monsters home page, you oversaw patterning and fabrication for the doll line. For readers who may not know much about those aspects, can you talk about what that entails, and how it’s important for making a good doll?

EB: Before diving into the world of toy production, I was a costume designer for the Jim Henson Company. Part of my job there was to make patterns, choose fabrics, and stitch garments.  These skills all came into play when I started to fabricate the initial Lyla Tov Monsters prototype from Lyla’s sketch.

I’m used to interpreting a two-dimensional drawing and turning it into a three-dimensional object, so I was able to stay true to the spirit of Lyla’s vision while making sure to create a toy that was interesting and well-constructed. This was especially useful when we started to use a factory for production, as I could send them a finished prototype as well as my flat pattern pieces to work from. This saved us a lot of back and forth in the early stages of our relationship with our factory.

TTB: Kickstarter seems to have become a viable new way for launching a toy. From your experience, what would you say were the greatest advantages and disadvantages of using it as a fundraising tool?

Lyla Black, with monsters

Lyla Black, with monsters

EB: We were thrilled when we met our Kickstarter funding goal within the first eight days! It was a fantastic way to not only get the seed money we needed to produce our first factory-run Monsters, but also to test the waters and make sure there was an audience for our product.

It felt like less of a risk to take the plunge into mass production knowing that people out in cyberspace believed in what we were doing and were willing to back our idea. The only real downside was that it took a lot of work to create the video, and to set up and promote our Kickstarter campaign. It was well worth it because we reached our goal, but it would have been frustrating to have invested that time and energy and come up short.

TTB: What is the current retail situation for Lyla Tov Monsters? Besides Amazon and at craft fairs, where else can they be found?

EB: We do a lot of our Lyla Tov Monsters sales direct to consumers from our website at www.lylatov.com! We are also in several boutique toy and gift shops across the country.

TTB: You recently attended the American Specialty Toy Retailers Association (ASTRA) Marketplace and Academy. What was the experience like? Did you encounter many specialty retailers who hadn’t encountered Lyla Tov Monsters before, and how were their reactions?

CharlotteEB: We had a fantastic time at the ASTRA show. We had the chance to meet and network with shop owners as well as other toy manufacturers. We were thrilled by the number of people who had heard of Lyla Tov Monsters and knew our story prior to the show, and excited about all the new orders we wrote at the show.

Some people came to our booth because they had read about Lyla Tov Monsters prior to the show and knew they wanted to carry them in their shop. Others stopped as they were walking by because they were drawn in by our display. The response we got was very positive and we thoroughly enjoyed everyone we met!

TTB: Given the success of the first wave of dolls, what does the future hold for the line? 

EB: We hope to expand our line in the next few months so that it will include six varieties of Lyla Tov Monsters. We have found that customers really love to have a choice and spend a lot of time deciding which is the perfect Monster to buy as a gift, and that retailers are eager to display an assortment of Lyla Tov Monsters. Lyla is already working on the designs for the next two Monsters we will make!

TTB: What do you think the future holds for the specialty doll space? What is it about this type of dolls that’s so appealing to consumers?

EB: There is a bright future ahead for specialty dolls and toys. I think these days people are really drawn to small manufacturers, supporting family businesses, and having the chance to give a gift or buy a product that isn’t available on every corner. Boutique stores like to sell toys that have a story to go with them, and customers feel more invested in their purchases if they feel part of that story.

License 2 Play, GBI Enter Agreement for From Frank Plush

From Frank brand imageGenius Brands International Inc. (GBI) and its wholly owned subsidiary, A Squared Entertainment, have finalized a licensing agreement with License 2 Play for the development of plush toys for From Frank. The announcement was made today by Stone Newman, GBI’s President of Global Consumer Products.

License 2 Play will develop a broad range of plush consumer products based on From Frank images and witticisms. The products will be available for the holiday season through various national stores and online retailers.

eOne Announces Build-A-Bear Partnership for Peppa Pig Product Line

Jan26.PeppaPigEntertainment One Licensing (eOne) has entered into a new partnership with Build-A-Bear Workshop for preschool favorite Peppa Pig. The new product will debut online and in Build-A-Bear Workshops in the UK starting October 9, and in the U.S. and Australia during the following months.

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Kate and Mim-Mim Gets Second Season, Just Play Signs On as Global Master Toy Partner

Kate & Mim-MimFremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment (FMKFE) recently announced that it has greenlit the second season of the highly-rated preschool series, Kate & Mim-Mim. Series two is due to launch on Disney Junior US and will air globally late this year. The series is currently in pre-production and will include two themed seasonal specials.

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Care Bears to Debut at Build-A-Bear Workshop Next Year

LogoCareBears450American Greetings Properties (AGP), the intellectual property and outbound licensing division of American Greetings Corporation, has entered into a global collaboration with Build-A-Bear Workshop that will feature the Care Bears brand at Build-A-Bear Workshops. This limited-time worldwide promotion will begin next year.

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Build-A-Bear Debuts Exclusive, Make-Your-Own Plush Minions Collection

BuildABearMinionsBuild-A-Bear has added a line of exclusive, make-your-own plush based on Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s Minions, which arrives in theaters on July 10. The collection features Minions Kevin, Stuart, and Bob, and is part of Build-A-Bear’s summer season lineup.

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Toys “R” Us Debuts Exclusive Blaze and the Monster Machines Toy Line

Basic Plush ZegNow through the end of July, a new line of vehicles, die-cast, and plush from Fisher-Price, based on the hit preschool show, Blaze and the Monster Machines, is available at Toys “R” Us stores nationwide and at toysrus.com.

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Douglas Has New Puffs in Time for Spring

Microsoft Word - Douglas_Puffs_2015.docxDouglas Company’s Puffs line has new additions: Milford the Puff Moose, Tiara the Puff Unicorn, Curly the Puff Pig, Lydie the Puff Llama, Moo the Puff Cow, Oatmeal the Tan Puff Bunny, and Peppy the Pink Puff Monkey. Douglas’ new Puffs are available now at specialty gift and toy stores in the U.S. and Canada.

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Pillow Pets and Hasbro Enter Licensing Relationship for My Little Pony Pillow Pets Plush

TwlightSparklePillowPetCJ Products will be creating an exclusive line of plush products featuring characters from the popular animated TV series, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, under license from Hasbro Inc. The line will include Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash as foldable Pillow Pets, Dream Lites, plush backpacks, Sling Paks, and FabTablets universal tablet holders.

My Little Pony Pillow Pets will be available in June at www.pillowpets.com as well as at select retail stores nationwide.