COMMENTARY: Video Game-Based Toys Can Ease Kids into Other Kinds of Play

KNEX.SuperMarioDesertIt’s summertime, which for a lot of kids means playing outside in the sunshine, swimming, and maybe even going on trips to visit nature. But for others, summer means staying indoors and playing video games all day. It’s probably best to moderate any activity that involves staring at a screen; however, the question is, how to get video game-obsessed kids to take up a different form of play? The answer may be toys based on popular video game titles, and there are quite a few of those available right now.

We kick off our non-comprehensive list with K’NEX, which since 2010, has partnered with Nintendo on construction toys based on its popular Mario property. Recently, I spoke to an executive at the company, who said that no small part of the partnership’s success came from replicating game elements in K’NEX’s construction sets: For example, many of its Super Mario building sets have a mechanism that simulates the avatar’s in-game jumping ability. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Teen Titans Go! Has Licensed Toys Ready to Go

Phil.TeenTitans1.RobinFunkoIt’s been a good year for superhero comics on TV, what with the success of DC Comics’ Arrow and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., not to mention the planned fall arrivals of The Flash and Gotham. But let’s not forget the animated side of small screen super-heroics, as the second season of Teen Titans Go! premieres next month. The series resurrects Teen Titans, which aired during the mid-to-late 2000s, as something wackier and anarchic. Both shows are based on the long-running comic book of the same name, which is centered on some of the best-known teenage characters in DC’s pantheon.

Along with everyone’s favorite young sidekick, Robin, the cast includes Starfire, Cyborg, Raven, and Beast Boy. While adept at defeating evil-doers, Teen Titans Go! more often depicts them hanging out unsupervised at their team headquarters, at which point trouble worse than any super-villain tends to break out. The series is a fun romp, not to mention a good antidote to the spate of more serious, live-action superhero adaptations of late. Teen Titans Go! is currently licensed by a number of toy companies, with items for collectors, young kids, and everyone in between. But in all cases, the property’s lighthearted attitude shines through. [Read more...]

Famed Designer Gayle Middleton Debuts New Line of Plush Baby Monsters

BitemaresToy creator Gayle Middleton, who helped re-design My Little Pony and Littlest Pet Shop for Hasbro, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund her latest designs. These include a Baby Undead Dragon and toe-nibbling little fur balls called Bitemares.

“After years of designing adorable pets for Hasbro, Disney and others, I started doodling these odd, ghostly white vampire babies drinking undead dragon bottled blood in 2006,” says Middleton. “Maybe I was suffering from, ‘Cute Overload,’ and this was my way of dealing with it. I wanted to create babies that were cute but mischievous, something surprisingly off-center and bizarre… Other breeds of creepy-yet-cute monster babies started appearing on my sketch pad, and after 3 years I had coined a name for them: Vamplets.” [Read more...]

Spin Master Launches Paw Patrol Toy Line Exclusively at Toys “R” Us

PawPatrolPaw Patrol is headed to Toys “R” Us stores nationwide and online at toysrus.com on May 18. Developed by Spin Master Ltd., Paw Patrol is the No. 1 rated preschool series and airs weekdays on Nickelodeon. Throughout June, Toys “R” Us will be the only retailer to offer the new preschool line of plush, vehicles, figures, and more based on the TV show.

The new product range includes a number of collectible items for kids ages 3 and up.

The Action Pack Pup with Badge figure comes with a push-button transforming backpack and a kid-sized, snap-on role-play badge.

Paw Patrol Racers each include a pup or a figure molded inside that hero’s signature vehicle. [Read more...]

Julius Jr. Gets Second Season on Nick Jr., New Toy Line

Julius JrNick Jr. has picked up Julius Jr. for a second season in the U.S. The animated preschool series by Saban Brands, inspired by the character created by Paul Frank, debuted on the network last September.

Nick Jr. will premiere new episodes of Julius Jr. beginning this Saturday. The show’s themes will be brought to life with a new toy line from Fisher-Price Inc., the global master toy licensee for the brand, which will include play sets, plush assortments, and role-play items. The toys will arrive at Toys “R” Us starting in mid-June with a full rollout at key retailers this fall.

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.

Paws Inc. Signs Wicked Cool Toys as Master Toy Licensee for Garfield

GarfieldWicked Cool Toys has been appointed master toy licensee for the Garfield brand in a deal brokered by Bulldog Licensing Inc., Garfield’s U.S. licensing representatives on behalf of Paws Inc. The agreement grants Wicked Cool Toys the worldwide rights to develop and market a line of figures, plush, vehicles, play sets, role play, and seasonal products based on Garfield. The Garfield product is expected to launch this holiday season.

COMMENTARY: These New Japanese Toys and Games Aren’t Just for Kids, Part 1

Phil.April18.2014.1I may not be the biggest aficionado of Japanese pop culture, but I do consider myself a fan, having devoured lots of manga and anime over the years. What I also appreciate are the toys: Japan has some of the most exquisitely-made action figures and giant robots ever made, and in their native land, these items are generally aimed at adults.

Now when it comes to toys and games, Japan has long enjoyed a healthy foothold in North America—think of all the Pokémon, Hello Kitty, and Power Rangers products that have made their way over. So far in 2014, that trend has continued, with several new properties either just launching or expected to launch soon. But these are Japanese imports, meaning they’re sophisticated enough for grown-ups, even if they look like they’re for kids. [Read more...]

Douglas Company Adds Nine Animals to Plush Line

FarmThe Douglas Company has added nine true-to-life farm animal breeds to their line of plush. The new animals include Pauline the Large Spotted Pig (as well as a small version),Harriet the Cow, Little Bit the Lamb, Zeb the Mini Longhorn, Tex the Armadillo, Roma the Black Horse, MacClay the Clydesdale, and Canyon the Painted Pony.

The products are sold at specialty gift and toy stores in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

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...]