Q&A with Andy Friess, President of Toy State

AndyFriess,headshotHaving 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.

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Q&A with Mattel: Social Media, 3-D Printing, and More

logo_Mattel logoThe Toy Book (TTB): In what new ways are you using social media to correspond directly with consumers?

Mattel: We engage with consumers across all brand and corporate social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, as well as retailer sites, like Wal-Mart and Kohl’s. At Mattel, we have a fully functioning reporting and engineering team dedicated to understanding what the consumer is saying and turning that data into actionable improvements for both our manufacturing and design process.

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Mattel’s HIT Entertainment to Develop New Thomas & Friends Digital Content

Thomas&Friends,70yearsThomas & Friends will embark on new adventures that will arrive on YouTube throughout this year. The global preschool content development division for Mattel Inc., HIT Entertainment, will develop 52 three-minute original digital videos for Thomas & Friends. The new short-form videos feature Thomas the Tank Engine having adventures off the Island of Sodor in fascinating destinations like London, Paris, and New York City, and coming to life in children’s playrooms. [Read more...]

Christine Kelly to Head Toy and Game Initiatives for National Geographic’s Brand Licensing Division

ChristineKellyNational Geographic has named Christine Kelly as its director of licensing, toys, and games for National Geographic’s Brand Licensing division. In this new role, she has been tasked with National Geographic’s toy business—both licensing and strategic retail partnerships. She will oversee marketing, retail strategy and product development, including new franchises. [Read more...]

Mattel Makes Changes to Executive Leadership Team

logo_Mattel logoMattel Inc. has made key changes to its executive leadership team, effective immediately. Richard Dickson and Tim Kilpin will assume expanded responsibilities as president, chief brands officer, and president, chief commercial officer, respectively. Both will report to Mattel Chairman and CEO, Bryan G. Stockton. [Read more...]

Fisher-Price Appoints Vinnie D’Alleva to SVP, Steve LaBella to Licensed Properties

FisherPriceFisher-Price Inc. has appointed Vinnie D’Alleva as senior vice president (SVP) at Fisher-Price Friends. D’Alleva will be responsible for the Thomas & Friends brand, as well as other HIT Entertainment properties such as Bob the Builder. He has more than 25 years of marketing experience, a majority of it spent in the toy and juvenile product space.

In addition, Steve LaBella, who currently seves as senior vice president of Fisher-Price Preschool, will also assume the additional role of being responsible for product development for licensed properties, including Dora and Friends: Into the City! and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

Mattel Launches New Direct-to-Consumer Strategy for Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway

Thomas_Hero_CGI_ApprovedMattel is bringing a new shopping experience to Thomas & Friends fans nationwide, through a cross-company collaboration that began this month. Anchored by the Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway product line, the new experience includes the first ever Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway direct-to-consumer catalogue, e-commerce website, and partnerships with 20 independent specialty retail stores, which will serve as official Thomas & Friends Specialty Stations in the U.S.

Thomas & Friends will also introduce a limited-release wooden engine, Logan, a Shunter that works at the coal plant, and is only available in the U.S. through the new catalogue, e-commerce website, and official specialty stations. Logan will also be the first of a series of limited-release engines to be introduced by the new program annually.

The e-commerce website, thomaswoodenrailway.com, launches in August, and the Logan wooden engine will be available through December 31 of next year.

In addition, moving forward, Toys “R” Us will become the exclusive national chain retailer of Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway.

All Aboard for Thomas Land in North America

Thomas Pop-Up CardA full-scale Thomas & Friends attraction is set to debut in South Carver, MA next summer. This marks the largest permanent Thomas & Friends attraction in North America.

This family amusement park – which is currently in development with HIT Entertainment, a division of Fisher-Price – will be conveniently located within Edaville USA, near the greater Boston and Providence areas.

Thomas Land will cover 11.5 acres and feature 14 rides based on the Thomas & Friends Island of Sodor. The rides will feature iconic characters Thomas, Diesel, Toby, Cranky the Crane, and Harold the Helicopter.

Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails Traveling Exhibit Debuts at Minnesota Children’s Museum

image003The world’s most popular blue engine is rolling out on a 10-year North American traveling exhibit tour, which emphasizes the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning. Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails is an interactive exhibit created by Minnesota Children’s Museum that is inspired by the children’s series on PBS Kids. The tour will be in St. Paul beginning on June 14 for three months.

The STEM-focused exhibit was designed to engage children and families in foundation skills that encourage thinking mathematically, making comparisons, experimenting to solve problems, thinking creatively, and reflecting on actions and results. Visitors to the 1,500 square foot exhibit will enter iconic Thomas & Friends locations. Children will help Thomas and his friends solve challenges to test their abilities.

The museum was created in partnership with HIT Entertainment and 5-year national tour sponsorship with 3M.

Richard Dickson Appointed Chief Brands Officer for Mattel

logo_Mattel logoMattel Inc. has created a new, unified marketing and creative division to span the company’s global portfolio of consumer brands. To lead this new global brand team, the company has tapped Richard Dickson to be its chief brands officer, with responsibility for growing and strengthening the company’s portfolio of beloved brands, including Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price, and Thomas & Friends.

Dickson will oversee all aspects of marketing strategy, creative execution, product development, and content creation across Mattel’s legacy and new brands, and will be responsible for driving innovation throughout the portfolio. He will report directly to Mattel CEO Bryan Stockton and will serve as a member of the company’s executive leadership team. [Read more...]