Q&A with Michael Lillioja, President of Creata

CrocPot for PRCreata recently launched its new brand, Monster 500, exclusively at Toys “R” Us . The line features 10 characters that race for one of five teams in the Monster 500 speed competition. Each character will be sold as a small, 3-inch die-cast vehicle, but customers can also collect select large character feature vehicles standing 4 inches high and 5 inches long. Two play sets are also available.

The Toy Book had the opportunity to speak with Michael Lillioja, president of Creata, about thew new brand, and what launching its own brand meant for the future of Creata.

The Toy Book: Monster 500 is the first line that is produced by Creata as its own brand. What made you decide to launch your own brand after manufacturing for other companies for more than 30 years?

Michael Lillioja: Creata’s passion is toys. And we’re serious about fun. So it just seemed like a natural extension to use all of our expertise to create a line of toys that has the functions and features that kids expect today. We did a lot of research to make sure that Monster 500 provides the best experience possible.  

TBCan you describe the Monster 500 brand? What age groups is it for? Who is the target audience?

ML: Our target age-grading is kids ages 4 and up, with a sweet spot of 6- to10-year-old boys. Our secondary audience is the collectors or “fanboys.”

TB: Why did you decide on a Toys “R” Us exclusive?

ML: Toys “R” Us is the No. 1 specialty toy retailer that focuses exclusively on toys, and they are a great partner when it comes to launching a new product. We were fortunate to work with Toys “R” Us in the past, so it made perfect sense to continue that relationship with Monster 500. Our company history is rich with long-term partnerships. We see that the work we are doing on Monster 500 with Toys “R” Us is beneficial to both companies and has the potential to be a very long-term relationship.

Monster500screenshotTB: How does Monster 500 integrate classic physical play and new digital play? What sets it apart from other toys on the market that do this as well? 

ML: Every toy comes with a Monster Code that unlocks a virtual monster car in the free racing game app. It’s a best-in-class racing game experience, offered for free. And, with our “virtual blind box” unlock experience, you don’t know which Monster 500 character will be unleashed. It’s a surprise every time!

TB: What does the launch of Monster 500 mean for the future of your company? How has it changed the overall goals of the company? 

ML: Play patterns are changing. The Monster 500 launch is our recognition that the future of play will focus on the intersection of physical and digital. The creation of the Monster 500 line is an extension of Creata’s umbrella goal of adding play and fun to people’s lives.

Michael Lillioja is president of Creata, an insights-driven company working to bring brands and consumers together through play. Creata’s global brand activation capabilities include insights on how customers want to play; product design, development, and manufacturing; digital playground creation; and consumer promotion. Creata has 14 offices in 10 countries. www.creata.com.  

Whisper Ride Touring Wagon Recalled Due to Fall Hazard

Step2.WagonThe Whisper Ride Touring Wagon, from Step2, is being recalled. Step2 has received 29 reports of the seat back detaching, 28 of which resulted in children falling out of the wagon. Fourteen of these resulted in bumped heads and nine resulted in bruises, scratches, or lacerations.

The two-seat plastic wagon is 25 inches wide by 41.25 inches long by 20 inches high, with blue seats, a tan wagon base, and a red canopy. The Step2 logo appears on the canopy and on the side of the wagon base. This item was sold exclusively at Toys “R” Us stores nationwide and online at toysrus.com from February to August 2013.

Consumers should immediately stop using the wagon and inspect it to determine if the seat belt is attached to the removable blue seat back. If so, the wagon is included in this recall. Consumers with the recalled wagons should contact Step2 to obtain a free repair kit: Call toll-free at (866) 860-1887 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s website at www.step2.com and click on “Product Recall” for more information.

Jakks Pacific Launches miWorld Featuring Real Retail Companies

Jakks.DairyQueenJakks Pacific Inc. has collaborated with established consumer products and retail companies, including Claire’s, Dairy Queen, and Sprinkles Cupcakes, to launch a new line of mini play environments called miWorld. The first assortment will consist of five sets, which kids can collect and fill with realistic miniatures of food, make-up, candy, accessories, and clothing, creating a mall of their very own.

The miWorld line will feature compatibility with the miWorld DreamPlay app, which utilizes iD recognition technology to recognize 2-D images and 3-D objects, bringing miWorld playsets to life on iOS smartphone and tablet devices. The app was developed and published by DreamPlay Toys LLC, a joint venture between Jakks Pacific and NantWorks LLC.

With the free miWorld app, kids have two ways to play with miWorld toys: Within the app, they can customize the look of their miWorld avatar, shop at virtual stores, change the outfits and accessories of their avatar, and more. Kids can also interact with their avatar and the physical play set on their device screen through “hotspots” showcased in the app, which can lead to surprises.

The miWorld line will be available at Walmart stores in December and at Toys “R” Us and other major retailers next year.

The Toy Book Chats with Sherry Gunther-Shugarman, CEO, Popstar Club

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Sherry Gunther-Shugarman, CEO of Popstar Club, which is the manufacturer of the fresh, new doll line, The Beatrix Girls. Sherry gave me an overview of what makes her doll line so unique, and why girls are going to be clamoring for them this holiday season.

SherryGunther.BeatrixCEO

 

Where did you get the idea for Beatrix Girls?

The Beatrix Girls came out of the idea of tying music and dolls together. Ultimately the approach to this was to create a multiplatform brand that really reaches kids everywhere that they are, recognizing that kids are not just watching TV and they’re not just playing with dolls or toys, they’re not just online playing games or being social, they’re doing all of the above. A forward-thinking property really needed to have presence in all of those mediums and to have an integration between all of those formats ingrained in its DNA.

The webisodes are done in a very unique way. How did you come about using that style?

It’s interesting because the natural for me was to go with animation as I spent over 20 years in animation, but there were a lot of things that attracted me to doing it this way, creating webisodes that have the dolls featured interacting in real life. It comes out of the fact that the concept itself has the girls as real. So they’re real and they interact in our world. They’re a real pop star band, we9’re creating real music, not composed music like we would for a toy property or an animated show, but real, credible, pop music written by a platinum-winning writer/producer, mixed by a Grammy-winning engineer, so this is really relevant, today, great music and so we really want to sell them as true pop stars.

Animation oftentimes, especially when doing them based on a product or especially dolls, skews a little bit younger, and we really wanted to have the cool factor and have these be edgier. The medium that we used felt so much more current and fresh and innovative and YouTube generation-like and it felt much more fitting to the brand itself. It gives the dolls the credibility of being real in our world. They have a real human manager, they perform in real venues, so it allows us to play up that real factor for them. And then the scale gives us a lot of humor opportunities for 12-inch dolls interacting in a life-size world.

The really nice side effect that we found is that girls are really responding to the fact that they can relate to the way it was done because it was shot on purpose with hands showing and manipulating the dolls. The idea was that kids could really relate to it and feel like I can do that, I can get four dolls and with my friends create a scene and a scenario.

 

For some reason it reminds me of Mr. Bill, the old SNL skit.

That’s kind of what we were going for. We were going for rather than just sort of just straight, weak, almost too young-skewing animation. We wanted it to be edgier and quirky and fun and hilarious and this medium allowed us to do that, to have that feel to it.

[Read more...]

Toys “R” Us Updates E-Commerce Sites

Toys “R” Us U.S. has redesigned and updated its e-commerce sites, toysrus.com and babiesrus.com. The websites have a new design and layout, navigation, and new features to help everyone find savings and information about the company’s offerings with ease. In addition, the sites have introduced social shopping, allowing customers to organize their most-wanted items in shareable toy and baby boards, while also viewing popular and trending products on the sites.

New and enhanced features on toysrus.com and babiesrus.com include:

  • Toy & Baby BoardsShoppers can now organize their most-wanted items in toy and baby boards. This feature allows moms and dads to gather an assortment of products into a themed board, which can then be shared with family and friends via Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Users can also invite their friends to create boards.
  • New Homepage and Site NavigationThe homepage features cleaner design and layout, with a larger space for current featured products and promotions. In addition, shoppers can move between toysrus.com and babiesrus.com with the brands presented in tabs at the top left of the page. New Shop By navigation gives each subcategory its own merchandising space, making it easier to narrow down the choices available on child’s age and interests or the recipient’s needs.

[Read more...]

Major Toy Retailers Welcome Shoppers on Thanksgiving with Black Friday Deals

ToysRUsLogo copyThis Thanksgiving, Toys “R” Us nationwide stores will open at 5 p.m. on November 28, so parents and gift-givers can get a head start on their holiday shopping. Promotions include four-hour deals, as well as Thursday through Sunday discounts on toys, games, and tablets.

Shoppers can plan their strategies as early as November 24 on the Toys “R” Us Facebook page, and a 28-page circular is set to arrive in newspapers across the country on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, for the first time, customers can shop the majority of Thanksgiving weekend deals online at toysrus.com/blackfriday starting at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday.

Those shoppers who spend $75 or more between November 28 and 29, at Toys “R” Us or Babies “R” Us, will receive a $10 redeemable coupon that’s valid in-store or online between December 1 through December 7. [Read more...]

Famosa Launches Range Rover Ride-On

Range Rover Ride-OnEuropean toy company, Famosa, has launched its new Range Rover Sport 12-Volt Ride-On vehicle modeled after the Land Rover SUV. This new luxury ride-on is available exclusively at Toys “R” Us and is a part of the Feber brand, which is known for its lineup for quality indoor and outdoor products, activities, and games.

Besides just looking stylish, the Range Rover Ride-On has a ton of awesome features: Kids can connect an iPod of MP3 player to the speaker jack and blast their favorite songs through the speakers; rev up the engine, honk the horn, and open and close the doors; drive safely at 4.5 mph by shifting into gear and pressing the foot pedal to travel forwards or backwards; and take advantage of the two-seater’s cup holders, cool tailpipes, and big tires.

Designed for kids ages 3 and up, the Range Rover Ride-On will keep kids engaged in hours of active play.

Snoopy Sno-Cone Machines Recalled Due to Risk of Mouth Injury

SnoopySnoConeMachineCra-Z-Art Snoopy Sno-Cone Machines with one of three batch numbers–BCH003005A28-0812, BCHTRU001A17-0812, or BCHTRU004A16-0712—printed on the back of the white plastic doghouse and on the side of the box have been recalled. A brass rivet can fall out of the sno-cone machine’s ice-shaving cylinder and into a sno-cone, posing a risk of injury to the mouth or teeth.

The plastic sno-cone machines are white in the shape of a doghouse with a red roof and red shovel. Snoopy is on the doghouse and Charlie Brown and Lucy images are on the front along with a snowman. A metal ice-shaving cylinder in the middle of the sno-cone machine dispenses ice shavings out of the front. The words “Snoopy” and “Sno-Cones” are on the front of the machine, and “Cra-Z-Art” is on the back.

LaRose Industries LLC has received 64 reports of brass rivets falling out of the sno-cone machine’s ice-shaving cylinder, but no injuries have been reported. Consumers should stop using the recalled sno-cone machines immediately and contact LaRose Industries for a free repair kit, which includes a new ice shaving cylinder. The recalled sno-cone machines should not be returned to the store where purchased.

The machines were sold at Barnes & Noble, Target, and Toys “R” Us stores nationwide and online at www.amazon.com from September 2012 through July of this year.

PowerA Releases Skylanders Swap Force Licensed Accessories

SkylandersPowerA

PowerA, an industry leader in video game and mobility accessories, has announced the availability of new accessories for the game Skylanders Swap Force. PowerA has been making accessories for Skylanders franchise for the last three years. With storage solutions that double as play sets, to high-quality third party video game controllers, PowerA has something for every Skylanders fan.

The new accessories and cases include:

These Skylanders Swap Force accessories, and more storage, transport, and mobility cases are available at major retailers including Amazon.com, Best Buy, Fred Meyer, Target, Toys”R”Us, Walmart and more.

The Beatrix Girls Makes Its Retail Debut at Toys “R” Us Stores Nationwide

TheBeatrixGirlsThe Beatrix Girls, a new line of collectible pop-star dolls driven by original music, is set to empower and inspire young girls nationwide with its retail debut this month at Toys “R” Us stores nationwide and online at Toysrus.com. Kids can collect their music, join their fan club, and vicariously live the fantasy of being a pop star through play.

The Beatrix Girls have already generated a huge amount of momentum securing early strategic deals with licensing partners such as Peavey Instruments, along with nine other licensing partners covering every major category, including apparel, accessories, back-to-school stationary, footwear, and more.

The Beatrix Girls collection of dolls is recommended for ages 5 and up.