China Toy Fair


University Games Launches Annual National Young Game Inventors Contest

NYGIC_SplashPageUniversity Games has invited young game inventors with original board game ideas to participate in the 22nd annual National Young Game Inventors Contest for a chance to have their game manufactured and included in the University Games lineup next year. Additional prizes include a family vacation to San Francisco, Calif. (includes four nights lodging and airfare for up to two adults and one child), a $10,000 savings bond for college, and a complete library of board games from University Games.

Entries are now being accepted for the contest, which is open to kids ages 5 to 12, and sponsored by Toys “R” Us and Scholastic Parent & Child magazine. Complete rules and entry forms can be found at www.nygic.org.

Since the National Young Game Inventors Contest was launched in 1993, it has encouraged thousands of young children to stretch their imaginations and develop board games such as Munch Math, Rapunzel’s Revenge, Rhyme Time, and more.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Toy Line to Expand

DanielTigerThe Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood product line will include more products and enter major retail chains this year. Jakks Pacific will expand the brand’s range of toys, as well as venture into new categories including books and costumes, the latter through its Disguise division. In addition, University Games will offer puzzles and games such as the Colorform Deluxe Playset.

The new toys and games are part of an overall retail expansion, which includes Kmart and Target introducing a selection of licensed merchandise, and Barnes & Noble launching a full line of books from Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing under Simon Spotlight. Daniel Tiger Neighborhood products will also be introduced to Canadian retailers for the first time.

University Games Acquires Briarpatch Inc.

UniversityGameslogoUniversity Games will acquire the assets of Briarpatch Inc., a manufacturer of preschool specialty games and puzzles based on popular literary properties such as I Spy and Fancy Nancy.

The merger will increase University Games’ domestic revenue by approximately 20 percent. Additionally, the Briarpatch licenses will augment University Games’ Colorforms business. University Games will begin shipping Briarpatch products this month.

John Donofrio and Martine Redman founded Briarpatch in 1991, and Donofrio will join University Games in a consulting role.

COMMENTARY: These Valentine’s Day Toys and Activities Have Lots of Heart!

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and many people will give roses, chocolates, and jewelry to the objects of their affections. But lest we forget, toys and games also make fine presents. Looking around the toy industry, it’s clear that a number of companies were aware of potential opportunities, and responded with cool Valentine’s Day-themed products. But I also found some items that, even if they weren’t packaged specifically for the hearts-and-flowers holiday, are still perfect for the occasion. Here’s a brief rundown, though as usual, this is by no means an exhaustive list:

Phil.Feb7Plush dolls, from Aurora World Inc.: These dolls come in all shapes and sizes, and several of them sport that most familiar of Valentine’s Day icons: the heart. For example, Pink Promise, a soft, two-toned elephant, has heart prints all around the insides of its huge ears. There’s also Sad Sam & Honey, a pair of adorably sad-looking basset hounds, each bearing a heart with an “I Love You” message. Aurora World also has YooHoo & Friends, a trio of pastel-colored chimpanzees that not only present Valentine’s Day messages such as “Be Mine!” and “XOXO!,” but squeak when squeezed.

While the dolls I just mentioned are tailor-made for February 14, even if you take away the pink dye and hearts, these are still terrific plush animals. Both Sad Sam & Honey and YooHoo & Friends have big eyes and emotive facial expressions, which make them easy to empathize with and feel affection toward. Pink Promise, on the other hand, benefits from sheer generousness of proportions: It comes in four sizes, one as large as 22 inches from trunk to end. As such, this elephant is a potential pillar of emotional strength, and isn’t that what we all want for Valentine’s Day? Aurora World plush is suitable for all ages. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Taking the Stress out of Travel

Seemingly endless construction and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Dead batteries in the PS Vita or Nintendo 3DS. No wi-fi connection and nothing good on the radio. Uncomfortable seatbelts and restless little bodies. Though road tripping is a great option for a large family looking for an affordable summer getaway, sometimes a long journey in a crowded car can make a vacation more stressful than it’s worth. Portable gaming systems can be great (especially when coupled with headphones), but sometimes battery-free options are a safer bet for long journeys. For parents just looking to relax, there are a few great products on the market sure to keep little ones occupied in the car for extended time periods.

Brain Box Animals, from University Games, is great for on-the-go fun. Players ages 8 and up choose a card from the box and study the picture on one side until the timer runs out. Then the players flip the card over to the question side and try to answer as many questions about the picture side as they can. The player who can answer the most questions correctly wins. Brain Box Animals helps kids stay entertained while practicing memorization and recognition and learning new information.

SeatPetsUncomfortable seatbelts are always a complaint with younger kids, but with SeatPets, from Jay at Play International, kids’ seatbelts stay in place. SeatPets are soft, cuddly animals that attach to the shoulder restraint portion of a seatbelt. Perfect for long carrides, SeatPets provide a soft cushion between the neck and the belt and a cozy pillow for naps. Each colorful, furry SeatPet has three pockets and two zippered compartments designed to store all of the things that kids want and need when they’re in the car including, MP3 players, hand-held games, toys, snacks, and an eight-ounce water bottle.

Stuffies.PrancineStuffies, from martFive LLC, are super-sized plush animals with seven top-secret pockets that are fun to discover and store all kinds of keepsakes. For parents who don’t want their car to turn into a second toy box during travel, Stuffies allows kids to bring a few of their favorites and keep them all safe in one place. In addition, every Stuffies toy comes with a surprise roll of collectible stickers and a free storybook from the Stuffies Adventures collection. Each book shares important lessons in fully illustrated, rhyming stories on topics including controlling tempers, using imaginations, volunteering, teamwork, and embracing chores.

TraykitTrayKit, from Kids Preferred, is a carry-on backpack that kids can pack themselves and carry on a trip using the handle or shoulder straps. TrayKit can be hung from the back of a seat or strapped to a tray table. When the kit is opened, kids have a play surface with raised sides so nothing falls to the floor. There are colors and patterns for boys and girls ages 3 and up, and the play surface can be cleaned easily. TrayKit accessories include passport holders, luggage tags, travel journal kits complete with pencils and erasers, and TravelBugs, which are small clip-on plush bugs in four styles.

Each of these products are noise-free, don’t require any batteries, and will provide easy entertainment for kids during long trips. There’s enough play value in these items to keep kids happy, while mom and dad stay stress-free (as long as the GPS doesn’t malfunction).

For more commentary from Marissa, check back each Monday afternoon. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!

Joester Loria Group Brokers Deals for The World of Eric Carle

The World of Eric Carle has renewed its license with master toy partner Kids Preferred for an additional four years in a deal brokered by The Joester Loria Group.

Kids Preferred has been a partner for more than 7 years with successful programs consisting of plush, plastic, and wood developmental toys in retail accounts including Babies “R” Us, Buy Buy Baby, Kohl’s, Sears, and Barnes & Noble. Kids Preferred continues to develop a wide range of innovative toys that encourage early developmental skills and playful learning for infants and toddlers. New introductions and expanded retail programs this year will include the following Target, Kohl’s, and Babies “R” Us. [Read more...]

Colorforms: A Touch of Nostalgia

Colorforms 60th anniversary set

The Colorforms brand is celebrating 60 years of creation by releasing new products to match today’s generation.

What do you get when you put two artists together? In at least one case, you get a “sticky” concept of classic shapes that allow imaginations to run free.

In 1951, Harry and Patricia Kislevitz were given flexible, paper-thin vinyl by a friend who manufactured pocketbooks. Curiously, they began experimenting with the vinyl, cutting shapes and placing them on the bathroom walls in their New York City apartment. They noticed the vinyl stuck to the semi-gloss paint, but could also be removed and rearranged, so the two left a pair of scissors and pieces of vinyl in the bathroom so guests could make their own creations.

With that, the Colorforms concept was created. This month, the brand is celebrating its 60th anniversary, with the launch of a special-edition Colorforms set, FAO Schwarz display, an iPad/iPhone app, and more.

[Read more...]

Tinga Tinga Tales Premieres in U.S., New Licensees Announced

Classic Media has announced new licenses for newly premiered television series Tinga Tinga Tales, including Ravensburger for puzzles, Pressman Toy Corporation for games, and University Games for Colorforms activity products. The new licensees will join master toy partner Bandai and master publishing partner Grosset & Dunlap.

Tinga Tinga Tales is an animated preschool series about how animals came to be. Inspired by traditional animal folktales from Africa and the colorful Tingatinga art style of Tanzania, the series is created by producer Claudia Lloyd (Charlie and Lola) and produced entirely on location in Africa by local artists.

Tinga Tinga Tales premiered on February 14 with the launch of the Disney Junior block on Disney Channel. The series, for kids ages 2-7, airs weekdays in the U.S. at 11 a.m. ET/PT. Bandai will release interactive toys based on the series in fall 2012.

Warner Bros. Announces Licensees for Green Lantern

Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP) has announced the worldwide licensing program for Warner Bros. Pictures’ Green Lantern, to hit theaters June 17. The program will be led by DC Entertainment’s master toy licensee, Mattel.

Mattel will debut a toy line that will include the Green Lantern Ring Blast Jet Figure & Vehicle, the Green Lantern Battle Shifters Figures, and the Green Lantern Movie Masters Figures. The company’s multi-category toy line will include basic and deluxe action figures, figure/vehicles, role-play, play sets, games, puzzles, and vehicles. Each basic action figure will come with a Green Lantern ring that can make kids feel as if they have been “chosen” to be a Green Lantern, too.

[Read more...]

University Games Partners for Michael Jackson Line

Bravado, a global music merchandising company, has completed an agreement with University Games whereby the company will create a signature line of games, puzzles, and Colorforms based on Michael Jackson. University Games will roll out an authentic puzzle collection replicating iconic images from albums and live performances. The first wave of products will launch in 2010 in the U.S., Canada, the UK, and Europe.