The Toy Book caught up with Adiran Roche, president, Auldey Toys North America.
Tell us about The Alpha Group and how it has grown over the last 10 years.
The Alpha Group originated as a toy company under the Auldey brand name in 1993. At the time, Auldey toys were distributed solely in the China market and quickly became a top toy brand known for its high-quality, innovative toys. With the chairman’s foresight and understanding of the relationship between entertainment and toys, Auldey established the animation side of the business and the company was renamed Alpha Animation and Toys.
Today, operating as The Alpha Group, we are one of the largest animation companies in the world and a multi-dimensional entertainment enterprise. Our animation capabilities paired with our toy design and manufacturing expertise have allowed us to become a one-stop shop for the creation of content and corresponding toys. Our toy division still operates under the Auldey brand and is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Alpha Group, which has a global presence and a diverse portfolio of brands. In the North American market, we recently launched our Super Wings toy line based on the animated preschool series on NBC’s Sprout network, and we continue to innovate in the boys’ space with our Sky Rover and Wave Racers brands.
Can you share an example of how this business model of creating entertainment and toys in a synergistic way is working in the North American market?
We’ve seen great success with this model in North America with the Super Wings brand. Super Wings has been a top-rated show since its 2015 North American premiere and the toy sales have since exceeded expectations. We believe the success comes from an understanding that “play” is often an expression of story-telling and vice versa. Toys that feature characters and settings from popular TV shows or video games enable children to re-enact their favorite scenes from the programming or use their imagination and creativity to develop new adventures of their own. Similarly, children’s beloved toys can be crafted into storylines and come to life through original animated content, which is something we’re also exploring for future toy lines.
The link between the entertainment business and toys seems to be something many major toy companies are building on. Can you talk more about how Alpha has immersed itself in the entertainment category?
Alpha is a mega-producer of content across all mediums, such as comics, animation, TV, and film, which provides a solid foundation for entertainment-based products spanning mass media, toys, education, and theme parks. We own more than 10 animation studios, allowing us to develop our brands with a multi-dimensional approach. Beyond our episodic properties such as Super Wings, Alpha has also entered into a strategic partnership with New Regency Productions, investing in movies such as Assassin’s Creed, The Revenant, and Splinter Cell. Additionally, Alpha has made a significant investment in director Michael Bay’s 451 Media Group in order to continue its growth as an entertainment enterprise. We continue to explore new ways to strengthen our position in the entertainment business.
The recent acquisition of Baby Trend opens up an entirly new category for Alpha in North America and beyond. How does this factor into Alpha’s growth strategy?
Acquiring Baby Trend extends the relationship lifecycle with our core consumer—parents. With our acquisition of Baby Trend, a leading juvenile and baby gear company, we can start engaging with the prenatal mom and have a conversation that will last through the first decade of her toy-buying years. It has been the catalyst for Alpha’s global development plan for our juvenile business and allows us to extend beyond toys and bring our innovative technologies and existing creative properties to a wider array of products.
Alpha recently established a presence in the Los Angeles (LA) area. What are your plans for this new location?
The new LA location will serve as Alpha’s international design headquarters. It’s the perfect hub as it’s at the crossroads of the entertainment and toy industries. We’ve been lucky enough to enlist some of the top design talent in our industry, who are already having an incredible impact on our product lines after just a few months and ensuring we continue to deliver superior play experiences and innovation in everything we create.
What can we expect to see from Auldey in the future?
In 2017, you will see new innovations in all of our signature brands. In the flight category, you can expect breakthrough new products in our Sky Rover line, taking R/C helicopters and drones in a whole new direction. For preschoolers, we’ll be expanding our Super Wings toy line, building on its current strong momentum in the marketplace. We’ve recently partnered with Rainbow, one of the most sophisticated animation companies with worldwide presence, on its new girl-focused animated TV series Regal Academy, which begins airing in the U.S. this summer on Nickelodeon. Stay tuned for a few more surprises to come in 2017 and beyond. »