Originally posted March 1, 2022, 11:03 a.m. ET | Updated: June 7, 2022, 12:25 p.m. ET
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is creating a new ripple effect of challenges for toymakers worldwide.
Following the invasion, the Ukrainian Toy Industry Association (UTIA) sent out a call to action, urging toy and game manufacturers to immediately cease trading with Russian companies.
In a message posted to LinkedIn, UTIA President Pavel Ovchynnikov asked global toy companies to join automakers, including Audi, BMW, and Volkswagen, and tech companies, including Intel and Lenovo, in stopping sales and shipments to Russian retailers and distributors. Additional companies quickly followed, as chipmaker AMD and automakers GM and Volvo halted shipments to the region.
Commenting on Ovchynnikov’s original post, members of the international toy industry, including executives from Headstart International (Australia), TCG Toys (Canada), Sophie la girafe manufacturer Vulli SAS (France), and Canal Toys España (Spain) pledged support. Other companies, including PlayMonster, have shared updates from business partners in the region.
An additional post shared by UTIA’s Chief of Committee on Quality and Technical Regulation Alla Kornieieva detailed the need for medical supplies that can be purchased and shipped by international allies with imports handled by a warehouse in Poland. The German Toy Association (DVSI) is calling upon its members to join in donating medical supplies to its “DVSI – Help for the Ukraine” initiative. Supplies will be collected in Nuremberg to be delivered to partners in Ukraine.
The fluid nature of the escalating conflict is prompting pause from other companies in the toy, licensing, and entertainment businesses as sanctions against Russia take effect.
“Given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis, we are pausing the release of theatrical films in Russia, including the upcoming Turning Red from Pixar,” says a spokesperson from The Walt Disney Co. “We will make future business decisions based on the evolving situation. In the meantime, given the scale of the emerging refugee crisis, we are working with our NGO partners to provide urgent aid and other humanitarian assistance to refugees.”
On March 1, The LEGO Group became the first major international toymaker to get involved in supporting kids and families in Ukraine that have been affected by the conflict.
The company, along with The LEGO Foundation and Ole Kirk’s Fond, have made an emergency donation of approximately $16.5 million to support general humanitarian aid for the Ukrainian people as well as efforts to educate and protect kids.
“We stand with the Ukrainian people and all those affected by the devastating invasion of Ukraine, and call for a rapid and peaceful end to the conflict,” The LEGO Group said in a statement.
LEGO says that the funds are being distributed to partners including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Save the Children, and the Danish Red Cross. Due to the rapidly changing nature of the situation in Ukraine, the use of the funds will be determined by each organization as the situation evolves.
In Chicago, the headquarters of Radio Flyer has changed its lighting scheme to be illuminated with the blue and gold colors of Ukraine in a show of solidarity.
In neighboring Vernon Hills, Illinois, Educational Insights, Learning Resources, and hand2mind have collaborated with international partners to provide funds, supplies, and educational products to families in Ukraine.
“The war in Ukraine created a massive humanitarian crisis for thousands of families and children. Our team has a sense of urgency to offer meaningful support during this difficult time,” says Rick Woldenberg, CEO of Learning Resources and hand2mind. “With the help of our employees, partners, and local distributors — some of which are in Ukraine and the surrounding areas — we sprung into action. Our hope is to inspire others with our initiatives and support thousands of children and families in dire need right now.”
Meanwhile, the Horst Brandstätter Group has halted deliveries of products from its Playmobil and Lechuza brands to retailers in Russia, effective immediately.
“The employees and the entire management of the company want to send a signal of solidarity with the people of Ukraine,” says Steffen Höpfner, CEO, Horst Brandstätter Group. “We are stunned and dismayed by the Russian troops’ invasion of Ukraine. Our sympathy goes to the many people who are in danger or are fleeing their homes.”
According to the company, Playmobil and Lechuza were expected to do approximately $11 million in sales in Russia this year.
In the U.S., The Toy Foundation (TTF) has joined Hasbro veteran Alan Hassenfeld and the Hassenfeld Family Foundation to lead toy industry efforts to provide aid to displaced families in Ukraine. As of March 8, TTF has raised more than $1.8 million through contributions by Hassenfeld, Aurora World, Basic Fun!, Bonkers Toy Co., Cra-Z-Art, Crazy Aaron’s, Hasbro, Jazwares, Melissa & Doug, Paramount, PlayMonster, and Spin Master.
“Cra-Z-Art is very proud to have partnered with The Toy Foundation to help these families and kids in need,” says Lawrence Rosen, chairman, Cra-Z-Art. “It’s a great organization and we’re extremely proud to be in a position to help out. Hopefully, our donation of toys and art supplies will help spread some happiness among these children who are in such a tragic situation.”
Beyond the devastating impact of the conflict itself, fuel costs are rising around the world as both Russia and Ukraine are producers of oil and natural gas. Concerns regarding the cost of diesel fuel used in shipping vessels, trains, and trucks, are adding yet another layer to the continued challenges within the global supply chain.
How the Toy Industry and Adjacent Industries are Supporting the People of Ukraine
- Amazon suspended shipments of retail products to customers based in Russia and Belarus beginning March 8. The retail giant also halted the acceptance of new Russia and Belarus-based AWS customers and Amazon third-party sellers. The have blocked Prime Video access to customers based in Russia, and are no longer taking orders for New World, the only video game that they were selling directly in Russia. Amazon points out that in terms of its tech offerings the company “has a long-standing policy of not doing business with the Russian government.” Amazon is also providing funds and support for aid to families in Ukraine.
- Aurora World has donated $250,000 worth of plush toys to kids in Ukraine with the support of The Toy Foundation.
- Choose Your Own Adventure is currently donating proceeds from sales made through its webstore to World Central Kitchen and Razom. A resource hub with additional information can be found here.
- Cra-Z-Art is donating approximately $250,000 worth of their premium markers, colored pencils, crayons, coloring books, activity kits and puzzles to kids in Ukraine and neighboring countries where families are seeking refuge. The donation is being supported by The Toy Foundation.
- Crazy Aaron’s and The Toy Foundation launched a limited edition Play It Forward Thinking Putty that will benefit humanitarian aid in Ukraine. The putty comes in The Toy Association’s signature orange color with purple sparkles and will be sold online through April 22.
- Educational Insights, Learning Resources, and hand2mind are providing support to kids and families in the region in several ways. The family of companies is supporting relief efforts through United Hatzalah of Israel, a nonprofit emergency response organization currently aiding families fleeing the war in Ukraine. A hand2mind employee, Senior Graphic Designer Elina Saksonova, originally from Kyiv, started a fundraising campaign for United Hatzalah to help families affected by the conflict. More than $13,000 has been raised by employees and the companies added another $20,000 to the total. Additionally, the Learning Resources UK office raised money for the British Red Cross serving Ukraine and set up a special project team to create local language, free educational worksheets working with partners located in the UK and Ukraine as well as Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania. Educational Insights is also supporting a private organization that is sending a cargo plane filled with supplies for Ukrainian refugees. The company is providing language-free educational toys for the mission.
- Epic Games is donating all Fortnite proceeds from March 20 to April 3 to humanitarian relief organizations working in Ukraine. Xbox is joining the effort and committing their net proceeds for Fortnite during the same period. In just 24 hours, the effort raised $36 million.
- Epoch Everlasting Play CEO Jeff Cheslik has started a fund to provide aid to families in Ukraine and to the town of Mykolaiv. Cheslik, whose wife is from Ukraine, has pledged $10,000 in his own funds and that 33% of all funds raised will be used to help provide food, shelter, blankets, and to support rebuilding efforts in Mykolaiv. Donations can be made here.
- Funko donated $100,000 to GlobalGiving. The contribution supports the $30 million Ukraine Relief Fund.
- Hot Topic is working with World Central Kitchen to provide food to those in need.
- Just Play and The Toy Foundation collaborated on the Ukraine Relief Special Edition Slinky. 100% of the proceeds will benefit The Toy Foundation’s efforts in Ukraine. The Slinky is available now via Amazon, Meijer, and other retailers.
- KIDDISVIT Ltd CEO and UTIA President Pavel Ovchynnikov is a co-founder of Pomagaem, a fund that is able to accept payments in any currency directly to Dnipro, Ukraine. The organization has already established a shelter for 100 people and will continue to provide aid. While the organization is working to translate its website into English, details on how to donate via SWIFT can be found in this post shared on LinkedIn by UTIA’s Alla Kornieieva.
- Kids2 has donated items from Bright Starts, Baby Einstein, and Ingenuity to families in Ukraine. These products include bouncers, boosters, swings, high-chairs, activity gyms and more.
- The LEGO Group, The LEGO Foundation, and Ole Kirk’s Fond have made an emergency donation of approximately $16.5 million to support general humanitarian aid for the Ukrainian people as well as efforts to educate and protect kids. Funds are being spread between UNICEF, Save the Children, and the Danish Red Cross. Additionally, LEGO has paused all shipments of new toys to Russia.
- Maersk has temporarily suspended cargo bookings to and from Russia with the exception of food, medical, and humanitarian supplies.
- Mattel is collaborating with Save The Children to match all employee donations to its efforts. Additionally, the company has paused all shipments into Russia and contributed $1 million in toys and cash to support organizations on the front lines including Save the Children and Polish local charities SOS Children’s Villages and Caritas Polska. Mattel says that it is also launching a special retailer sales program in Europe with 100% of the proceeds of key products to be donated to other charities in neighboring countries including Poland and Czech Republic.
- Mattel Poland created three indoor “playgrounds” to serve more than 700 orphans from Ukraine. Opened in June, the playgrounds are designed for kids ages 1-3 and 4-10.
- MGA Entertainment (MGAE) Founder and CEO Isaac Larian says “MGA and Zapf made a sizeable humanitarian contribution to Ukraine and we will do more. I encourage others in the toy industry to please do the same. We stand with the children of the world.”
- MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company halted cargo bookings to and from Russia beginning March 1. The Swiss company says that the stoppage includes access areas, including the Black Sea, the Baltics, and Far East Russia.
- Modiphius Entertainment founders Chris and Rita Birch have mounted a support effort in which all proceeds from the sales of the PDF versions of the company’s tabletop RPGs, wargames, and, adventure products, sold via the company’s online store or via DriveThruRPG, will be donated to Ukraine-relief charities. Additionally, the company has started an information resource hub for those looking to donate funds or supplies to the relief efforts.
- Moose Toys suspended deliveries to Russia and has supplied toys to relief workers meeting families that are fleeing Ukraine. The company has also donated $100,000 to Save the Children’s Ukraine Relief Fund and is supporting Dream Doctors.
- The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum is offering the first bobblehead of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Zelenskyy has become a face of defiance and a symbol of strength in the midst of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The museum says that it will donate $5 from every bobblehead sold to GlobalGiving’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund, supporting humanitarian assistance in impacted communities in Ukraine and surrounding regions where Ukrainian refugees have fled. The bobblehead is available to preorder here.
- Playmobil and Lechuza have halted sales and deliveries to Russia. Parent company, The Horst Brandstätter Group says that it wants to “send a signal of solidarity to the people of Ukraine.”
- The Pokémon Co. International called the crisis in Ukraine and Eastern Europe “heartbreaking” and made an immediate donation of $200,000 to GlobalGiving’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund to aid in providing humanitarian relief.
- Radio Flyer made a monetary donation to Save the Children International and a product donation of more than 1,000 toys to The Toy Foundation, including wagons, trikes, scooters, and balance bikes.
- Sesame Workshop mobilized its team to distribute content in Ukrainian for kids in Ukraine and host countries. A playlist of re-dubbed Sesame Street videos was released on April 1.
- Spin Master is making a $100,000 donation split between The Red Cross and UNICEF. Additionally, the company says that it is launching a matching campaign for employee donations
- The Toy Foundation (TTF) and Hasbro legend Alan Hassenfeld are working with members of the global toy industry to provide aid to kids and families in Ukraine. As of March 30, TTF has raised more than $2.8 million through contributions by Hassenfeld, Aurora World, Basic Fun!, Bonkers Toy Co., Cra-Z-Art, Crazy Aaron’s, Hasbro, Jazwares, Melissa & Doug, Paramount, PlayMonster, and Spin Master. Details on how to get involved can be found here.
- The Toy Trust (UK) has donated approximately $13,000 to Samaritan’s Purse, an organization creating supply backpacks for refugees that are fleeing Ukraine.
- Ty Inc: Ty Warner CEO, of Ty Inc., pledged 100% of profits from sales of Beanie Babies during the month of March to Save the Children to provide emergency assistance to those in crisis across Ukraine and the region. “The events unfolding in Ukraine are deeply troubling,” Warner says. “I can only imagine what children there must be going through. I feel an obligation to help.” Purchases can be made here.
- UPS says that it will not transport any items to Ukraine at this time. “In our long history of engaging in these situations, we’ve learned that collection drive items rarely reach the intended recipients,” the comany said in a statement. UPS says that it is “supporting the leading organizations delivering needs-based items on the ground in and around Ukraine,” including CARE, IFRC, Salvation Army, UNICEF, UNHCR. and WFP.
- Waboba is donating proceeds from the sale of its blue and yellow Moon Balls to World Central Kitchen. Purchases made through Waboba’s website or Amazon storefront will benefit the delivery of meals to those fleeing Ukraine.
- The Walt Disney Co. has paused theatrical releases in Russia, including Pixar’s Turning Red and Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.
- Warner Bros. has paused theatrical releases in Russia, including DC’s The Batman.
- WHP Global — parent company of Toys “R” Us — employees and partners donated more than $250,000 to the Tikva Odessa Children’s Home, an orphanage in Ukraine that houses more than 500 kids. WHP Global Chief Operating Officer Effy Zinkin has served on the board of Tikva for 20 years.
- Wicked Uncle Toys, a specialty retailer in Maryland, was inspired by Wise Elk — a Ukrainian supplier — to create a “Toys from Ukraine” department on its website. Proceeds from the sales of the curated toy selection will be donated to World Central Kitchen.
The Toy Book will continue monitoring the international toy community’s response to the situation in Ukraine. Watch this space for future updates.