June 03, 2011

Laser Pegs

TIA Calls for Nominations for Toy Industry Hall of Fame 2012

The Toy Industry Association (TIA) is inviting TIA members and toy industry stakeholders to submit candidate nominations for the Toy Industry Hall of Fame to be held in February. The nomination period is currently open and will close June 30.
Hall of Fame inductees are not limited to toy company leaders, but may also include influential retailers, inventors, and marketers.
The candidate(s), living or deceased, should have accomplishments such as long experience in the industry; innovative product or marketing introductions; manufacturing process changes that significantly improved the process or product; service on the TIA board of directors, or in other important capacities in or related to toys and youth entertainment; and an unimpeachable record of integrity and respect in the industry; among other accomplishments.
The Toy Industry Hall of Fame Committee will meet in July to review the nominations received and to propose a slate of five living candidates and three posthumous candidates. For more information, click here.

Regulators Approve Walmart’s Massmart Deal

According to the Associated Press, regulators approved Walmart’s $2.4 billion bid to buy a controlling share of South African retail chain Massmart. The AP reports that the deal followed “a fierce debate over protectionism in the country with the continent’s most promising economy.”
Under the ruling, government agency the Competition Tribunal said Walmart and Massmart could not lay off any workers for two years, must respect Massmart’s existing labor agreements for three years, and must invest in training South African suppliers. The AP reports that the company had already pledged to spend $14 million over the next three years to help farmers and other South African suppliers.
Walmart CEO and president Doug McMillon said he expected the transaction to be completed in a few weeks.

Spin Master Set to Launch Redakai Line

RedakaiSpin Master is launching its new boys’ action property, Redakai, at hobby and specialty stores June 4, followed by a mass retailer launch nationwide in August. Redakai features fresh, strategic gameplay and Blast3D technology. A new ”stack to battle” gaming advancement automatically tracks players’ progress and allows them to see the damaging effects of their attacks.
Starting on launch day, kids will be able to play Redakai through Official Redakai Organized Play programs. Organized Play kits will contain everything needed to run league events and tournaments, including prize cards, training materials, and game accessories. Redakai Organized Play will be fully supported at Redakai.com, including nationwide leaderboards and achievements. Redakai: Conquer the Kairu airs on Cartoon Network.

Skechers Signs Deal with Street Flyers

Skechers USA, Inc. has signed a licensing agreement with Street Flyers, LLC to produce sporting goods and safety gear collections for children and young adults. Both collections are scheduled to launch in toy and mass-market retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada next spring.  
Under the agreement, Street Flyers will design, produce, and distribute Skechers-branded bicycles, skateboards, scooters, skates, and safety gear. The children’s collection will incorporate designs and images from Skechers’ Zevo-3 animated television series and Skechers Kids characters. Each character will represent a uniquely branded Skechers Kids footwear collection, such as Twinkle Toes by Skechers, Sporty Shorty by Skechers, and more. In addition, Skechers footwear branding will be used for the young adult collections.   
Skechers is currently negotiating with additional licensees and continues to seek partnerships and opportunities.

The Joester Loria Group Appointed Exclusive U.S. Agent for Poppy Cat, LazyTown

Poppy CatThe Joester Loria Group will be the sole U.S. licensing agent for Poppy Cat and LazyTown as the brands expand into the American television market this fall. Poppy Cat, created by Lara Jones, originated as a book series that sold more than 2.5 million copies worldwide. Now, the brand is targeting 3- to 5-year-olds in an animated television show to air on Sprout in the U.S. The licensing program will focus on toys, games, and apparel. The Joester Loria Group will also serve as the licensing agent for LazyTown, a global children’s entertainment and lifestyle brand that promotes health and well being in a fun way. LazyTown is already broadcast in more than 100 countries, and will begin airing on Sprout in the U.S. in September. LazyTown licensed products will include healthy food, beverages, games, apparel, and more.

Mega Brands Extends Thomas & Friends Licensing Agreement

Mega Brands, Inc. and Hit Entertainment have extended their global licensing agreement to develop construction sets based on Thomas & Friends. Under the expanded contract, Mega Brands is granted the global rights to create all-new construction toy sets based on the world of Thomas & Friends, including new iconic characters and Island of Sodor destinations straight from the long-running television series. The new sets will launch this fall for the holiday season.

Patch Signs Nick Licensing Deal

DoraSpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer are joining Patch Products’ 3-D Sneaky Floor Puzzles lineup. The SpongeBob SquarePants version depicts Bikini Bottom, and the Dora puzzle has an outdoor scene featuring Dora and her friends. The 24-piece puzzles, for ages 3 and up, have large, vibrant pieces, which can be easily put together. After assembling the puzzle, children can put on the included 3-D glasses and see SpongeBob and his friends float toward them or Dora and Boots jumping in front of them.
Contained in each puzzle are hidden letters of the alphabet and the numbers 0-9. Other titles in Patch’s 3D Sneaky Floor Puzzle line include Singin’ Sea Creatures, Midnight Safari, and Lightning Bugs All Around.

Blue Sky International, LLP Formed by Ted Larkins and Partners
Ted Larkins, Yukio Yoshifuji, and Kana Yoshimura have formed Blue Sky International, LLP, a Tokyo-based licensing, marketing, and consulting firm. Blue Sky International will work with companies that want to enter the Japanese market as well as with already established companies in Japan that are seeking existing licensees on matters such as product approval, royalty reporting, and accounting. 
Blue Sky International will offer complete brand development, as well as a range of support and services including market research, public relations and event planning, assistance with setting up offices, and help with recruiting legal, accounting, and other personnel. Larkins, Blue Sky’s president, began working in Japan in 1988. Vice President Yoshifuji was formerly the president of Cielo Produce Co., Ltd, where he also supervised the marketing, advertising, and public relations functions. Yoshimura, vice president/marketing and promotions, previously served as marketing director for Cielo Produce.
Blue Sky currently represents Nicklaus Companies, MGM Studios, and the estate of Audrey Hepburn. 

Target Signs Deals for Invizimals and EyePet

EyePetTarget Entertainment is expanding the licensing programs for its PlayStation intellectual properties Invizimals and EyePet.
Earlier this year, Panini launched a range of products for Invizimals in Spain and Portugal, including trading cards, stickers, and albums. Invizimals products are licensed to Panini in Portugal and Spain by Target’s subagent BRB Internacional, in Italy by The Licensing Factory, and in France by MJA Licensing. Target has also signed a deal directly with Panini for the UK and the rest of Europe. Other recent appointments for the property include Safta S.A. for stationery and back-to-school, Comansi for mini figurines in Spain and Portugal, and Edibas collections for trading card games and figurines in Italy.
Target has also secured a multi-territory plush deal for EyePet with UK-based IGS Corporation. The two companies already work together on other PlayStation brands including LittleBigPlanet, Ratchet and Clank, and Buzz! The initial ranges of plush key chains, beanies, large plush, animated plush, and sound-activated plush will roll out across Europe beginning in October and will be available through IGS’s website, www.gameonstuff.com.

Every Baby Company Inks Deal for International Distribution
eebeeEvery Baby Company, creators of the eebee’s Adventure series, has entered into its first international partnership with Essential Minds (EM), a leader in Spain for production, distribution, merchandising, and licensing of multimedia and audiovisual products for kids. EM will be the company’s distributor in Spain and Portugal. Every Baby Company says its looks forward to continuing its global growth in the coming months.





Webinar on EU’s Toy Safety Directive to Be Held June 21

Toy Industries of Europe (TIE) is hosting a free webinar, “The Safety Assessment in the New Toy Safety Directive: Non-Chemical Hazards,” on Tuesday, June 21 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Eastern time, regarding the European Union’s new Toy Safety Directive (TSD). TSD requires manufacturers to carry out a safety assessment before placing toys on the market, including an analysis of the chemical and non-chemical (physical, mechanical, electrical, flammability, hygiene, and radioactivity) hazards that the toy may present and an assessment of the potential exposure to such hazards.
Christian Wetterberg, director of government affairs at Lego and TIE representative in various toy safety expert groups, will lead the webinar. A question-and-answer session will take place following the presentation.
Toy industry members may register for the webinar by contacting Adriaan Scheiris (adriaan.scheiris@tietoy.org) by June 15. Priority will be given to European companies if there is an excess of registrants.

Uglydoll to Become Animated Film

UglydollThe Uglydoll franchise is set to reach a wider audience via a new animated film by Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures. Chris Meledandri, the chief of Illumination Entertainment, saw appeal in the unique Uglydoll design that attracts multiple age groups. The film will be produced by Meledandri and executive produced by husband-and-wife team and Uglydoll creators, David Horwath and Sun-Min Kim. The film marks the beginning of plans for the Uglydoll franchise to eventually break into a larger range of media.

Fisher-Price Named Licensee for Peppa Pig

Peppa PigEntertainment One, Ltd., has signed Fisher-Price to develop a toy line in the U.S. based on its preschool TV show, Peppa Pig. Products are expected to be available in time for holiday 2012.
Peppa Pig, a British animated series starring Peppa and her younger brother George, began appearing on Nick Jr. in the U.S. in February.






Toy Company Owner Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Bank, Investors

Last week, Sandra Lee Calkins, owner of Princess Soft Toys, Inc., pleaded guilty to defrauding a bank and several investors of approximately $1 million. Her guilty plea to one count of bank fraud was entered before U.S. District Court Judge Paul A. Magnuson.
In her plea agreement, Calkins admitted to falsifying her company’s financial statements between January 2008 and March 5, 2010, in order to renew a $3.25 million line of credit at Central Bank. After the credit line was renewed, Calkins admitted she made multiple draws against it totaling $3.575 million. Central Bank suffered a loss of approximately $1 million.
Calkins also admitted that between 2008 and 2010 she defrauded at least 13 individuals into investing or loaning money to Princess Soft Toys through false misrepresentations. The investors suffered a combined loss of at least $562,000.
Calkins faces a potential maximum penalty of more than 30 years in prison. A future hearing, in which Judge Magnuson will determine her sentence, has yet to be scheduled.

Hit Entertainment, Callaway Announce Thomas App

Thomas the TankHit Entertainment and Callaway Digital Arts announce the launch of Thomas & Friends: Hero of the Rails, the newest app that brings Thomas and his engine friends to life on iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. It is now available for download in Apple’s App Store. Based on the animated feature-length movie Hero of the Rails, the app offers children and families a unique Thomas experience. Children can read, watch, and play with Thomas, Hiro, and all their favorite engines in this action-packed adventure. With multi-touch animation, CGI video, painting, puzzles, and games, Thomas & Friends: Hero of the Rails provides an immersive experience for kids.

Pokémon Happy Meal Toys to Debut June 17

Pokemon Black and WhitePokémon Black·White toys will arrive in McDonald’s Happy Meals this month as part of a new partnership between the restaurant chain and The Pokémon Company International. From June 17 to July 7, McDonald’s customers can purchase a Happy Meal featuring one of eight exclusive Pokémon figures, including Pikachu and brand-new Pokémon Reshiram, Zekrom, Snivy, Tepig, Oshawott, Zorua, and Zoroark, as well as one of 12 Pokémon Trading Card Game cards. The McDonald’s Black·White Happy Meal promotion will continue in major markets around the world later this year and in 2012.


Toy Designer Ned Strongin Passes Away

The toy industry lost a well-respected member when Ned Strongin passed away in Corona del Mar, Calif., at the age of 91. Strongin’s career as a toy designer and agent spanned several decades. He created, designed, and licensed a variety of toys, games, and dolls.
Strongin was the man behind one of the most popular games of all time for Hasbro, Connect 4, his most commercially successful game. He also developed the popular Wiggly Giggly ball, Weebles (“Weebles Wobble But They Don’t Fall Down”), and the sound-activated action game Giggle Wiggle.
“Ned’s NYC studio on Broadway was always a go-to stop in search of new game ideas. You could count on strong concepts from his creative design staff presented by Ned himself. He had a real love for the toy and game industry,” said Ron Weingartner, partner of toy consulting firm Weingartner Associates.

VTech Announces Results for Fiscal Year

VTech Holdings, Ltd. announced its results for the financial year, which ended March 31.
Group revenue for the year rose by 11.8 percent over the previous financial year to $1.7 billion. Profit attributable to shareholders of the company declined by 2.2 percent to $202 million. The decline in profit was mainly attributable to the decrease in gross margin, as the group faced higher costs of materials and rising labor costs, among other things.
Basic earnings per share consequently decreased by 2.6 percent to $0.81, compared to $0.83 last financial year. The board of directors has proposed a final dividend of $0.62 per ordinary share. Together with the interim dividend of $0.16 per ordinary share, this gives a total dividend for the year of $0.78 per ordinary share, the same as 2010.

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