April 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 4
Toys in the News: 4-29-08
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Crystal Caste Wins Case Against Hasbro. April 29, 2008 – A late '90s patent protecting the design of crystal dice, as created by Michael Bowling of Crystal Caste, earned the inventor $446,182 in a patent suit against Hasbro, which used crystal dice in a 1999 release of Monopoly, ICV2 reported.
Iran Attacks Illegal Barbie. April 29, 2008 – Ghorban Ali Dori Najafabadi, the prosecutor general of Iran, has denounced the smuggling of Barbie, Harry Potter items and other toys from the West, warning that such products will harm the country's culture. Barbie dolls, which Tehran unsuccessfully tried to confiscate nearly six years ago, does not meet cultural norms because her body is not completely covered, the Economic Times reported.
Miley Apologizes for Photo. April 29, 2008 – Miley Cyrus, better known as Disney's biggest star, Hannah Montana, apologized Sunday for a "Vanity Fair" photograph of her taken by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz, in which Miley is wrapped in a sheet and her back and shoulders are revealed, the Associated Press reported.
Nintendo Recalls Pins. April 29, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Nintendo of America Inc., has announced a voluntary recall of about 71,000 character-themed metal lapel pins that contain high levels of lead. There are 12 styles of different video game characters, and the pins retailed at Nintendo stores and were distributed to game store employees all over the country from April 2004 through November 2007.
Mattel Battles Bratz. April 28, 2008 – Under a judge's ruling Friday, Mattel Inc. is claiming copyright infringement against MGA Entertainment and the inventor of Bratz, Carter Bryant, who Mattel says designed the dolls while working at its company in 2000. A jury trial is set for the end of May, according to Bloomberg News.
McNeill Designs Signs With Stephen Cox. April 28, 2008 – Under a recent agreement, McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds will be represented to toy and game stores in 14 states in the South and Northeast by Stephen Cox and Associates, according to a press release.
Hitler Dolls for Sale. April 28, 2008 – Mister-Info reports that a toy manufacturer will soon be selling Adolf Hitler dolls in Ukraine, a country that has banned Nazi images but is currently seeing increases in racism and right-wing extremism.
Grand Toys Appoints CEO. April 25, 2008 – Grand Toys International announced Friday that former Chief Financial Officer David Howell is replacing retiree Jeff Hsieh as chief executive, Thomson Financial reported.
Baby Santa Outfits Recalled. April 24, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with distributor Avon Products Inc. and importer MacSwed Inc., has announced a voluntary recall of Infant Santa Outfits due to potential choking hazards from pom poms and snaps on the clothing. The outfits were available through Avon independent sales reps in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands from August 2006 through November 2007.
RIDEMAKERZ Store Wins Award. April 24, 2008 – RIDEMAKERZ, a car-customizing store that lets customers create toy "RIDEZ" with different body styles, lights, wheels, decals and more, received a first-place award for "best attraction retailing" in "Chain Store Age" magazine's Retail Store of the Year Awards, according to a press release.
Fashion Angels Announces Project Runway Line. April 24, 2008 – On August 1, Fashion Angels Enterprises will release licensed Project Runway design kits based on Bravo's hit series featuring supermodel Heidi Klum, according to a press release. The various kits and sketchbooks will cover fashion and costume design, make-up artistry and hair styling, as well as fashion design for pets.
Pressman Toy Snatches Up Domo. April 24, 2008 – Under a licensing agreement with Big Tent Entertainment, Pressman Toy Corp. plans to develop dice and board games centered on the popular Japanese animated character Domo, according to a press release. The games will be available at specialty stores in September 2008.
JAKKS Pacific Up in 1Q. April 23, 2008 – Driven by the success of Hannah Montana and Plug It In & Play products, first-quarter net sales for toymaker Jakks Pacific Inc. reached $130.9 million with a 5.5-percent increase over the same time last year, according to a press release. CEO Jack Friedman projects the company will be able to meet its 2008 forecast of growing 4 percent over the previous year.
RC2 Shares Fall. April 23, 2008 – RC2 Corp. suffered declining shares Wednesday, seeing a decrease of 10.2 percent to $17.42. Sales fell 17 percent, and one analyst called the shares "dead money" in a prediction for the coming year, Canadian Business reported.
HaPe Builds Chinese Schools. April 23, 2008 – Toymaker HaPe recently funded and constructed two schools in China's poor Guizhou province, in an area where some children previously had to walk a few hours to get to school, according to a press release.
Iraq Drafts Toy Gun Ban. April 22, 2008 – In an attempt to cut down on aggression among children growing up in a war zone, the government of Iraq is considering a bill that would make it illegal to import fireworks or toy guns into the country, the Associated Press reported.
Beco Baby Recalls Infant Carriers. April 22, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Beco Baby Carrier Inc., has announced a voluntary recall of about 2,000 Beco Baby Butterfly Carriers because the carrier straps can slip through the shoulder buckles and present a fall hazard to the baby. The nine styles included in the recall were sold at specialty retail stores and online from January through February 2008.
Comic Sales See 1Q Decline. April 22, 2008 – Direct market sales of comics via Diamond Comic Distributors fell 7 percent in the first quarter, compared to the same time last year, marking the first overall decline since the fourth quarter of 2004. Sales of graphic novels were up 5 percent, however. The month of March in particular saw a 15 percent decline in comic sales, according to ICV2.com.
Hannah Montana Guitar Wins Award. April 22, 2008 – The Australian Toy Association has named the Disney by Washburn Hannah Montana Electric Guitar, made by US Music Corporation, as the 2008 Girls Licensed Product of the Year.
Miley Messes Up. April 21, 2008 – Miley Cyrus, aka Disney's Hannah Montana, is in the wrong spotlight this time, for Internet photos of her showing off a lacy, green bra underneath a pulled-down, white tank top. Several months ago, there were pictures of the 15-year-old in a bikini and underwear on her MySpace page, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Hasbro Posts Big 1Q Profit. April 21, 2008 – Hasbro Inc.'s first-quarter profit grew 25 cents a share over last year, hitting $37.5 million under a 6 percent sales increase in the United States and a 22 percent increase worldwide, Reuters reported. Despite higher costs of manufacturing in China, the company is anticipating a solid second quarter with toy releases for movies "Iron Man," "The Incredible Hulk" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."
Fisher-Price Sales Fall. April 21, 2008 – The first quarter saw a $46.6 million/13 cents-a-share loss for Mattel Inc., which was affected by higher costs and a decrease in Fisher-Price sales. Price increases and launches of licensed toys tied to blockbuster films should help out the company the rest of the year, Reuters reported.
Marvel Plans Super Heroes Park. April 19, 2008 – Marvel Entertainment is planning to open a 4.5-million-square-foot Super Heroes theme park, featuring such characters as Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk and the Fantastic Four. It is slated to open in Dubai in 2012, the AFP reported.
Wal-Mart Pulls Key Chains. April 18, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., has announced a voluntary recall of about 12,000 "Hip Charm" Key Chains that contain high levels of lead. The products sold from April 2005 through April 2008.
Video Games Post Explosive Sales. April 17, 2008 – Retail sales of video games in the United States grew by 57 percent in March, hitting $1.7 billion, according to the Associated Press. The No. 1 seller, at 2.7 million units, was "Super Smash Bros: Brawl" for the Nintendo Wii. Americans purchased 67 percent more Wii gaming consoles than in February, and gaming accessories were up 58 percent over March 2007.
NSSEA Trades Ed Toy for ASTRA. April 17, 2008 – The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association announced that its annual tradeshow will next year be held in partnership with the National School Supply and Equipment Association, which is ending its two-year collaboration with the Ed Toy & Gift Showcase after this month's show. The 2009 ASTRA Marketplace & Academy will take place June 13-17 in St. Paul, Minn.
Online Distributors Merge. April 17, 2008 – Ty's Toy Box LLC and AllAboardToys LLC announced Thursday that they are merging their businesses but will continue running their respective websites. CEO Ty Simpson of Ty's Toy Box will become the joint company's CEO and CEO Dave Carlson of AllAboardToys will serve as chairman, the Business Courier reported.
Stuffed Toys Set Record. April 16, 2008 – A recent charity gathering of 5,657 plush toys at Andover's Shawsheen School in Boston broke the Guiness World Record for the largest collection of stuffed toys, the Boston Globe reported.
Santa's Toy Recalls Push Toys. April 16, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Santa's Toy Corp., has announced a voluntary recall of about 9,000 Western Rider Push Toys due to excessive levels of lead on the shirt, pants and glove of the rider. The product retailed at dollar and discount stores from February 2005 through February 2008.
March Sales Were Down. April 16, 2008 – The National Retail Federation reported Monday that retail sales were down 0.9 percent, compared to the same month last year, and fell 0.3 percent from February, according to a press release. Factors for the decline include a troubled housing market and economy as well as colder weather in parts of the country. The major store categories that did see growth over last year are sporting goods and health and personal care.
Silverlit Stops Thunder Wolf. April 15, 2008 – Silverlit Toys and Spinmaster Ltd. were successful in protecting the patented AirHogs Havoc Heli in a recent lawsuit settlement that blocks the sale of the copycat Thunder Wolf mini helicopter by Westminster, according to a press release.
Stores Go Bankrupt. April 15, 2008 – Falling sales and rising debt have spurred at least eight medium-sized chain stores, including Sharper Image and Levitz, to declare bankruptcy. Larger retailers, such as Linens 'n Things, may soon be doing the same. In an attempt to weather difficult economic times, Ann Taylor and Foot Locker are each closing more than 100 stores within the next year, the New York Times reported.
"Get Online," Retail Congress Advised. April 14, 2008 – The 2008 World Retail Congress urged retailers last week to utilize the Internet for sales and brand building, as modern audiences aren't as engaged by traditional advertising via print and television, retailbiz.com.au reported.
Asbestos Group Sues Toymaker. April 13, 2008 – The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization has filed a lawsuit against manufacturer Planet Toys Inc., CBS Corporation and multiple retailers over a "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" toy kit the organization said tested positive for asbestos. The group demands that the toy — which was pulled last year by the manufacturer, whose tests did not find asbestos — have a warning of hazardous materials and that consumers are issued a full refund for returns, according to Reuters.
Jury Stuck on Toy Gun Case. April 12, 2008 – A jury in California's San Mateo county was split Friday over whether a homeless man who showed a toy gun in a laundromat before asking a customer for 50 cents should be convicted of felony robbery, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Mattel Learns Kung Fu. April 11, 2008 – Mattel Inc. is the master toy licensee for DreamWorks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda" film debuting June 6, and plans to release both action figures and plush products, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Additionally, Activision is working with DreamWorks on a video game based on the movie.
NYC Targets Store's Toy Guns. April 11, 2008 – Party City, a store chain that was fined $150,000 in 2003 for selling authentic-looking toy firearms, is now under fire for selling the guns again in New York City, where the City Department of Consumer Affairs claims inspectors uncovered more than 800 of the guns at the retail stores since last fall. The charge could lead to an $800,000 fine, Newsday reported.
FUNTASTIC Recalls Hillbilly Teeth. April 10, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with FUNTASTIC, has announced a voluntary recall of about 26,000 Hillbilly Teeth because gray surface paint on the product has excessive levels of lead. The teeth, made in China, retailed at mass-market, drug, convenience and grocery stores from March 2005 through March 2008. Also recalled due to high levels of lead at the surface were about 310,000 Seasonal Writing Pens sold at Michaels stores from August 2007 through March 2008.
Disney Unveils Film Plans. April 9, 2008 – Disney announced today that its Pixar animated films will be made in 3-D format beginning with the 2009 release of "Up," a story of an old man who adds balloons to his house to float to South America, the Associated Press reported. Disney-Pixar upcoming movies include "Bolt," about a canine film star, "Toy Story 3" (preceded by 3-D releases of the first two installments), "The Bear and the Bow," featuring a rebellious Scottish princess, and "Cars 2," according to E! Online.
OKK Trading Recalls Toy Robots. April 9, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with OKK Trading Inc., has announced a voluntary recall of about 2,000 Interchange Robot Toys due to excessive levels of lead in surface paints. The robots retailed at dollar stores from October through December 2007.
Grand Toys to Cut Workers. April 9, 2008 – Grand Toys International Ltd. is reducing the number of employees at its subsidiary Hua Yang's printer in China due to losses caused by heightened labor expenses and oil prices, Thomson Financial reported.
Dalmatian Press Recalls Books. April 8, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Dalmatian Press LLC, has announced a voluntary recall of about 17,000 Little Builder Children's Board Book Sets with Toys because the cylinder piece on the concrete mixer and the dump truck's tailgate can come off and present a choking hazard. The books sold at various stores and online from August 2007 through February 2008.
Pokémon Destroys Counterfeit Cards. April 8, 2008 – Pokémon USA, in partnership with Nintendo of America, has seized and destroyed more than 47 million counterfeit Pokémon cards at factories in various countries, including China, Singapore, Italy and Australia, according to ICV2.
Brainy Baby and BabyCrazy Partner Up. April 8, 2008 – Beginning this summer, Brainy Baby books, games and DVDs will be available in the BabyCrazy catalog and shown by BabyCrazy sales representatives at home parties hosted for the party planning company that provides products for children birth to age 4, according to a press release.
Henry Gordy Recalls Dart Boards. April 8, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with importer Henry Gordy International Inc., has announced a voluntary recall of about 870,000 Fun 'N Games Magnetic Dart Boards because small magnets on the ends of the darts can come off and pose serious internal hazards if swallowed. The product retailed at Family Dollar stores from September 2002 through March 2008.
Chinese Factories Short on Labor. April 7, 2008 – Industry competition and imbalances in business configuration have brought the shortage of workers in one southern China district to 50,000. To compensate, some factories are now focusing on trading instead of manufacturing, while others may consider improved facilities and nicer accommodations, according to China Daily.
Greenbrier Recalls Insect Toys. April 7, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with importer Greenbrier International Inc., has announced a voluntary recall of about 300,000 Cuddly Cousins Plush Insect Toys because small parts can present a choking hazard to children. The products retailed at various dollar stores from March through December 2007.
Cool Million for Women Biz Owners. April 7, 2008 – Only 3 percent of women business owners report earnings of $1 million plus per year, according to U.S. Census data reported by Reuters. Through its "Make Mine a Million $ Business" initiative, Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence is offering a series of grants worth up to $85,000 each to help women take businesses earning at least $250,000 per year to the million-dollar level. The ultimate goal is to help 1,000,000 women clear at least $1,000,000 in annual revenue by 2010. In addition to the grants, the contest offers networking opportunities. For biz owners with less than $250,000 in revenue, a "Micro to Millions" program is available. Toy store owners and toy inventors: If you apply and win, let TDmonthly know and you'll be featured in one of our news briefs!
"North Wind" Comic Series Prepares for Silver Screen. April 7, 2008 – David DiGilio has been hired by Davis Entertainment to adapt Boom Entertainment's five-book sci-fi comic series "North Wind" for the big screen. DiGilio will also exec produce, with John Davis and Boom co-founders Andrew Cosby and Ross Richie acting as co-producers. "North Wind" takes place in a futuristic Los Angeles, after a global-warming induced Ice Age has reduced humans to a hard-scrabble and warlike existence under the ice and on the harsh surface of the frozen earth. A young boy plots a rebellion against the cruel warlord who destroyed his self-sustaining village and killed his mother.
Play Games With Nokia. April 7, 2008 – According to the Associated Press, cell-phone giant Nokia launched a new service today that allows customers to buy and download games to their handsets. Users of Nokia's N81 and N95 series will be able to use N-Gage to try out games first before buying. About 30 games are now available for from $9 to $16 each, but the company plans to expand the number of games to 60 by the end of the year.
Horton Hears a "Qui." April 7, 2008 – Despite the relative obscurity of Dr. Seuss's "Horton Hears a Who" across the ocean, the film version scored big in Europe for the second straight weekend. The movie took in $11.7 million in 54 markets, reported Variety. The lovable elephant's box-office take now totals $223 million worldwide. "Spiderwick Chronicles" has totaled $59 million worldwide and $70 million in the U.S.
New Gary Baseman Designer Doll On Sale Tomorrow at 10 am PST. April 7, 2008 – Collectors of designer dolls should log on to cartoonist and designer-doll maker Gary Baseman's website to snatch up one of the 500 6-1/2" Green HotChaChaChas, hinted PlasticandPlush.com. Fifty are hand signed by the artist and will retail for $185 each.
Activity Centers and Sunglasses Recalled. April 3, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced a voluntary recall of about 16,400 Imaginarium Multi-Sided Activity Centers and Jungle Activity Centers sold at Toys "R" Us stores and online from August 2007 through February 2008, due to small parts that can come off and present a choking hazard to small children. Also recalled were about 144,000 "Main Street Drag" Children's Sunglasses, imported and distributed by StyleMark Inc., due to excessive levels of lead in some of the surface paint. The glasses retailed at Walgreens, Academy Sports, Payless and CVS stores from October 2007 through March 2008.
Nord Urges New EU Safety Standard. April 3, 2008 – As officials from the United States and European Union prepare for a June meeting on toy safety standards, Nancy Nord, chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, has recommended that the EU look at adopting a new mandatory standard and safety mark like the one Congress is considering. EU Consumer Commissioner Maglena Kuneva is in support of a trans-Atlantic standard that would mandate participation from China, Reuters reported.
Washington Governor Signs Bill. April 2, 2008 – Gov. Chris Gregoire of Washington passed HB 2647, the Children's Safe Products Act, on Tuesday. Effective July 2009, the law requires that no children's product — including toys, jewelry, cosmetics and car seats — that is manufactured, sold or distributed in the state may exceed .009 percent of lead, .10 percent of phthlates or .004 percent of cadmium. Gregoire is forming an advisory group to assess the bill and propose changes that could be made to the legislation next session, according to an Associated Press report.
According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the governor vetoed two parts of the bill, including the necessity for a state-established website providing public data on harmful chemicals in children’s products, and deadlines for manufacturers to issue reports of which of their items contain dangerous chemicals as defined by the Department of Ecology. The veto encompasses Sections 1 and 8 — not Section 5, which is what retailers were pushing for (see below: Toy Store Urges Partial Veto of Safety Bill).
Owner Brekke Hewitt of Olympia, Wash.’s Wind Up Here toy store called the governor’s decision “very wise,” however, noting that “in a strange and miraculous way, it might have the same positive effect as vetoing Section 5."
Section 5 of the bill — which would require toymakers to submit reports on certain chemicals in their products — is written to become effective six months after rules are adopted according to the vetoed Section 8. As Pearse Edwards, spokesperson for Gov. Gregoire, explained to TDmonthly, “Section 5 is on hold until we make changes to the law in the ‘09 session,” which will conclude in May of 2009.
See the full text of the bill here.
Hasbro Enters Trivial Days. April 1, 2008 – Hasbro announced Monday that it has acquired the intellectual property rights to Trivial Pursuit for $80 million, according to Forbes. The toy company has licensed the game since 1991, but will pursue new avenues under complete ownership, such as the introduction of a television game show called "Trivial Pursuit: America Plays" in September.
MagnaChip Ready for Toys. April 1, 2008 – Marking its foray into the toy industry, MagnaChip Semiconductor Ltd. of South Korea is now shipping a 1.3-mega pixel image sensor called the MC511DB for use in children's playthings. Equipped with pixel correction and flash support, the 0.25" optical-format sensor is ideal for slim product designs and may even be used for video applications, according to a press release.
Toy Store Urges Partial Veto of Safety Bill. March 31, 2008 – Calling for a veto of Section 5 of the Children's Safe Products Act, HB 2647 in Washington state, Owners Brekke Hewitt and Gail Small of Wind Up Here toy store in Olympia, Wash., sent an email to their customers and sales reps today expressing how the bill threatens the availability of safe toys in the state. Here is an excerpt:
"HB2647 has the most noble of intentions; to make toys in Washington the safest in the world. Unfortunately, I know that it has the potential to do exactly the opposite. The harsh reporting standards in Section 5 of this bill will have a dreadful result. They ask every toy maker to pay for and file expensive full chemical analysis reports even when [their] toys meet the safety standards. Small specialty toy makers, the ones that stock the shelves of Wind Up Here, Top Ten Toys, Teaching Toys, Dragon’s Toy Box, Kazoodles and so many other specialty toy stores in Washington, will no longer be able to afford to market their toys to Washington. As a group the specialty toy stores of this state have contacted many manufacturers and distributors of our great toys and we have heard the same answer again and again: No; we won’t ship our toys to Washington anymore if the bill goes through as it is."
The email encourages readers to contact Gov. Chris Gregoire's office at 306-902-4111, urging her to veto Section 5. HB 2647 is scheduled to become law this Friday; see the bill here and track its progress.
Jakks Gains Gladiator License. March 31, 2008 – Jakks Pacific Inc. has secured the worldwide rights to produce toys based on the revamped "American Gladiators" television show, in a master licensing agreement with MGM Consumer Products, according to a press release. The line is expected to debut in spring 2009.
Toys "R" Us Launches Eco-Friendly Line. March 31, 2008 – Just in time for Earth Day on April 22, Toys "R" Us is coming out with a line of earth-friendly toys that includes cotton stuffed animals, organic cotton dolls and natural wooden toys, including a racing car and alphabet blocks wagon, according to a press release. The packaging will feature a green "R" seal that includes the words "Recycle, Renew, Reuse, Re-think."
GameStop Takes Over Free Record. March 31, 2008 – GameStop Corp. has announced plans to acquire 49 Free Record Shop locations in Norway, boosting its operations in the Nordic region to 160 stores, according to a press release.
For news from March 2008, including WowWee's robot's debut as a film star, click here.
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Writer's Bio: Julie L. Jones has written articles for both newspapers and magazines. Before joining the staff of TDmonthly Magazine, she worked as a communications writer and provided editorial support for a market research company. Read more articles by this author
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