May 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 5
Toys in the News: 5-29-08
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Emily the Strange Heads for Hollywood. May 30, 2008 — The surly tween pop-culture icon who started "life" as a tee-shirt design, is being pushed toward the big screen by Dark Horse Entertainment president and "Hellboy" producer Mike Richardson, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Dark Horse publishes both the "Hellboy" and "Emily the Strange" comics series. Emily and her four cats have also spawned fashion items, books, toys, school supplies and accessories. Though Emily appeals mostly to teen girls, who appreciate her nonconformist confidence, tweeners looking for an alternative to mouthless cats may appreciate her darkly humorous perspective and punk style.
Tiny Helicopters Burst Into Flames, Get Recalled. May 30, 2008. The CPSC today announced a voluntary recall of "Sky Champion" remote-controlled helicopters owing to a risk that their rechargable battery can catch fire, posing a burn hazard. While no one has yet been injured, two reports of the little copters catching fire have been documented. The toys are imported by Tradewinds International Enterprises. Inc. They were sold at Walgreens stores nationwide from June 2007 through November 2007 for about $20.
Grants Given to Video Game Studies. May 29, 2008. — The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced Thursday that it had granted 12 research teams up to $200,000 each to conduct studies on how to use video games to promote health, reported the Associated Press. Since video games reinforce behavior, the hope is that the studies will reveal ways of teaching healthy behaviors rather than unhealthy ones. Funded subjects include: how mobile phone games can influence healthy eating and exercise habits to kids; how playing Playstation 2's Crazy Taxi affects perception in the elderly; and how Wii and EyeToy can aid the recovery of motor skills in stroke victims.
Potter Prequel Heads to Auction House. May 29, 2008 – A prequel to the Harry Potter series, handwritten by author J.K. Rowling, will be featured at the "What's Your Story?" auction at Waterstone's Booksellers in London on June 10 to benefit a writers' association and a charity for individuals with dyslexia. The Associated Press reported that the 800-word story is written on A5 papers, just larger than postcards, that were given to several authors and artists for the auction.
Grand Toys to Sell International Playthings. May 28, 2008 – Grand Toys International is seeking a buyer for its International Playthings subsidiary, subject to negotiations and a 30-day period for introduction of a binding offer, according to a press release.
Kids Stations Recalls 1 Million Little Tikes Toy Cell Phones. May 28, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with manufacturer Kids Station Toys International Ltd., has announced a voluntary recall of about 1 million Little Tikes Chit 'N Chat Toy Cell Phones because the hinged cover can come off and pose a choking hazard. The product retailed at department, drug and juvenile product stores from June 2006 through March 2008.
Imperial Toy Launches Marvel Line. May 28, 2008 – Imperial Toy launched this month the first items in its new Marvel Super Heroes line, featuring such characters as Spider-Man, Iron Man and the Hulk. The multi-year licensing agreement, which encompasses bubble products as well as sand and novelty toys, also includes seasonal product that will arrive in spring 2009, according to a press release.
Boys' Sweatshirts Recalled. May 28, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with distributor Adio Footwear, has announced a voluntary recall of about 300 Boys' Hooded Zip Fleece Sweatshirts because the drawstring in the hood may pose a strangulation hazard. The product retailed at Tilly's and Bob's stores from October through December 2007.
Balloons Weighed Down by Rising Latex Costs. May 28, 2008 – The balloon industry in India is seeing production costs increase by 15 to 20 percent due to the rising price of natural rubber latex. The country's production is already hurting because of cheap imports from China, and roughly 10,000 people in India may be affected by this change in the balloon industry, the Economic Times reported.
Goldner Gets 25% Raise at Hasbro. May 28, 2008 – Promoted into the position of CEO at Hasbro, former COO Brian Goldner has received a 25-percent pay raise, setting his annual salary at $1 million. The Providence Journal also reported that, for the 2008 fiscal year, he will be eligible for a bonus worth 25 percent more than the salary alone.
Indy Fever Sweeps Globe. May 27, 2008 – "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," the fourth film in Steven Spielberg's beloved "Indiana Jones" series, pulled in approximately $311 million in global box office sales over the three-day weekend, MarketWatch reported.
Japan Cracks Down on Children's Cell Phone Use. May 27, 2008 – Based on recommendations from an education reform panel, the government of Japan is implementing a program to limit the use of Internet-capable cell phones among elementary and junior high students by warning parents and school systems of the concerns — emailing friends for hours at nighttime and getting caught up in online crimes. The panel has requested that cell phone companies created models without Internet linking but with GPS for safety reasons, the Associated Press reported.
"Harry Potter" Actor Dies in Fight. May 27, 2008 – Eighteen-year-old Rob Knox, who plays student Marcus Belby in the upcoming film "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," was fatally stabbed during a brawl outside a bar in London early Saturday, according to the Associated Press. Four other men were taken to hospitals after the fight.
Sony's PSN Site Hits 1M Mark. May 26, 2008 – Sony's PlayStation Network website has reached one million subcriptions in Japan, and since its relaunch in mid-April, attracts approximately 400,000 players each month. The site offers game samples and downloads for the PSP and PlayStation 3, Variety reported, and has issued almost 17 million games since its fall 2006 launch.
TODAY Show Spotlights Zoobie Pets. May 23, 2008 – Zoobies' three-in-one plush pets appeared in a morning segment of the TODAY show on NBC and were featured in an article, "Shower your tot with the must-have baby gear," by TODAY Style Editor Bobbie Thomas.
Toys "R" Us Japan to Recall Barrettes. May 22, 2008 – Toys "R" Us Japan has announced that it will recall about 15,000 lead-tainted hair accessories manufactured in China, Reuters reported.
Lead Weighs Down Horse Toys. May 22, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Toy Investments Inc., dba Toysmith, has announced a voluntary recall of about 300 Floppy Friends Horse Toys that contain excessive levels of lead in surface paints. The product retailed at hobby, gift and toy stores as well as gas stations from February through April 2008.
American Scientific Recalls Magnets. May 22, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with American Scientific LLC, has announced a voluntary recall of about 87,000 magnets that have high levels of lead in surface paints. The bar-, horseshoe- and U-shaped magnets were sold to schools via independent distributors from October 2006 through February 2008.
Children in India Put Toy Guns to Flames. May 22, 2008 – Hundreds of village kids in Northeast India, ages 12 and under, protested ongoing violence from rebel groups Thursday, marching with signs and tossing toy guns into a bonfire at a local high school playground, according to the Associated Press.
Toy Exports from China See Decline. May 22, 2008 – Due to escalating production costs and the rise of the yuan, the country's currency, against the dollar, China's toy exports during the first quarter fell in comparison to last year, seeing only 3 percent growth versus a previous 23.6 percent growth. Exports to the United States and Hong Kong were down 5.8 and 26.8 percent, respectively. Toy exports to Europe, however, increased by 14.8 percent since China's currency has fallen against the euro, the Associated Press reported.
United Scientific Recalls 2.35 Million Magnets. May 22, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with United Scientific, has announced a voluntary recall of about 2.35 million magnets that contain high levels of lead in surface paints. The various magnets and sets recalled were sold to schools via independent distributors from October 1996 through September 2007 for use in science classrooms. More than 20 model numbers are affected by the recall.
Tinker Bell's Pearls Tainted With Lead. May 22, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with
Disney Store and importer Hoop Retail Stores LLC, has announced a voluntary recall of about 8,000 Tinker Bell Wandbecause there are excessive levels of lead in the paint used on the beads of the flowers. The sound-and-light wands sold at Disney stores from April through October 2007.
West Music Recalls Instrument. May 22, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with importer/distributor Antigua Winds Inc., has announced a voluntary recall of about 6,500 Basic Beat Shaker Guiro Instruments, due to excessive levels of lead in surface paints. The instrument was sold through West Music stores and catalog, as well as online, from November 2001 through March 2008.
Disney Recalls Pirates Sleeping Bags. May 22, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Disney Store and importer Hoop Retail Stores LLC, has announced a voluntary recall of about 4,100 Pirates of the Caribbean Sleeping Bagelcause there are excessive levels of lead in surface paints on the zipper pull. The product was sold at Disney stores from April through October 2007.
New Hasbro CEO Envisions Innovation and More Films. May 22, 2008 – Forty-five-year-old Brian Golder, chief operating officer at Hasbro since 2006, will take over as company leader today, as current CEO Alfred Verrecchia is retiring after 43 years at Hasbro. Goldner's plans for the thriving toymaker include continuing to develop new products and extend brand names to various platforms, including films, online play and video games, the Associated Press reported. David Hargreaves, who has been with Hasbro for 26 years, will step into the role of COO, according to a press release.
Wii Breaks Software Sales Record. May 21, 2008 – Nintendo of America announced that its Wii gaming system sold roughly 50 million games during its first 18 months on the market, beating out software sales for any other previous video game system. The closest contender was Sony's PS2, with 42 million games sold within a year and a half, GameDaily reported.
Mattel Gives to Disaster Relief Efforts in Asia. May 20, 2008 – Mattel is donating more than $125,000 to Save the Children and the American Red Cross to provide disaster relief support to earthquake victims in China's Sichuan province and those who were devastated by Cyclone Margis in Myanmar, according to a press release.
Toys "R" Us Hits Jackpot in South Korea. May 20, 2008 – In a country where Wal-Mart faltered against local competitors, the first Toys "R" Us store in South Korea has rung up average of $1.2 million per month since its December opening, ranking No. 2 in the company's franchise division. The secret to success? A partnership with local company Lotte Shopping, which is operating the stores under a theme-park atmosphere with interactive play experiences and train-shaped checkout stands, according to Businessweek.
Hello Kitty, Hello Travel. May 20, 2008 – Japan has appointed Sanrio's Hello Kitty to the role of goodwill tourism ambassador, hoping to draw more attention in its campaign to annually welcome 10 million visitors from overseas. Hello Kitty shares the honor with Japanese actress Yoshino Kimura, pop/rock group Puffy AmiYumi and Korean singer Younha, the Associated Press reported.
Greenpeace Reports Chemicals in Consoles. May 20, 2008 – Upon testing several popular gaming consoles, Greenpeace found that Microsoft's Xbox 360, Nintendo's Wii and Sony's PlayStation 3 Elite contain one or more hazardous chemicals, including beryllium, bromine, phthalates and PVC. The organization said that more eco-friendly consoles are possible, however, based on the limitations of select chemicals already made by the manufacturers.
Cowboy Toys Recalled for Lead. May 20, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with importer Master Toys & Novelties Inc., has announced a voluntary recall of about 6,000 Cowboy on a Horse Little Rider Toys because surface paint on the rider's pants and shoe has excessive levels of lead. The product retailed at dollar and discount stores from April 2007 through January 2008.
Douglas Recalls Blankets. May 20, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Douglas Co., has announced a voluntary recall of about 74,000 Lil' Snugglers™ Children's Blankets because the satin edging can detach from the main blanket and pose a strangulation hazard. The 14"-square blankets feature animal heads and were sold at specialty stores and online from April 2005 through December 2007.
Mattel Settles Lawsuit Against Bratz Creator. May 19, 2008 – Mattel Inc. announced Monday its settlement of a suit against Carter Bryant, designer of the Bratz dolls. The company will still pursue, however, a case on copyright infringement against MGA Entertainment, according to Reuters.
Bakugans Explode into Action in U.S. May 19, 2008 – One of Canada's top-selling toys of 2007 is now finding its place in the United States, the Boston Globe reported. Bakugan Battle Brawlers games by Spin Master are selling out in stores and garnering high prices online, as kids and parents scramble to own the spheres that transform into action figures when they cross magnetic trading cards. The toy's manufacturer anticipates selling $100 million worth of Bakugan merchandise in the United States this year. TDmonthly first reported on the toy's surging popularity back in April, thanks to a tip from Canadian retailer Barbara Vininsky of Blossom & Harry.
Macy's Adds FAO Schwartz. May 19, 2008 – During the next two years, Macy's Inc. plans to add 200- to 3,500-square-foot FAO Schwarz toy stores next to the children's sections in 275 of its stores, the Houston Business Journal reported.
Working Out With Wii. May 19, 2008 – Nintendo's Wii Fit, a gaming system that includes a balance board and various sessions on aerobics, strength training, balance and yoga, hits store shelves today. The game's focus on core balance, and its ability to measure the user's actual balance, impressed at least one personal trainer, and although the game isn't fit for customization, many professionals in the health community appreciate its aim to get people moving, CNN reported.
Prince Caspian Does Better Abroad. May 18, 2008 – "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" fell short of projections this weekend, bringing in $56.6 million at the domestic box office, according to the Hollywood Reporter. It beat its predecessor's debut in select foreign countries, however, pulling in $20.7 million in 12 markets. It grossed $7.5 million in Mexico alone, and in Russia, brought in more than double than the opener of "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." It will expand into more markets next month, Variety reported.
Step Off Gray Line into Madame Alexander Gallery. May 16, 2008 – New York City's Gray Line Bus Tour now has reworked its Uptown Loop route to now include a stop at the Madame Alexander Heritage Gallery and store, where visitors can learn about the history of the Alexander Doll Co. and show their ticket for a 15 percent discount, according to a press release.
Manhattan Recalls Rattles. May 15, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Manhattan Group LLC, has announced a voluntary recall of about 7,000 Tumble Tower Infant Rattles because the plastic endcaps can break and small parts may present a choking hazard to young children. The rattles retailed at specialty stores, through catalogs and online from September 2007 through April 2008.
Jackets at TJ Maxx Recalled. May 15, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with distributor Maran Inc., has announced a voluntary recall of about 6,000 Squeeze Kids Girl's Corduroy Jackets because the drawstring for the hood may pose a strangulation hazard. The jackets were sold at TJ Maxx stores in January 2007.
Nintendo Subject to $21 Million Infringement Fee. May 15, 2008 – A federal jury ruled that Nintendo must pay $21 million to Tyler, Texas-based gaming company Anascape for patent infringement in the design of its Gamecube, Wii Classic and WaveBird game controllers, the Associated Press reported. Nintendo is expected to appeal the decision.
Monkey Study Shows Hormones Influence Toy Preference. May 15, 2008 – A study at Emory University indicated that children’s inclination toward certain kinds of toys may be largely determined by biology. According to an April press release, when male and female monkeys were given gender-specific toys for play, the females were drawn to both the plush animals and wheeled toys, while the males most liked the wheeled toys.
Contest Challenges Jr. High Students to Design Toys. May 14, 2008 – More than 400 East Coast students in grades 5 through 8 are expected to show off their toy design skills in a contest hosted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this Saturday, according to InformationWeek. The 2008 Sally Ride Science TOYChallenge will give teams that make it through preliminary rounds the chance to create prototypes of their toys and games to be judged at a national competition.
Retail Giants Ready for New Standards. May 14, 2008 – Wal-Mart suppliers must, by fall of this year, comply with stricter safety standards for children’s products, including tougher limits on lead, other heavy metals and harmful chemicals. According to the Wall Street Journal, suppliers are also urged to label items with traceability data, which would include the factory where each product is manufactured. Also anticipating the passage of federal legislation centered on toy safety, Toys “R” Us and Target are implementing tighter standards as well, the Associated Press reported.
Mattel Could Pocket Millions in Trial Over Bratz. May 13, 2008 – If a jury finds that Bratz designer Carter Bryant came up with the dolls and sketched them while employed by Mattel, it's estimated that MGA Entertainment will pay its rival $360 million in damages plus another $500 million for yearly sales and fees. The trial will begin May 27, Bloomberg reported.
Troops Beat Up Dolls to Relieve Stress. May 13, 2008 – Almost 17,000 "Dang-it-Dolls" have been distributed to U.S. troops around the globe in a movement started by South Carolina grandmother Carol Davis, who sent the first doll to her grandson, who was in the Air Force, four years ago. The 1'-tall stuffed dolls have goofy expressions to make soldiers smile, the Associated Press reported, and also serve as punching bags as soldiers let out their frustration.
Hasbro Appoints Creative Executive. May 12, 2008 – Bennet Schneir, formely of ImageMovers, is stepping into the role of senior vice president, managing director of motion pictures, at Hasbro as the toymaker moves forward with a six-movie agreement with Universal. Monopoly, Clue and Battleship are a few of the properties upon which upcoming films will be based, according to Variety.
Spin Master Battles Bakugan Counterfeits. May 12, 2008 – Since Feb. 6, Spin Master Ltd. has sent ceast-and-desist letters to 15 places in Canada, prompting the removal of more than 2,000 counterfeit Bakugan Battle Brawlers, according to a press release. Spin Master is also investigating companies involved in importing and distributing the products, and urging shoppers to look for its logo on the product packaging and avoid alternate names for the toy, such as "Battle Brawlers" and "Bursting Egg."
"Iron Man" Tops Box Office Again. May 12, 2008 – Marvel and Paramount's "Iron Man" film took the lead in box office numbers for the second weekend in a row, pulling in $177.1 million in its first 11 days in theaters, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "Speed Racer," from Warner Bros., took in much lower profit, with a $20.2 million debut.
4Kids Loss Rises Over 2007. May 12, 2008 – First-quarter results for 4Kids Entertainment came in at $15 million in net revenue, with a net loss of $6.4 million, compared with a $0.2 million loss over the same period last year, according to a press release. The company's Chaotic®, now one of the most popular trading card games in Canada, generated $2.4 million in revenue.
Mega Brands Posts 1Q Loss. May 8, 2008 – Mega Brands Inc. suffered a loss of $9.6 million/26 cents a share during the first quarter, but marked improvement over the same period last year, at which time a recall contributed to a loss of $23.9 million/73 cents a share. Sales declined 12 percent. The company plans to launch new product, including a new version of Magnetix called MagNext, later in the year, Reuters reported.
Munchkin Recalls Baby Bottle Warmers. May 8, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Munchkin Inc., has announced a voluntary recall of about 5,000 Deluxe Bottle and Food Warmers because the products can overheat and pose a fire hazard. The warmers retailed nationwide and in the Munchkin catalog from June 2007 through April 2008.
Former Head of Nintendo is Japan's Wealthiest. May 8, 2008 – Hiroshi Yamauchi, who served as president of Nintendo from 1949 to 2002 and has a fortune valued at $7.8 billion, has been declared Japan's richest man, according to gamesindustry.biz.
Ads Work Their Way Up to the Clouds. May 7, 2008 – Need a new marketing strategy? Francisco Guerra of Snowmasters Inc., which produces foam and fake snow machines for the entertainment industry, has created a machine that can pump Flogos — corporate logo-shaped clouds — into the sky. Daily rental for a machine, which combines air-filled bubbles with helium and releases the foam shapes through a stencil, is roughly $3,500, the Associated Press reported.
K'NEX Connects With TOMY. May 7, 2008 – K'NEX Brands is partnering with TOMY Europe to expand the construction toy's distribution to Belgium, Holland and the UK, effective January 2009. K'NEX is already distributed in France and Germany via TOMY, according to a press release.
Marvel Forms Squad. May 7, 2008 – Marvel Entertainment has announced it is putting out 26, 30-minute episodes of a new television series, "Marvel Super Hero Squad," for 6- to 8-year-olds. The animated programming, available to air in 2009, will feature Iron Man, Wolverine, Captain America and other super heroes in funny adventures in which they battle villains, Reuters reported.
Super Duper Keeps Fighting Mattel. May 6, 2008 – Super Duper Publications, a company that specializes in products for special needs and autistic children, is appealing to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals over a trial on trademark infringement that awarded $400,000 to Mattel Inc. Based on the court's ruling, Mattel has been granted permission to stop Super Duper from selling materials that use the words "AND SAY" because the phrase conflicts with Mattel's SEE 'N SAY pull toy, according to a press release.
Disney Sees Rising Profits. May 6, 2008 – The Walt Disney Co. saw $8.7 billion in revenue during the second quarter, its film studio profit largely boosted by the "Meet the Robinsons" and "Hannah Montana" movies, Variety reported. Total revenue grew 10 percent over last year's quarterly report, and the company's theme parks saw an increase of 33 percent in operating income.
Take-Two Attacks CTA. May 5, 2008 – Videogame publisher Take-Two has filed suit against the Chicago Transit Authority for removing advertisements for "Grand Theft Auto IV" just days after they went up, breaching a $300,000 agreement, according to gamesindustry.biz. The ads were taken down after a Fox News story asked why they should run, considering the incidence of several violent crimes.
Lionel Focuses on Pop Culture. May 5, 2008 – Now out of bankruptcy protection after 3 1/2 years, which started with a trade-secrets disagreement with MTH Electric Trains, Lionel LLC is ready to take advantage of pop-cultural sales within the toy market. Sales of its child-friendly starter train sets increased by more than half over the last few years, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Polar Express and Hogwarts Express train sets are two examples of the company's foray into movie-licensed merchandise.
States Battle Toy Guns. May 4, 2008 – Fifteen states are instituting measures to minimize confusion between toy guns and real guns among law enforcement officials. The orange tips on toy firearms are sometimes covered or removed, so some governments are banning toy guns from vehicles and convenience stores, the Associated Press reported.
Iron Man Opens. May 2, 2008 – Paramounts' "Iron Man," starring Robert Downey Jr. as the popular Marvel character, opened in 4,105 movie theaters Thursday night and is expected to surpass $62 million at the box office through the weekend, Variety reported.
Kids' Storage Bins Recalled. May 1, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with manufacturer Magus Industry Co. Ltd. and importer L G Sourcing Inc., has announced a voluntary recall of about 84,000 Children's Storage Bins that may contain excessive levels of lead in the surface paints. The bins retailed at Lowe's stores from March 2007 through February 2008.
Corgi Sells Classics Biz. May 1, 2008 – Corgi International Limited announced the sale of its brand name and Corgi Classics, its collectibles die-cast division, to Hornby Hobbies Limited for a sum of $15 million, according to a press release. Corgi, which will reportedly be under a new company name within 90 days, will continue to produce its PopCo and Master Replicas lines.
Disney Recovers — and Closes — Stores. May 1, 2008 – The Walt Disney Company has acquired from The Children's Place 220 of its Disney Stores in the United States as well as some in Canada, with plans to shut down about 98 of the retail locations in the United States, according to a press release.
Stock Car Driver Joins Kiz Toys Board. May 1, 2008 – International Motorsports Hall of Famer Warren Johnson, who has earned 96 wins in his more than 40 years as a racer, has joined Kiz Toys' Board of Advisors as a consultant for the company's KizMoto brand, according to a press release.
Democrats Propose BPA Ban. April 30, 2008 – Democratic senators announced a bill Tuesday that would prohibit the inclusion of bisphenol A, a chemical commonly used in plastics, in all items for children up to age 7. Sens. Hillary Clinton and John Kerry are among the bill's co-sponsors, the Washington Post reported.
ThinkFun Names New COO. April 30, 2008 – Game manufacturer ThinkFun Inc. has appointed John Esteban as the company's new chief operating officer. He previously served as chief financial officer and has been with ThinkFun since 2005, according to a press release.
For news from April 2008, including Washington state's passage of the Children's Safe Products Act, click here.
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