On with the show…it’s the Friday Blog!

We’re in the depths of summer, a time when hot news stories tend to be relatively few and far between. Things will hopefully kick up a gear – or preferably several gears – in a few weeks’ time. In the meantime, there have been some quite interesting developments around trade shows this week, so I’ll run through a few of those and attempt to provide some context.

First up, the Toy Association has announced the dates of the 2023 New York Toy Fair. As had been broadly anticipated, the show will run from Saturday 30th September through to Tuesday 3rd October. Assuming the dates of the LA event remain similar to this year, it would appear that the New York show will start around one week after the LA preview finishes.

The timing of the New York event also has ramifications here in the UK: Brand Licensing Europe has taken the decision to move its dates back 24 hours to avoid overlapping with the New York Toy Fair. As a result, BLE 2023 will take place from 4th-6th October.

On the plus side, none of the three events run concurrently. Nevertheless, we have somehow managed to swap a congested January / February period for a congested September / October period. Some companies could potentially find themselves attending three trade shows in consecutive weeks. It will be interesting to see how that pans out…

If you’re the sort of person who is super-organised, the 2024 date for BLE will be 24th-26th September. While I understand this timeline avoids a clash with the New York Toy Fair again, it may potentially overlap with the dates of LA, as indeed BLE does this year. I truly sympathise with the BLE organiser, which has to find a date that works for a multitude of disparate industries, while avoiding religious holidays in the process. Regrettably though, it does mean that there will be a few toy people forced to miss BLE this year, although I am sure it is still going to be a fantastic event.

We’re looking forward to BLE more than ever this year, as the Licensing.biz website will have relaunched on 1st September, three weeks before the show opens. You can now sign up to receive our regular Licensing.biz email news alerts – register using the form below to get all the latest news from the world of licensing straight into your inbox.

Of course, we’ll still be bringing you licensing news via Toy World – our commitment to bringing you the latest information that is relevant to the toy market certainly won’t change. Indeed, we are currently putting the finishing touches to the largest-ever BLE preview section of Toy World, which will also land on desks in the first week of September.

However, Licensing.biz will allow us to dive even deeper into the licensing arena with a more cross-category perspective. So, if you want to immerse yourself even further into the licensing market, sign up to receive our email newsletters and keep an eye on the all-new Licensing.biz website in a few weeks’ time.

Back to trade shows and moving from the US to the other side of the globe, people are still trying to evaluate whether a trip to Hong Kong will be viable in January. The portents are certainly ominous: this week saw incredible scenes as customers fought to escape from a branch of Ikea in Shanghai, when city health officials ordered the store to lock down immediately due to a close contact of a Covid-19 case that was traced to the location. Footage was shared on social media of shoppers screaming and shoving each other in an attempt to flee as the building’s doors began to close. I am not sure I can think of a much worse fate than being locked down in a quarantined Ikea, although I suppose at least they have some beds handy.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, a good friend of mine was alarmed to see a line of red tents suddenly spring up at the back of his building, set up by men in hazmat suits. Thankfully it turned out they were testing people in Block 6 and he lives in Block 5, so he dodged the proverbial bullet. Nevertheless, does this really sound like a place that everyone will feel comfortable visiting in just over four months’ time?

To complicate matters further, a story in the Hong Kong Standard quoted a local exhibition organizer who was unhappy that international visitors are not currently allowed to visit exhibitions during the extended four day medical surveillance period after their mandatory three day quarantine. However, that may change for specific trade events: the story went on to quote the Health Bureau, which stated that it was aware that some exhibitions only involve business activities and would not be open to the public. It was quoted as saying: “The government will consider the risk of virus transmission, economic needs and other factors to study whether there is room to further facilitate these activities.” So that’s a definitely maybe, then. But will that be enough to convince people a trip will be viable?

I also picked up a story from Germany, which talked about the reintroduction of mandatory mask-wearing this Winter (starting October). The rule would apply to air and long- distance public transport, and possible indoors at heavily attended events. In itself, I don’t see that as a problem; I think we have all got used to the minor inconvenience of wearing a mask now. But the article did also suggest that Federal States could potentially introduce a rule to keep a distance of 1.5m in public spaces and set attendance limits for events in publicly accessible interiors. I spoke to the Spielwarenmesse organisers, who told me this was “very unlikely and in any case should not pose a problem for B2B events.” I very much hope they’re right, as I am sure the toy community is looking forward to a return to Nuremberg in 2023, especially with the Hong Kong trip looking questionable and New York moving to September. One thing is for certain – Toy Fair Season 2023 is going to look very different to the way it used to pre-pandemic.

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Wizards of the Coast reveals new lineup

New releases for Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering were unveiled by Wizards of the Coast during a direct-to-fan virtual event.

Wizards of the Coast, a gaming division of Hasbro, has announced a new line-up of innovative releases for later this year and beyond during its Wizards Presents virtual event. These initiatives enhance Hasbro’s $2.1b games portfolio for players of all ages, which includes iconic fantasy brands Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons.

Dungeons & Dragons continues to innovate the tabletop and digital roleplaying genre with the next evolution of core rules to enhance players’ enjoyment of the game. Wizards of the Coast says that crossover opportunities with the film and book industries will also add to the more than 50m people who play D&D, fast approaching its 50-year anniversary.

Among the new introductions in Dungeons & Dragons, One D&D represents the next generation of Dungeons & Dragons that brings together updated rules and is backwards compatible with 5th Edition, D&D Beyond. An early-in-development D&D digital play experience will offer players and Dungeon Masters full immersion and rich 3D creation tools.

Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen will be available everywhere with a standard cover, with an alternate cover only available through game stores in December. On 28th February 2023, Shadow of the Dragon Queen Deluxe Edition will also be released. Dungeons & Dragons will offer bundles of physical and digital content to fans on D&D Beyond (Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen can be preordered now).

Since 1993, Magic: The Gathering has thrilled players and card collectors. With more than 50m fans to date, Magic is a worldwide phenomenon in more than 150 countries. Upcoming products announced at the event include the Universes Beyond product line; a way for fans to play Magic: The Gathering beyond Magic’s planes with cards representing iconic fictional settings and characters in pop culture.

Fans also got a first glimpse at details for the latest entry in Universes Beyond, Warhammer 40,000. In addition to four commander decks, four Sol Rings are themed after each faction, with cards in the collector’s edition of each commander deck boasting a new Surge Foil treatment.

The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set unveiled new artwork for The Battle of the Pelennor Fields, spanning 18 individual cards as part of a booster release that will immerse fans in Middle-earth. The set is also coming to Magic: The Gathering Arena as an Alchemy set later next year.

Magic: The Gathering is joining forces with Doctor Who in a new Universes Beyond collaboration that includes Commander decks, collector boosters and Secret Lair drops.

Magic: The Gathering celebrates its 30th birthday in 2023. The year-long celebration kicks off this year and includes the Magic 30 event taking place at Las Vegas’ Expo in October, promotions commemorating Magic’s history, and special promotions unique to in local game stores.

It was announced that, later this year, Dominaria United will be released, and Wizards of the Coast also unveiled its upcoming premier Magic: The Gathering set releases for 2023. The Phyrexia story arc continues with Brothers’ War, Phyrexia: All Will Be One and March of the Machine. Q2 2023 will also see the release of March of the Machine: The Aftermath, and further releases include Wilds of Eldraine and Lost Caverns of Ixalan.

More information about everything that was revealed in Wizards Presents can be accessed here.

Earlier this year, Bliss Distribution was appointed as a Wizards of the Coast distributor in the UK. As well as supplying Wizards of the Coast products,  qualifying retailers to access the Wizards Play Network – a resource for organised play events in the UK.

The Toy Association confirms 2023 New York Toy Fair dates

As the dates were confirmed, The Toy Association added that the New York Toy Fair will remain at the Javits Centre, its home for many years.

Earlier this year, The Toy Association announced that it would be moving the New York Toy Fair from its traditional February date to a new timeslot in the autumn.

Yesterday, it was confirmed that the show will take place from 30th September – 3rd October, 2023.

Speaking of the decision to move the show, back in February this year, Toy Association president Steve Pasierb commented: “The board has decided Toy Fair is moving to the fall, which meets the prime timing of an evolved and swiftly evolving toy industry. Fall can deliver a powerful pre-holiday opportunity for companies to make product news that matters, something that can’t happen in February. Fall in NY is particularly appealing to allied industries, including licensing, entertainment and studios not currently part of Toy Fair, but important to the business of toys and now intrigued by potentially joining in.”

Assuming the dates of the LA Toy event remain similar to this year, it would appear that the New York show will start around one week after the LA event finishes.

“Retail buyers tell us they want to do their LA run, hold those key appointments, and depart — not have a Toy Fair elsewhere in LA too,” added Steve. “In fact, there was little board or major retailer support for anywhere other than NY. The board and Trade Show Committee are fully aware and accept some LA-based companies will take a different position in a fall Toy Fair, or use it for other purposes.”

The timing of the event also has ramifications here in the UK: Brand Licensing Europe, the leading licensing show for the European market, has taken the decision to move its dates back 24 hours to avoid overlapping with the New York Toy Fair. As a result, BLE 2023 will take place from 4th-6th October.

More information will be available at www.toyfairny.com in due course.

Get involved in the October issue of Toy World

Work will soon be starting on the upcoming October issue and all the details and deadlines you need are below.

The October 2022 issue of Toy World will be published at the beginning of the month. A special Character Licensed Merchandise section will highlight the latest properties and licensed ranges. The focus will be on licensees and licensed merchandise, primarily showcasing new licensed ranges which will be hitting the market in Q4 ’22 and Q1 ’23.

Licensors are also welcome to have a presence in the October issue, if that works for them from a timing point of view.

There’s also a feature on Pre-Christmas advertising, detailing the marketing support that will be underpinning key ranges as we approach the festive season.

Of course, this issue will also include regular features like Talking Shop, Indie Viewpoint, NPD Insight and Allegedly, as well as a curted content from guest contributors and a host of exclusive feature interviews. As usual, Toy World will bring you all the latest news from the toy industry.

The editorial deadline for the October edition is the 1st September, while the ad copy date will be 13th September. Companies wanting to be involved are advised to get the ball rolling in good time.

For advertising enquiries, contact Mark Austin by phoning 01442 502405 or emailing mark@toyworldmag.co.uk.

For editorial enquiries, contact:

Rachael Simpson-Jones Rachael@toyworldmag.co.uk

Samantha Giltrow Sam@toyworldmag.co.uk

or Suzie Sparkes Suzie@toyworldmag.co.uk

The editorial team can also be reached on 01442 502406.

Walmart partners with Paramount+ for members

The partnership between the retailer and Paramount will help its Walmart Plus membership to rival Amazon’s Prime subscription service.

In the US, Walmart and Paramount have teamed up to offer Paramount+ as an additional service to the subscribers of Walmart’s membership programme.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Walmart is hoping to be able to compete more successfully with Amazon, which offers streaming content via Amazon Prime. Walmart+ subscribers will have automatic access to Paramount+, utilising the Essential tier, which usually costs $4.99 and includes advertisements. Walmart is also thought to have been in talks with  Disney and Comcast before securing the deal with Paramount+.

Walmart does not report subscription numbers, but estimates say Walmart+ has between 11 and 32 million subscribers, compared to Amazon Prime’s 200m. Members enjoy free shipping and fuel discounts, among other benefits, and now being able to access streaming content means that the service compares more favourably with Amazon Prime, which includes Amazon’s Prime Video.

Paramount+ is home to a range of blockbusters, new originals and iconic shows from Paramount, Nickelodeon, MTV and more.

 

MGA signs multi-year agreement for Armored Saurus

MGA will develop a range based on on Armored Saurus in an agreement which includes distribution of the new series along with toy and merchandising rights.

MGA Entertainment and Daewon Media, a South Korean cultural content company specializing in character and animation related media, have announced the signing of a multi-year, worldwide agreement for MGA to develop, produce and distribute a new video series based on the hit show from Daewon, Armored Saurus.

The show mixes visual effects (VFX) and live action. In addition to distribution rights (outside of South Korea, Japan, and China), the deal includes toy and merchandising rights. The global launch of the newly re-imagined brand, content and product is projected for 2024 in North America, Latin America and Europe.

A 2021 South Korean television series developed by Daewon Media, Armored Saurus is the story of armoured dinosaurs with mechanical powers and their trained pilots, who fight against extraterrestrial invaders that are set on destroying Earth. Season one of the re-envisioned series is planned to be 13 half-hour episodes and will include updates to the existing VFX and live action as well as updated storylines to appeal to a global audience.

“MGA continues to explore partnerships like this one as part of our growing entertainment focus and this agreement with Daewon Media is a big step in bringing fresh, innovative children’s content and products to a broader, global audience,” said MGA Entertainment founder and CEO Isaac Larian. “We are eager to begin work on this new, action-packed series and accompanying toys and licensed products to introduce kids around the globe to the Armored Saurus world.”

Dong-Hoon Jung, CEO, Daewon Media added: “We are pleased to announce this agreement, combining our expertise and experience in content creation with MGA’s global business capabilities, experience managing IP in many categories and its global infrastructure. We look forward to accelerating the promotion of toys and other licensed products in 2024.”

Rose Ayling-Ellis and friends celebrate new Barbie Fashionistas

The Rose, Barbie & Friends campaign brings together Rose Ayling-Ellis along with a cast of diverse models that reflect the new inclusive line of Barbie dolls.

Rose Ayling-Ellis poses with first ever Barbie doll with hearing aids

A Barbie doll with a behind-the-ear hearing aid, a Ken doll with vitiligo, a new Fashionista doll with prosthetic leg and a wheelchair Barbie doll have gone on sale across the UK. Strictly star & Eastenders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis is taking part in a new campaign: ‘Rose, Barbie & Friends’, teaming up with a cast of diverse talent to pose in front of the cameras with dolls that reflect, and celebrate, their differences.

Stunning images of Rose Ayling-Ellis, who has brought deaf inclusion to the forefront of national conversation; alongside inspiring models Jamie, a 17 year old student with vitiligo; Renee a model and paraplegic wheelchair user and Faisha, a yoga teacher and model with a below-the-knee prosthetic limb are released today. The models are posing with the new inclusive Barbie dolls, as the Barbie brand celebrates a broader view of beauty, enabling kids to play with more dolls that reflect themselves and the diverse world around them.

“It’s so important for children to be able to see themselves represented in the toys they play with,” explained Rose Ayling-Ellis. “When I was little, I would draw hearing aids onto my Barbie dolls to make them look like me, so I am thrilled that Mattel is releasing more dolls that encourage kids to celebrate and embrace their differences.”

Rose Ayling-Ellis is a deaf actress. Born to hearing parents, Rose learnt British sign language (BSL) as a young child after her mother was motivated to improve their ability to communicate with each other and to immerse Rose in the deaf community. Since then, the deaf community and BSL have been integral to Rose and her identity. Rose joined the cast of EastEnders in 2020 and was the first deaf character to use BSL on the soap. In 2021, Rose was the first deaf contestant to appear on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and went on to win the competition. As well as acting, Rose’s passions lie in sharing deaf culture and advocating for the deaf community, evidenced by her involvement in campaigning for the BSL Bill to be passed by government.

Earlier this year Rose became the first celebrity to use British Sign Language to read a CBeebies bedtime story and later this month, she will deliver the Alternative MacTaggart lecture at Edinburgh Television Festival where she will discuss her experiences as a deaf actress and life in the TV industry.

Leading educational audiologist and hard of hearing advocate Dr. Jen Richardson added: “I’m honoured to have worked with Mattel to create an accurate reflection of a doll with behind-the-ear hearing aids. As an educational audiologist with over 18 years of experience working in hard of hearing advocacy, it’s inspiring those who experience hard of hearing reflected in a doll. I’m beyond thrilled for my young patients to see and play with a doll who looks like them.”

Since the inception of the Barbie Fashionistas line, over 175 looks have been introduced, offering children a variety of skin tones, eye colours, hair colours and textures, body types, disabilities, and fashions to choose from.

Lisa McKnight, Executive vice president and Global head of Barbie and Dolls, Mattel, Inc. said: “The Barbie brand wholeheartedly believes in the power of representation, and we are committed to continuing to introduce dolls featuring a range of skin tones, body types and disabilities to reflect the diversity kids see in the world around them.”

The 2022 Barbie Fashionistas line is available in the UK now.

Toy World swells editorial team

Suzie Sparkes has joined Alakat Publishing as editorial assistant and staff writer, working across Toy World and Licensing.biz.

Toy World is pleased to welcome Suzie Sparkes to the team as Alakat Publishing goes from strength to strength. Suzie joins the company from Gameplan Europe, a consultancy directed towards child related consumer markets throughout Europe.

Suzie worked as a research consultant at Gameplan, a wide ranging role which has given her a broad range of skills and invaluable experience of the toy industry, both of which she will be able to put to good use at Toy World and Licensing.biz.

Suzie’s varied career to date encompasses research, admin and proofing, customer service, sales support and pan European operations. As operations manager EMEA at Kodak Ltd, she was responsible for the operations and logistics of a $60m subsidiary of the company, and also worked in several other roles.

Working in research for the toy industry at Gameplan, Suzie has come to know Toy World’s esteemed publication well. “Having read Toy World for the last four years as part of my research, I am delighted to now be part of the team putting it together,” she commented.

Publisher John Baulch addded: “We are pleased to welcome Suzie to the team. The continued success of Toy World, plus our recent acquisition of Licensing.biz means that we are busier than ever, and an extra pair of hands will be a welcome addition to all concerned. I’m sure that Suzie’s varied skillset, her positive attitude and the industry knowledge she has gained while working at Gameplan will stand her – and Alakat – in great stead as we continue to produce our market leading toy industry title, Toy World, and work more extensively with the licensing industry on Licensing.biz.”

Suzie joins Rachael and Sam on the editorial team and can be contacted on suzie@toyworldmag.co.uk.

To find out more about our plans for Licensing.biz, contact John Baulch on 07932 651207 – john@toyworldmag.co.uk  and for advertising enquiries, contact Mark Austin on 07710 532952 – mark@toyworldmag.co.uk.

Desi Dolls launches in FAO Schwarz, Selfridges London

Desi Dolls produces a range of faith-based toys representing the Muslim community, with huge potential to drive consumer spending around Ramadan and Eid.

The range has been listed in the flagship FAO Schwarz Toy Shop in Selfridges, London, after buyers there contacted owner, Farzana Rahman. In what Farzana describes as a ‘dream transaction’, the toys have appeared on shelf in the FAO Schwarz concession in under two months from the first meeting between the buying team and The Desi Doll Company.

Farzana contacted Toy World to say how excited she was to see her range in such a high profile retail location. “I must admit it was a real pinch me moment”, she explained. “I’ve been going to Selfridges since I was a little girl, and so to have my toys in this flagship store is just surreal. Most of all I love the fact that Selfridges sought me out and approached me for  my unique range of toys. Makes a refreshing change from me persistently trying to get the attention of the UK hight street stores.”

The Desi Doll collection has been designed to help promote respect and understanding amongst Muslim children and peer groups who may not share the same faith. It aims to teach young children that having different faiths does not matter in friendship, and that people have plenty in common regardless of faith.

“I love that we are living in a time where diversity and representation is becoming more than just a conversation,” added Farzana. “I love that I can walk into one of the world’s most iconic department stores and find Desi Doll toys.”

The range has also been listed in Selfridges in Manchester and Birmingham and, as well as reaching more consumers, Farzana sees this as an ideal opportunity for other retailers to experience the appeal of the range for themselves. “If you want to see, touch and feel our interactive dolls and pillows, then do pop along to Selfridges in London, Manchester or Birmingham,” she added. The range will also soon be available online at selfridges.com.

To find out more more about Desi Doll toys, contact Farzana at farzana@desidollcompany.com to have a chat and be introduced to the innovative range. A catalogue and price list is available at the same address.

Visit the company website here.

Families flock to Smoby Play Zone at Gloworm Festival

Simba Smoby Toys UK created a star attraction at this weekend’s Gloworm Festival with the popular Smoby Play Zone.

Smoby’s official sponsorship of Gloworm Festival celebrated the Gloworm ethos of playing in a warm, welcoming and creative environment. During the two-day-long event, festival going families were treated to a relaxed play experience with numerous playhouses slides and adventure courses from the range. A host of families were keen to book timed slots at the attraction, and those that needed a break from the searing temperatures were able to cool off in the AquaPlay tent.

Simba Smoby UK reports that over 1,000 kids came to play in the Smoby Play Zone, which operated 20 minute time slots to ensure everyone could take part. While children enjoyed themselves, their grown-ups took the weight of their feet on the parent zone benches. The aim was to create a natural garden experience of kids enjoying the Smoby outdoor products while parents kicked back and relaxed.

The Stephensons family was just one of the many families to enjoy the day, saying: “The whole event was great but the Smoby Play Zone was somewhere we could take a break, while our son Charlie played safely. It was a shame we couldn’t stay for hours, but it was only fair that more children could take a turn.”

Mayur Pattni, UK marketing manager at Simba Smoby Toys UK, commented: “Our awareness drive for Smoby has been tremendously successful. These family-focused activities, are ideal to build on that and defiantly something we will explore to expand for 2023.”

Mayur added that there is more to come for the remaining months of 2022: “We have further family advertising round Premiere League advertising via pitch side boards at eight games,” he said. “Plus, a heavyweight TV campaign is scheduled for November to showcase Smoby’s workbenches, kitchens and the all-new Barber Shop and Beauty Centre, just in time for Christmas gifting.”

To contact the Simba Smoby Toys UK team, email sales@simbasmoby.com or call 01620 674 778.