Thomas & Friends celebrates International Friendship Day

A new mosaic artwork features pictures created by schoolkids alongside images of famous friendships by illustrator Daniel Crisp. 

International Friendship DayThomas & friends unveiled a new digital artwork by renowned artist Nathan Wyburn in celebration of this year’s International Friendship Day on 30th July. The interactive mosaic image is made up of 400 pictures of kids and their friends, drawn by children from around the UK on their return to nursery and pre-school earlier this month.

The interactive mosaic image features a zoom function that allows viewers to look closely at each individual picture. Collectively, the drawings make up a gigantic image of Thomas, The Fat Controller and royal engine Duchess based on a poster image of ‘Thomas & Friends: The Royal Engine’, the episode which aired earlier this year as part of the brand’s 75th Anniversary celebrations. The 22-minute special featured an introduction from Harry, the Duke of Sussex and starred actress Rosamund Pike as the voice of royal engine Duchess, and now has its own toy line.

Children from around the country have shared drawings of themselves with their best friends. Friends of the brand, including Peter Andre and his children Theo and Millie, also joined the fun.

The picture also includes  well-known celebrity friendships, including Ant and Dec, Ed Sheeran and Stomzy, Geri Horner and Emma Bunton and Idris Elba and Dwayne Johnson. These images were drawn by Thomas & Friends book illustrator, Daniel Crisp and included in the digital artwork for people to hunt for at www.thomasfriendshipday.com.

Claudia Caron, marketing manager at Mattel, said: “In this special 75th anniversary year for Thomas & Friends, we are celebrating friendship in as many ways as possible. This includes taking a look at what it means to be a good friend and how we can nurture these important relationships, so they bring us a lifetime of joy and happiness. We know how difficult it has been for children not being able to see their friends recently, so we wanted to commission this very special artwork made up of all their pictures to immortalise these special friendships, and to raise a smile amongst everyone who sees it during these challenging times.”

The partnership is also being supported with further marketing support, including digital and social activations.

Wow! Stuff unveils print-your-own-mask kits

The company has pledged £10,000 of Your-Face Masks sale proceeds to NHS Charities Together. 

print-your-own-mask kitsThe in-house innovation team at Wow! Stuff, which was recently announced as the official master toy licensee for The Gruffalo, has created a patent applied-for home print-your-own-mask kits in two categories; Fashion and Arts & Crafts.

The Your-Face Masks kits will enable users to customise and print their own face coverings with the touch of a button, and from the comfort of their own home. Any image can be printed onto the cotton sheets, be it a favourite animal, colourful pattern or even the wearer’s own face – selfies taken through the app 3D map the face to ensure the image covers the mask entirely, producing a lifelike result.

Speaking exclusively to Toy World, Richard North, CEO Wow! Stuff, described the range, which has already been selected by several major retailers, as “something quite special”. He told us: “It’s already bigger than anything we’ve ever done before and it’s got a patent applied for. It’s hitting the fastest growing consumer use item in the market but we’ve brought innovation to bear to help children – and adults – adopt their much needed use.”

A keen supporter of good causes, Wow! Stuff is also pledging £10,000 of sales proceed to the NHS Charities Together. While both product lines will be sold under Wow! Stuff’s subsidiary company, The Printable Face Mask co. Ltd, they’ll also be offered through Wow’s normal sales channels.

Wow! Stuff’s co-founder and head of Research and Development, Dr. Graeme Taylor, said: “Our face mask kits have been tested to meet World Health Organisation guidelines for barrier masks and AFNOR guidance on filtration and breathability. The technology allows you to replicate a picture of your face straight onto the cotton sheets so it looks almost like you’re not wearing a mask at all. It also contains ‘freestyle’ mode that enables you to print any image directly from your camera roll onto the sheets using a regular home printer. This is a game-changing first.”

Richard North added: “With the use of face coverings being encouraged by many countries around the world, many people, young and old, still seem a little self-conscious wearing them in public. We thought we could encourage people of all ages to feel more comfortable wearing them if they could express their personality a little. By moving on from the ‘clinical look’ and adding a touch of humour to a serious subject, we feel we can help get more people wearing face coverings and feeling positive about it.”

Each print-your-own-mask kit includes inkjet printable, breathable 100% percale cotton sheets with filtration fabric inserts, elasticated ear loops, comfort fit adjustable nose bands and iron-on web adhesive. Users will require a device running iOS 13 or Android 9 and a home printer. An easy-to-follow video tutorial featured on the app shows users how to craft custom masks in three easy steps.

The RRP of a 4-Pack is £11.99, while a 10-Pack is £24.99.

For Your-Face Mask retailer enquiries, readers should contact russ.winter@wowstuff.com.

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous set for September release

Season one of the new animated Netflix series takes place before, during and after the events of the Jurassic World movie. 

Jurassic World Camp CretaceousThe trailer for the new Netflix animated series Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous has landed, giving fans a glimpse at never-before-seen dinosaurs and exciting new plotlines. Pitched as a continuation of the Jurassic World story, the show promises expansion into new themes and adventures. A trailer can be viewed below.

Season one of the show, which is slated to debut on the VOD platform from 18th September, centres on five main characters enjoying a summer camp at the Jurassic World park. Set before, during and after the turbulent events of the feature Jurassic World film, which was released in 2015, the plot follows the five adventurous campers as the Indominus Rex breaks loose and causes havoc in the park. Newly released artwork gives fans plenty to look forward to, including bioluminescent new dinosaurs and no shortage of action.

According to the fan-site Jurassic Outpost, voice talent comes in the form of Paul-Mikél Williams (Westworld) as resident dinosaur expert Darius; Jenna Ortega (You) as Brooklynn; Ryan Potter (Big Hero 6: The Series) as Kenji; Raini Rodriguez (Bunk’d) as Sammy; Sean Giambrone (The Goldbergs) as Ben; and Kausar Mohammed (Silicon Valley) as Yaz. Jameela Jamil (Legendary) and Glen Powell (Top Gun: Maverick) play camp counsellors Roxie and Dave.

The 8-episode Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous series sees showrunners Scott Kreamer and Aaron Hammersly joined by Steven Spielberg – director of the original 1993 blockbuster – Colin Trevorrow, Lane Lueras and Frank Marshall, who all serve as executive producers.

This isn’t the first spin-off series based on the Jurassic World franchise; Lego Jurassic World: Legend of Isla Nublar, a 13-episode animated mini-series, premiered on CITV last September.

Winners of CHITAG’s Young Inventor Challenge: Spring Edition announced

The challenge offers the possibility of winning concepts being manufactured and sold on store shelves.

Young Inventor ChallengeThe Chicago Toy & Game Group, alongside sponsors Mattel, Magformers, Scholastic and the American Specialty Retailer Association (ASTRA), has announced the winners of the CHITAG Young Inventor Challenge: Spring Edition.

Launched in May in response to Covid-19, this special edition of CHITAG’s annual autumn Young Inventors Challenge gave kids the opportunity to develop their own original toy and game ideas, and pitch them to toy and game industry heavyweights. The challenge offers the possibility of their concept being manufactured and sold on store shelves. A highlight reel of entrants can be viewed at the end of this story.

Entrants were given access to CHITAG’s Young Inventor Design Guide, which provides step-by-step instructions on how to develop an idea into a marketable concept. Kids aged 6-18 then submitted videos pitching their original toys and games. Professional inventors gave constructive feedback and inventor relations executives from Mattel and Magformers chose both a senior and junior winner. Each winner will receive a $250 prize package of the latest toys and games.

Mattel’s Picks

  • Senior Winner: Color Code by Andrew Hebdon, a 5th grader from Forest, VA
  • Junior Winner: Cooking Collision by Analise Potsander, a 3rd grader from Goshen, IN

Magformers’ Picks

  • Senior Winner: PuzzleBots by Weston Aram, a 7th grader from LaGrange, IL
  • Junior Winner: Slap Happy by Emery Alderson, a 3rd grader from Horsham, PA

“We are always amazed at the ingenuity and creativity of the kids who enter the YIC,” said Leila Nosrati, the director of the Young Inventor Challenge. “This year’s spring challenge winners went all out creating detailed prototypes that rival some of the ones that I’ve seen in the professional toy and game industry.”

Past winners of the Young Inventor Challenge have gone on to strike deals with major toy and game companies including Goliath Games and PlayMonster, seeing their inventions licensed, manufactured and sold in stores across the country including Target.

The Young Inventor Challenge is currently accepting entries for the autumn competition, which has a deadline of October 31st. For more information click here. The Chicago Toy and Game Group is also looking for sponsors for the upcoming Young Inventor Challenge. For more information, contact mcouzin@chitag.com.

Impact of coronavirus reflected in Hasbro’s Q2 results

Games saw strong growth, but Hasbro’s Q2 results show disruption to the supply chain and TV/film production have hampered efforts elsewhere.

Hasbro Q2 resultsHasbro, which this year completed its acquisition of Entertainment One (eOne), has issued its first combined company results for Q2 2020.

Net revenues for the second quarter 2020 were $860.3m versus $1.2b pro forma revenues in 2019, a decline of 29%. Hasbro says foreign exchange had a $15.8m negative impact on Q2 revenues, and that net loss for the second quarter 2020 was $33.9m versus pro forma net loss of $42.6m in 2019.

Games saw strong growth throughout the period, with gaming revenues up +11% despite temporary store closures and disruption to stock levels. The growth was led by classic family titles such as Jenga, Connect 4, Battleship, Twister and Mousetrap. Magic:The Gathering, one of Hasbro’s standout gaming titles, experienced an expected decline in Q2, as 2019 had benefited from a major new release.

A major shift to e-commerce as a result of the pandemic was reflected in online sales data for the period, with nearly 30% of global toy and game revenues being transacted online in the second quarter. Point of sale also performed well in Q2, increasing by high single-digits, including double-digit gains in the US, UK, France, Italy and Australia. Point of sale remained strong for Disney’s Frozen II and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars products, as well as Play-Doh and Nerf.

The halting of live-action film and TV production impacted the business; eOne pro forma revenues declined in the quarter. Shutdowns delayed the completion and delivery of productions and timing of revenues to both later in 2020 and into 2021, though animation production for Peppa Pig, PJ Masks and the My Little Pony feature film, slated for release next year, continued.

Ongoing closures and disruption in some regions continue to impact sales, though Hasbro says it is ‘managing the business to navigate through this difficult environment and remain nimble as the impacts of the pandemic remain’.

“The global Hasbro team is executing our playbook amidst a dynamic and challenging environment. They are doing so with creativity and agility, identifying new and efficient ways to operate, capitalising on our investments in creating a digital-first orientation while keeping our innovation engines moving and leveraging the expertise of a management team that has led through challenges in the past,” said Brian Goldner, Hasbro’s chairman and chief executive officer. “The second quarter was much as we expected: strong point of sale for Hasbro brands countered by a very challenging revenue period due to global closures in our supply chain, across retailers as well as in entertainment production. We believe the outlook improves from here. Consumers – children, families, fans and audiences – are relying on Hasbro brands and stories to connect and entertain themselves throughout this period. While the full-year Covid-19 impact geographically remains unpredictable, as stores reopen and we begin to return to production for entertainment we expect the environment to improve in the third quarter and set us up to execute a good holiday season.”

Mike Gascoigne regains Toy World Fantasy Football League title

Wilton Bradley national account manager Mike previously won the competition in 2018.

Mike Gascoigne

Mike Gascoigne

Mike Gascoigne once again emerged triumphant in this year’s Toy World Fantasy Football League, topping the table after the fantasy game mirrored real-life events, starting up again last month after a long mid-season hiatus. Mike finished with a relatively comfortable winning margin of 69 points, which represented another successful campaign for the former winner, who last topped the Toy World League two years ago. To put Mike’s performance in context, the game has almost 7.5m players worldwide and Mike finished in 3455th place overall – a major achievement by any standard. Mike led the Toy World league for much of the season, and although the chasing pack closed the gap slightly in the final weeks of the campaign, his lead had realistically been unassailable for some while.

Flying the flag for Australia, Matt Nielsen came in second place, while last year’s winner, Creative Toys’ Hugh Evans, put in a post-restart burst to claim third spot. Toy World’s John Baulch finished in the final Champions’ League spot, overtaking another former winner, ex-Winning Moves executive Peter Griffin, on the final day. WWE’s Carl Lawrence joined Peter in the Europa League positions, so expect them to have Thursday night trips to Minsk or Vilnius to look forward to next season. Clementoni’s Jordan Kay narrowly missed out on a Europa spot in 7th place, while Winning Moves’ Kieran McNamara, Topps’ Simon Wright and Brad Fettes all finished inside the top 10.

With this year’s Premier League having finished extremely late, it will only be a matter of weeks before next year’s Fantasy League competition opens – if you’re interested in joining next year’s Toy World Fantasy Football League, drop john@toyworldmag.co.uk an email to register your interest. With ‘Dirty Leeds’ now back in the big time, I am anticipating an influx of Yorkshire-based interest in next year’s competition – and another keenly-fought competition beckons.

Hammerson receives £75m in government aid

Shares at the British property development and investment company Hammerson have plummeted 77%. 

Hammerson crowd checker toolHammerson, which owns shopping centres in Brent Cross, Cabot Circus and Westquay, has resorted to a government aid package after only 16% of its retail tenants paid their rent in June. The £17m of debt has been awarded under the government’s Covid corporate financing facility (CCFF).

A moratorium on the eviction of non-paying tenants until the end of September means retailers who rent their space from a landlord have been able to reduce their rent, or withhold it entirely, without fear of reprisal. While this has eased financial pressures on retailers, some of whom had no income from their physical stores for more than 12 weeks, it has led to huge losses for shopping centre owners; intu has previously reported significant losses due to the same issue.

Shares at Hammerson have plummeted 77% to 70p, which now values the business at £537m.

As reported by Retail Gazette, the coronavirus lockdown also saw the resignation of both chairman David Tyler and chief executive David Atkins. The latter is due to officially leave next spring. Former Land Securities boss Rob Noel is set to replace David Tyler as chairman in the next two months; to find a successor for David Atkins, Hammerson has drafted in recruitment agency Spencer Stuart.

Hammerson recently revealed its new Crowd Checker tool, developed in partnership with the retail technology company Red Ant. It is hoped that the technology will help shoppers keen to avoid crowds better plan their visits to the centres, increasing confidence in a return to physical shopping – and, therefore, a return of rental payments.

Walmart to close on Thanksgiving this year

The Thanksgiving closure will be the first time Walmart has been shut for the holiday in 30 years.

WalmartWalmart made the announcement this week, saying it wants to give a break to essential staff who have been working during the pandemic.

“We know this has been a trying year, and our associates have stepped up. We hope they will enjoy a special Thanksgiving Day at home with their loved ones,” stated John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart US.

The retailer added that it would release information about its store hours for the Friday after Thanksgiving, otherwise known as Black Friday, at a later date.

In recent years, retailers have timed their Black Friday deals to span a longer period and the day itself has become less significant. The deals in physical stores now have an increased amount of online competition, especially on Cyber Monday.

It remains to be seen how many other US retailers will follow suit. For years, Walmart led the way in opening earlier and earlier on Black Friday, with some stores even opening at midnight. Other stores, including Walmart, have opened on Thanksgiving Day itself.

“While Walmart has taken a very proactive approach, other retailers and shopping centre operators will probably wait to see how the virus and resulting government actions will continue to impact in-store traffic before making final decisions,” said Brian Field, senior director at ShopperTrak, which monitors consumer foot traffic in stores.

Harry Potter Magical Capsules TV campaign delivers success for KAP Toys

The YuMe Toys Harry Potter Magical Capsules have risen to new heights following the roll-out of the TV advertising campaign. 

Harry potter Magical CapsulesOn Saturday 25th July 2020, Harry Potter Magical Capsules achieved the No. 1 spot in its Amazon category as the TV campaign drove sellout and demand to what the company states are record heights.

The TV campaign began with a selection of initial spots on 18th and 19th July before starting in earnest on Monday 20th July across Pop, Pop Max, Nickelodeon, ITVB, CITVB, CITV, ITVBe, and Cartoon Network. The sales response was instant and emphatic, with retailers seeing a rapid increase in demand for the product.

Nathaniel Southworth, managing director, said: “We know we have a great product here and the TV response has been awesome. It is great to be able to cite the Amazon ranking as a demonstration of the success, but it doesn’t tell the full story; the item is being sold above SRP, at £11.99, and it keeps going out of stock on this channel. All these sales will be followed by repeat purchases, as kids build up their collections, so we’ll now be working hard to make sure all retailers can enjoy success as we continue the march towards Christmas.”

Series 1 of the YuMe Toys collectible is available in CDUs of 12 and FSDUs of 60, with an SRP of £9.99. Product is available for immediate shipment.

All order enquiries should be emailed through to orders@kaptoys.com or retailers can call Neil Leah, head of sales, on 07887 998528. The company’s new address is: KAP Toys Ltd., Unit 14, Rudgate Business Park, Tockwith, North Yorkshire, YO26 7RD.

Exclusive: Read all about it – Rachael Simpson-Jones looks at the power of print

Toy World’s editor discusses how print marketing can boost a multi-faceted marketing strategy. 

Rachael Simpson-Jones

Rachael Simpson-Jones

In July, thousands of retailers started welcoming consumers back through their doors after what felt like a very long period of lockdown. Though necessary, the previous weeks of severe restrictions were undeniably tough for the majority of stores. Many had to adapt their way of trading through lockdown, while they have also been forced to make physical changes to their stores.

Perhaps one of the biggest lessons to have emerged from the crisis is that for many retailers to survive, an omni-channel approach is key. It’s not enough to only have your brick & mortar store; to capture as many sales as you possibly can, you need to also be active in the online space. Dip a toe in several ponds, and you’ll surely catch more fish.

There are clear parallels here with trade marketing and the role of publishers. Imagine, if you will, a Venn diagram. Consumers of written media such as magazines fall largely into two groups – either they gravitate towards the publication’s online offerings, in the form of a website and social media channels, or they tend to favour the print issue – with the overlap inhabited by a large, crucial subsect of people who will use both media to access the widest choice of information in the most appropriate format. Publish a magazine without a complementary website or social media, and you’ve failed to capture a huge chunk of audience. Publish a website without a print offering, and you’ve fallen into the same trap.

As a writer, I believe in the power of the written word. In this Viewpoint, I discuss the power of print, and how Toy World can help you get your message to where it needs to be. To read the full article, which was published in the July issue of Toy World, click here.