Routine has thankfully returned: Thursday afternoon is the time I traditionally lay aside to write the Friday Blog. Of course, that arrangement goes out of the window for much of January, where I’m regularly found pounding the aisles of one Toy Fair or another. Hugely enjoyable as they all are, it’s nice to get back to some semblance of normality; there’s just the small matter of the mountain of follow up from Hong Kong, London and Nuremberg to attend to.
I spent some time at Spring Fair this week. It’s not easy to offer an accurate perspective on a show that sprawls over 16 halls when you spend all your time in one particular hall, so all I’ll say is that the toy hall felt steady – although certainly not frantic by any means – on Tuesday. Of course, it’s all change next year: the toy exhibitors have finally got their wish and will be returning to Hall 5 with the general gift companies. It’s worth noting there will still be a delineation between the two categories: there will be a toy section and a gift section, rather than everyone being mixed in randomly. But it’s the move the majority of toy exhibitors favoured, so I’m sure they are happy with the new arrangement. The show will start on Sunday 7th February, taking it away from both Toy Fair and Nuremberg in the calendar.
This leaves me one final show to navigate: the New York Toy Fair (I don’t care what its proper name is, that’s what I’m calling it). I fly out on Friday 13th- it’s a good job I’m not superstitious – just in time to attend the TOTY awards dinner. It’s been over a decade since I last graced New York with my presence during Toy Fair week, so it will be fascinating to see how the show has evolved. As ever, if anyone would like to see me during my visit, feel free to drop me an email. I always enjoyed finishing Toy Fair season on a high in New York, so I’m hoping for a good experience on my return (and preferably as little snow as possible).
There are a few random snippets of gossip I’ve picked up on my travels, i.e. the companies concerned haven’t got round to sending a press release out, so I’m generously going to spread the word on their behalf: I gather that Sissel Heno will be leaving Sega to take up a role at Disney, working on the Star Wars franchise, while former Turner executive Jason Rice will be taking over her role at Sega. Meanwhile Alpana Virani has taken up a new role at Turner, looking after the international licensing agents. The launch of the Angry Birds movie has been moved forward from July to May, which I think is a smart move. The designer behind the new Lego Doctor Who range is a former employee of Midco Toys: Dave tells me he used to work for him while at university (which somehow doesn’t surprise me in the slightest). Major Scandinavian operation Top Toys has closed its Norstar wholesale division, allowing the company to focus on its retail business. I also gather that The Entertainer is experiencing a few teething troubles with its fledgling Middle East franchise operation: while it’s true that a number of high profile new stores have been opened, three outlets were apparently closed just before Christmas with slightly less fanfare.
Finally, Disney has stoked anticipation of the new Frozen short “Frozen Fever” (and at just 7 minutes, it really IS short!) with the release of a few stills. For dress up & doll suppliers in particular, new possibilities abound, as both Anna and Elsa sport new dresses. The party trade will also be heartened by the fact that the plot involves the organisation of a birthday party for Elsa. Frost-related excitement has also reached fever pitch in both the UK and the US recently with the arrival of heavy snow. However, one person seems to have found a novel way of not signing a Frozen licence (making them almost unique….)