Wednesday 22nd April – Latest toy industry reaction to coronavirus outbreak

Published on: 22nd April 2020

Today’s roundup includes news from The Fence Club, Argos, Amazon, Planeta Junior and even SpongeBob.

This year’s Fence Club Golf Day, which was due to take place on Thursday 18th June, has been cancelled. In an email to members, the organisers stated: “Over the last 45 years, many days have been played in burning temperatures, high winds, flooding and pestilence but we have never had to cancel the event until now! Even if we are officially out of lockdown by this time, we think the appetite will be minimal and social distancing rules will probably still apply, with lots of us focusing our energies on rebuilding our businesses.”

The Fence Club has asked members to put Thursday 17th June 2021 in their diaries for the next tournament.

Argos has responded to criticism that it was keeping stores located within Sainsbury’s premises open and putting both staff and shoppers at risk. The retailer has clarified that all standalone Argos shops are closed, and customers must shop with Argos online. Orders can be delivered to homes or can be collected from an Argos within a Sainsbury’s store, but the company stressed that such outlets are only to be used as collection points, while customers are shopping for food and other essential items. With the Careline teams focusing on helping the most vulnerable, customers are also urged to delay returning any goods until the standalone Argos stores re-open, and the 30 days return promise has been extended to 30 days after the re-opening.

Chief executive Mike Coupe commented: “Our incredible colleagues are playing a vital role in serving the nation as we all adjust to new ways of living and working. We will continue to do everything we can to best serve our customers at this challenging time.”

Amazon warehouse workers across the US have pledged to call in sick this week, as part of a nationwide protest against the company’s coronavirus response. They claim the company has failed to provide enough face masks for staff, has not implemented temperature checks as promised and has refused paid sick leave.

Although Amazon has promised to pay workers who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 or are showing symptoms, staff claim it has been difficult to actually receive paid sick time, and some have been coming to work with fevers in order to avoid losing wages, according to worker rights group United for Respect.

Staff are also requesting the elimination of quotas that require employees to scan a certain number of items and pack a certain number of boxes per hour, which discourages taking time to wash hands thoroughly and keep safe.

Over 20 animated series are being made available by Planeta Junior via YouTube, to lighten the lockdown for families with children. In addition to its various YouTube channels, the children’s and family entertainment company is providing its brand content via the free Kidoodle.TV app, which features exclusive Pucca content and complete series of Bubble Bip, Socks and more.

A Gormiti YouTube channel is also available in five languages (English, French, Spanish, Italian and Greek) and allows families to access several episodes of the series along with extra exclusive content.

This initiative complements Planeta Junior’s earlier #StayAtHome global campaign in which iconic Gormiti and Pucca characters raised children’s’ awareness about Covid-19.

The release date of SpongeBob SquarePants : Sponge On The Run is now slated for August 7th, and president of Paramount Animation, Mireille Soria, has detailed on the ViacomCBS website how work has continued on the animated feature during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the studio seamlessly shifting to remote working. “At Paramount Animation, we’ve always made movies in the computer. The studio is in a unique position because we already work remotely with a lot of artists around the world and now, with everyone working from home, it’s not so much a change as it is an acceleration of where our industry was already headed.”

The feature is being made in collaboration with a team in L.A. and about 100 crew in Montreal. With the animation complete, work is underway on the lighting and compositing, as well as on the music. Composer Hans Zimmer has been gathering contributions from musicians who record at their home studios and send through the music. This is not an unusual practice in animation and one which the studio has embraced and made full use of under the current circumstances.

Mireille added that the teams has benefitted from the positivity of working with such an uplifting character. “The shining light in all this madness is the character of SpongeBob. His optimism, comedy, and heart-warming nature are truly a great inspiration for us as we navigate this new way of life.”


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