Although toys are the marquee product at the American International Toy Fair, they are really just the focal point of a much larger panorama of marketing strategies, entertainment programs and emerging cultural trends that are on display at the annual event in New York City. Toy manufacturers are now closely associated with a variety of other industries, from production studios to marketing companies to ad agencies and retailers. As a result, Toy Fair has become a kind of bellwether of upcoming trends and a place where a wide cross-section of people come to shop not just for toys, but also for insights into what’s new and hot.
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- Lost in Space
Trendmasters, named master toy licensee by New Line Cinema, is introducing an entire product line of action figures, play sets, vehicles and accessories surrounding the feature film’s release on April 3. Jim Henson Workshop created the Robot and space creatures for the film, which influenced the line’s large, posable Lost in Space Action Figure Assortments, which also feature Try Me movie sounds. Vehicles called Bubble Fighters have been developed, which allow figures to remain upright as the vehicle dives and climbs. The Space Blaster weapon has light, sound and snap-on parts.
Based on Scholastic’s book series, this line will be highlighted at this year’s Toy Fair, in conjunction with plans to air the new live-action series during prime time on Nickelodeon this fall. The master toy licensee and major quick-service restaurant (QSR) partners have been chosen, but not announced. The products will begin to roll out next fall.
- The Who’s There Bears?
Fluffyville U.S.A. will introduce an interactive plush line called The Who’s There Bears?, and The President’s Buddy, new plush toys designed to resemble U.S. President Bill Clinton’s new chocolate Labrador puppy. The interactive bears tell ‘Knock! Knock! Who’s There’ jokes, and at this year’s Toy Fair, the original Osmo bear will be followed by a full line of bear personalities and books.
- Thomas the Tank Engine
Over 50 new Thomas the Tank Engine products will be introduced at 1998 Toy Fair, from licensees Berk, Briarpatch, Ertl and Golden Books. These additions will include: interlocking foam puzzles, board games, diecast collectibles and The Thomas Brainy Board, an interactive board with up to 36 touch points that set off words, music and sound effects, and a Magic Slate. Learning Curve International is offering an expanded wooden railway system, Lionell is offering a beefed-up electric train set featuring three changeable facial expressions for Thomas, and Schylling is introducing a tin bank and spinning top. Tomy is offering new wind-up characters and other Thomas the Tank Engine preschool products.
- The New Adventures of Voltron
Trendmasters, toy maker for the feature films Godzilla and Independence Day, has been granted the master toy license for the action-adventure series, which is heavy on special effects. The Fully Posable Voltron robot is based on the character from the show, and disassembles into 5 lions, in accordance with the plot of the series. The diecast parts also feature multiple weapons, including firing lion heads. International licensing rights to the preceding cartoon series Voltron, Defender of the Universe have been acquired by Bradford Licensing Associates.
- Math Blaster
Bradford Licensing Associates acquired exclusive licensing rights to all of the characters from the popular educational software line Math Blaster, soon to become an animated television series produced by Nelvana. Characters licensed to Bradford Licensing Associates include Galactic Commander, Dr. Dabble, Illitera, Dr. Minus, Spot and Trash Alien.
- Where is Carmen Sandiego?
DIC Entertainment is continuing to expand its merchandising and promotional campaigns for its two television series-the live-action Where is Carmen Sandiego? and the animated Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?-based on the Br¿derbund Software line. Br¿derbund has recently released three titles: Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?, Carmen Sandiego Word Detective and Carmen Sandiego Math Detective. Carl’s Jr. is kicking off a Carmen Sandiego kids meal promotion throughout the U.S. and Canada during the first quarter of this year.
- Tune of the Moon
Gaumont Multimedia is launching licensing campaigns for the preschool television program Tune of the Moon at 1998 Toy Fair, and will be pursuing a lead toy manufacturer at the show.
- The Magician
Giochi Preziosi was awarded the worldwide master toy license for The Magician, Gaumont’s new action-adventure television series premiering in fall 1998, and will introduce a range of action figures, vehicles, play sets and accessories. Each action figure will contain special hidden powers, in keeping with the advertising tagline ‘Reveal the Power Within.’
- Space Goofs
The licensing agents for Gaumont’s animated series, now rated among the top television series for children age one to 11 in the U.S., will be revealed at this year’s Toy Fair. Saban Entertainment in the U.S. and Canada, Ellipse License Germany and Biplano in Spain will reveal lines, including apparel by Gatex Sportswear, LCD Games from ABC Group, stationery and bags from Capry SA. QSR partners secured by Saban include Taco Bell and Hardee’s. ‘Monster Men,’ the series’ catchy theme song, will be released as a single by Virgin Records.
- Donkey Kong
Several new video game character groups will be revealed in conjunction with plans for a new weekly animated television series titled Donkey Kong, based on the Nintendo game. The licensed goods surrounding the series will be unveiled at Toy Fair by licensee Leisure Concepts, a division of 4Kids Entertainment. Blockbuster has also partnered with Nintendo for a series of promotions.
- Mr. Men
Leisure Concepts returns to Toy Fair with licensing opportunities for the FCC-friendly children’s animated television series. Master toy licensee Playmates will introduce an expanded toy line, including plush toys in a range of sizes, PVC figures, vehicles, molded bath toys, board games and puzzles. The book line from which the series originated has sold over 120 million copies.
- World Championship Wrestling
World Championship Wrestling is launching a full-fledged licensing campaign at Toy Fair, in a partnership with Leisure Concepts. The master toy licensee, to be announced at the show, will unveil the new action figure line and collectible offerings to the market.
- Goosebumps 2000
Parachute Consumer Products is launching the licensing program for the new series. The initial focus of the program will be apparel and accessories, with additional product categories to come. Merchandise will reflect a more interactive, dimensional design, in keeping with the more intense storylines of the new series and book line.
Eden is expanding on its hot-selling plush line with melamine products debuting at Toy Fair. It is also extending its bear line with an ‘infant’ Corduroy plush and a ‘winter’ Corduroy plush. Additionally, Eden will be debuting magnetic play sets.
Microsoft Corp. is introducing an Arthur ActiMate character at Toy Fair and an ActiMate based on Arthur’s sister, D.W. The plush toys have sensors in their hands, feet, ears and watches. When the sensors are squeezed, Arthur and D.W. play 13 games and activities, say more than 100 phrases and questions and help children learn how to tell time. The characters are scheduled to be available in stores in September and will have an estimated retail price of US$109.95.
- Extreme Ghostbusters
An expanded toy line will be offered by Trendmasters. The toy maker continues as the master toy licensee. The new toy line features action figures Eduardo on a motorcycle and Roland on a gyro-copter. The small vehicle assortment for the line has also been expanded, and a Plasma Blaster gun and Plasma Blaster with backpack round out the line.
- The Fabulous Adventures of Jacques Cousteau
Marina Productions is searching for co-production partners and major toy licensees for its animated children’s property based on the life of the late French oceanographer.
- The X-Files
Twentieth Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising has announced three toy licensees for its 1998 feature film based on the popular television series The X-Files. Mattel will produce Collectible Barbie and Ken versions of agents Scully and Mulder, McFarlane will create a line of action figures modeled after the film’s characters, and Legends will manufacture a line of collectible busts. The movie is set to hit theaters in the summer.
MGM Consumer Products has secured Toy Island Manufacturing Co. as the chief toy licensee for this animated television series. The cartoon is set for release this fall and picks up on the adventures of the futuristic crime fighter who made a series of appearances in films of the same name during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The toys, which include action figures, vehicles and water toys, will emphasize Robocop’s action-packed lifestyle.
- Kermit the Frog
Bluebird will launch its latest line of play sets that incorporate the spirit and likeness of the often-lovelorn amphibian.
- Mummies Alive!
Very, very alive, in fact, especially in the world of retail. DIC Entertainment will be showcasing the latest group of licensees that are creating product for its animated series, which is co-produced by Ivan Reitman of Ghostbusters fame. LJO is creating a line of athletic clothing and footwear; Aladdin Industries is making plastic lunchboxes; Ero Industries will manufacture sleeping bags, tents and slumber mats; Buena Vista Home Video will market and distribute the Mummies episodes on video; Fruit of the Loom is making a line of boys packaged underpants and undershirts; and Disguise is creating a line of Halloween costumes. Hasbro remains the master toy licensee for Mummies Alive!, which begins its second season on television in the fall of `98.