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Jakks tinkers with junk, Playmates gets manly, and Manley gets funky

Jakks headed to the junkyard
U.S. toyco Jakks Pacific, which already produces toys based on the wrestling-for-nerds TV show Battlebots, has added another license to its roster of machine-oriented lines. This time, the Malibu-based company has jerry-rigged a toy deal for...
July 1, 2001

Jakks headed to the junkyard

U.S. toyco Jakks Pacific, which already produces toys based on the wrestling-for-nerds TV show Battlebots, has added another license to its roster of machine-oriented lines. This time, the Malibu-based company has jerry-rigged a toy deal for Junkyard Wars, the live-action reality TV show that airs in the U.S. on The Learning Channel.

As per the deal, which covers North America only, Jakks will make customizable toy and RC vehicles, real-working replicas, playsets and accessories based on the show, in which contestants race against the clock-and each other-to create working contraptions from scraps found in a junkyard.

Originally shot in the U.K., the show debuted there on TLC in January featuring English contestants. For the second season-slated to air in September-the producers are shooting all of the episodes at junkyards in the U.S. and will focus on the endeavors of eight teams made up of bikers, high-tech engineers and other mechanically-inclined Americans.

Jakks, which signed the deal with Discovery Consumer Products, a division of Discovery Communications, expects to ship the toys to retail for spring 2002. As it did with Battlebots, Jakks plans to market all of the JYW toys, which will retail for between US$5.99 and US$19.99, under its Road Champs brand.

TRU makes a play for Small Town U.S.A.

Toys `R’ Us is planning to test a new store format for rural U.S. markets. The new hybrid store, which TRU will test early next year, will be the size of the chain’s average store (between 30,000 to 40,000 square feet) and will feature edited offerings of its three major brands-Toys `R’ Us, Kids `R’ Us and Babies `R’ Us.

In an Associated Press article, TRU CEO and chairman John Eyler projected that the stores could add US$1 billion to the company’s bottom line, and said that the chain would roll out more stores should the initial tests prove successful. Though the new stores would not represent a major part of TRU’s business, their presence could have a positive impact from a brand-building perspective, says Richard Zimmerman, VP of equity research at Philadelphia-based investment brokerage Janney Montgomery Scott. ‘Like any other retailer, Toys `R’ Us wants to get its name out in front of as many consumers as possible, and this is another way to do that,’ says Zimmerman, who notes that most of TRU’s stores in the U.S. are located in major urban and suburban centers. For now, TRU is keeping mum on the as-yet-unnamed new format stores, but plans to release more details and the location of the test sites in September.

Manley slips into Paris Blues

Manley Toy Quest has signed a licensing agreement with Paris Blues to create fashion dolls based on the apparel company’s animated ultra-hip models that appear in its ads and on its website (parisblues.com). Initially, Manley will create 12-inch dolls, decked out in (surprise, surprise) mini versions of various Paris Blues apparel. Manley will also develop additional Paris Blues outfits and accessories for the dolls, to be sold separately.

The agreement with Paris Blues, whose low-rising jeans have become a staple among tween and teen girls, should help to boost Manley’s girl business, says Allyson Serrino, marketing manager at the L.A.-based toyco. That Paris Blues is a brand, adds Serrino, should also help to lengthen the dolls’ shelf life. ‘It’s a line that we feel we will be able to develop and add items to over several years. Right now, it’s easier to do that with a brand than with an entertainment property,’ says Serrino.

Manley plans to release the dolls (US$9.99 each) at all mass retailers, and also hopes to get bonus distribution for the items at specialty clothing stores that cater to teen and tween girls.

Playmates pumps up with The Ripping Friends

Hearst Entertainment and Spumco Canada have licensed Playmates Toys to create toys based on The Ripping Friends, Spumco’s bizarre new animated superhero show that’s slated to air on Fox Kids Network this fall. Emanating from the warped mind of John Kricfalusi (The Ren & Stimpy Show), The Ripping Friends centers around four manly superheroes-Crag, Rip, Slab and Chunk-who fight to keep the earth safe by spending most of their time training for their missions in the futuristic city of R.I.P.C.O.T (Really Impressive Prototype City of Next Tuesday).

Playmates is creating voice-chip enhanced action figures for each of the characters that will recite snippets of dialogue from the show, as well as vehicles and accessories, with a price range of US$7.99 to US$14.99. All the toys are slated to hit stores in Q4 of this year.

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