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NY Toy Fair Preview: It's Toy Time

Toy fair season culminates in New York City with an impressive slate of licensed merchandise on display.

April 6, 2018

9 Min Read

Toy fair season culminates in New York City with an impressive slate of licensed merchandise on display.

Disney(1).jpgIt may be winter at the toy fairs in Hong Kong, London, Nuremberg and New York City, but the toy market, particularly for licensed properties, is heating up. License! Global has taken a look at the offerings at the fairs around the world and rounded up the highlights.

The Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair, organized by the HKTDC, kicked off toy fair season Jan. 12-15; London's Toy Fair, put on by the British Toy and Hobby Association, took place Jan. 20-22; while Spielwarenmesse, Nuremberg, Germany's event, bowed Jan. 28-Feb. 2; and New York's International Toy Fair 2015, hosted by the Toy Industry Association, is kicking off Feb. 14. But each of these prove one thing: licenses are remaining a toy business standard.

According to data from The NPD Group, the U.S. toy industry generated $18.08 billion last year in retail sales, up 4 percent from 2013 ($17.46 billion). Of that, licensed toys represented 31 percent of industry sales and grew 7 percent in 2014. That data is no surprise–the 10 best-selling traditional toys in the market last year, says NPD, are comprised of several licensed properties and include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures (Nickelodeon/Playmates Toys), My First Disney Princess Snow Glow Elsa (Disney/Jakks Pacific) and the Disney Frozen Sparkle doll assortment (Disney/Mattel).

Disney's Frozen property was a hot commodity last year, capturing the top spot overall in licensed toy retail sales, generating $531 million overall (source: NPD).

"Frozen was the big news story in the toy industry in 2014," says Juli Lennett, president, toys division, The NPD Group. "It wasn't due to that one hot toy that was a category killer, but because of the varied breadth and sheer number of toys. Frozen had over 300 different items on store shelves this year."

On the North American International Toy Fair show floor in New York City, many of these licenses are prevailing.

For Mattel, Barbie, Hot Wheels and Thomas & Friends continue to be the cornerstones of its toy program in 2015.

Barbie will get a fresh range of dolls for the Rock 'N Royals line, while for boys, Hot Wheels will see an update with its Ultimate Auto Garage play set.

For the Thomas & Friends property on Mattel's Fisher-Price side, the happy-go-lucky train is finding a new range of play sets, train figures and rail sets; and its Little People and Imaginext ranges are also finding refreshed product assortments.

Hasbro has a smattering of licensed properties incorporated into its product ranges across all tiers of merchandise, from preschool to games for both girls and boys. In the preschool category, Mr. Potato Head is getting the Marvel treatment with its Mashable Heroes collection, while Spider-Man and Avengers will merge with Hasbro for new assortments, role play accessories and figures. And, of course, Hasbro has planned an infusion of new items for its powerhouse properties such as My Little Pony, Littlest Pet Shop and Transformers, among others.

But the global toy fairs would not be complete without the studios' licensed product presence, and in 2015, the character representation is as strong as ever.


Disney is heading into the event with several new films slated to debut at the global box office including Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur, and Disney Consumer Products has a robust range of toy product to support each property, along with the celebratory anniversary of the beloved Toy Story animated feature.

It's been 20 years since Toy Story hit theaters and earned a spot in pop culture history, and DCP is planning to mark the milestone with a wide assortment of collectible figures, action figures and talking toys.

Tomy will launch a range of Inside Out poseable figures to allow children to recreate the film's key moments. The Disney/Pixar film's plot takes place inside the mind of a little girl named Riley and will hit theaters this summer.

A broad toy range is planned for The Good Dinosaur as well, also with product from Tomy in categories such as action figure play and remote-control figures. The unique characteristics of the film's dinosaurs, such as how they move and run, are reflected in the toy line.

"We put our hearts into these films, so it's incredibly important to us that our toy-making partners care about and do justice to these characters we know so well," says John Lasseter, chief creative officer, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.


Tomy is also busy on the Toy Fair show floor as it showcases its ranges for multiple licensed properties such as SEGA's Sonic Boom (plush, action figures, RC, role play and novelty), Pokémon (figures, figure accessories, plush, play sets, role play and more), John Deere (vehicles and play sets), Chuggington (play sets) and Lamaze (plush and talking plush).

DreamWorks Animation will focus on its Dragons franchise, along with "DinoTrux," a new animated original series; the classic Voltron property; Felix the Cat; and its forthcoming animated feature Home, which will hit theaters March 27.

The iconic Voltron property is 30-years-old in 2015, and to celebrate, DreamWorks is planning a year-long calendar of events, best-in-class product collaborations and a substantial social media presence that will give fans the opportunity to engage with the franchise in new and exciting ways. Several waves of street-and-sound themed collaborations and limited edition products are in progress, with spring 2015 set to yield new apparel, toys, watches, footwear, books and electronics.

DreamWorks is also set to debut this spring its latest offering, "DinoTrux," a brand-new original TV series exclusively for streaming service Netflix. The animation will be supported in the toy aisles by a product line.


Warner Bros. Consumer Products has rounded out its toy fair season offerings with a far-reaching range of products from global licensees that support its vault of properties.

The DC Comics universe leads the charge with products from master toy licensee Mattel and preschool toy partner Fisher-Price, along with partners The LEGO Group, Buffalo Games, Jakks Pacific and Schleich. Other products are planned to reinforce its properties such as "The Flash," "Arrow," "Gotham," Scooby-Doo, Looney Tunes, "The Big Bang Theory," The Hobbit trilogy and the Harry Potter franchise. Bandai America has been secured to bring WBCP's DC Comics characters to its range of SprüKits action figure model kits, too.

Universal Partnerships & Licensing has joined forces with licensing partners including Hasbro, LEGO, Thinkway Toys and Mega Brands to market and distribute products globally for two of its biggest franchises in 2015, Jurassic World and Minions. Products for both films will be available at retailers around the globe in early summer and include interactive toys, figures, plush, novelty, games, construction sets, role play and more.

Entertainment One's Peppa Pig continues to gain momentum in the worldwide market, with more than 30 licensees now on board for its consumer product program including master toy partner Jazwares, which will debut its all-new toy line this spring. Retailers are also already on board for the brand's merchandise with placement at stores such as Toys 'R' Us, Amazon, Walmart and Walgreens already secured.


Saban Brands has a slew of new content ready to debut in 2015, and in support comes diverse toy ranges.

Premiering this year is "Power Rangers Dino Charge," which Saban will reinforce with a dinosaur-themed toy collection from master toy licensee Bandai. Additional merchandise is also planned for the new property from existing Power Rangers partners and will begin to appear on shelf in December.

Also premiering this year exclusively on Netflix is "Popples," a new animated children's series based on the nostalgic Popples brand. Spin Master has been tapped as master toy licensee and will release a wide range of product such as dolls, collectible figures, play sets and plush that hit the U.S. market first, followed by an expanded international roll out.

Finally from Saban comes Emojiville, a multi-platform property that will be executed in partnership with Jakks Pacific. Jakks will support Emojiville with a full consumer products line.

Discovery Consumer Products, which encompasses the Discovery Kids, Animal Planet and Discovery Channel brands, will hit the Toy Fair show floor with topline items for 2015. Licensees NKOK, The Bridge Group, Parragon, Kids Station, Tek Nek Toys, Merchsource, Smart Play, SCS Direct, Masterpieces and Pay Dirt Gold Company are all secured for products and collections.

Moving into video games, Activision returns to Toy Fair with its popular "Skylanders" franchise. Arriving in early 2015, Activision has partnered with Crayola to launch an augmented reality product that allows kids to bring their coloring to life. Crayola and Activision have also teamed for a "Skylanders Trap Team" special coloring edition starter pack.

As we have already seen, nostalgic brands certainly have a place in the toy aisles, and 2015 is no exception.

American Greetings Properties is launching a new line for its classic 1980s property, Care Bears. Just Play has been tapped as master toy partner, with additional licensees Wonder Forge (games and board games), Commonwealth Novelty and Toy (backpack clip-ons), Playhut (indoor play tents), Montco (activities), Karmin (puzzles), Beaver Books (water magic and bilingual books), Kellytoy (amusement park plush and sporting goods), Bendon Publishing (activity and educational books) and Skyhigh International (back-to-school and stationery) all on board. Just Play will additionally launch a new line of Care Bears Sing-a-longs that interact with one another.

AGP is also supporting the Strawberry Shortcake property with character appearances at the TIA Toy Fair, as well as with product from master toy partner The Bridge Direct. This month, it sold the property to Iconix, however.


Continuing the heritage brand trend is Cabbage Patch Kids, which returns to the global stage with a new toy assortment from master toy licensee Wicked Cool Toys. Wicked Cool is also debuting a Girl Scouts Cookie Oven and accompanying mixes featuring well-known flavors such as Thin Mints and Trefoils at Toy Fair.

Yottoy Productions will too build on the Girl Scouts brand with a friendship doll collection that celebrates the organization's message of personal style, diversity, friendship and girl power.


Colorforms have been at retail for more than 60 years, and in 2015, Out of the Blue Enterprises will further expand the brand with new assortments, play sets and a Create a Story boxed set that includes enhanced features such as glow-in-dark, glitter, magic reveals and even sound effects. The items will hit stores in fall.

Music is always in style, and iconic rock band KISS has never left the public eye. Epic Rights, which represents KISS for licensing, has secured toy partner Bif Bang Pow! for a collection of 3 3/4-inch scale action figures that feature 11 points of articulation.

Meanwhile on the sports front, Bleacher Creatures has been signed to create a 2015 Major League Baseball player plush collection that will feature players from every single MLB club.

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