books and its growing brand-licensing program.
Outset Media, a puzzle and board game maker, added
Archie Comics to its roster of puzzles based on books and
comic books this year, with four products to start. “The initial
response has been fantastic,” says Oscar Correia, Outset’s
international sales and production sourcing manager. “It’s
classic, nostalgic play.”
Almost every licensed toy assortment, from the Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtles and Pokémon to Cabbage Patch Kids and Thomas
& Friends, incorporates a line of collectibles, many of them
boasting unique figures numbering in the hundreds. They are
packaged in sets and in surprise “blind bags,” come in a variety
of sizes (each more miniature than the next), and are meant to
be played with as well as collected.
This has been one of the hottest trends in the toy industry of
late, with the collectible category—including trading cards,
collectible stickers, mini;gures, action ;gures, play-set dolls,
blind bags, and the like—growing 33% in 2016, according to
the NPD Group, which tracks toy-industry sales. That signi;-cantly outpaces the 5% growth for the U.S. toy industry as a
whole last year. Blind bags alone grew 60% in 2016, and have
increased sixfold since 2013, according to
Licensed properties that originated as
mini;gure collectibles, or are closely associated with collectibles lines, have
launched extensive licensing programs,
with book publishing as part of the mix.
Moose Toys’ Shopkins, for example, has a
roster of publishers that includes
Scholastic, Bendon, and Little Bee Books.
Penguin Young Readers holds rights to
two properties that count collectibles as
an important part of their DNA. It is
launching three novels this summer for the ;rst, Animal Jam,
an online game from Wildworks that incorporates content
from National Geographic and has more than 65 million users
worldwide. The Animal Jam toy line, from Jazwares, has mini
collectible ;gures at its core.
The company is also publishing tie-ins for Spin Master’s
Hatchimals brand, which launched as an interactive toy last fall
and has now extended into a collectible brand called Hatchimals
Colleggtibles, as part of an effort to turn the buzziest toy of last
year into a long-term franchise.
Penguin Young Readers will publish handbooks and activity
books and eventually extend into storytelling formats. “Spin
Master is open to us helping create the world of the Hatchimals,”
explains Sarah Fabiny, editorial director at Penguin Random
House. “The narrative and storytelling was really important to
them. We can expand on what they’ve created and help enhance
the world.” ;
our biggest movie tie-in program
since the ;rst Transformers movie,”
says Michael Kelly, Hasbro’s senior
director of global publishing.
Another high-profile franchise-based movie coming out this summer
is Despicable Me 3, and Minions merchandise saturated the show floor.
Little, Brown is the master publishing
licensee for the franchise, and is planning 8 x 8s, leveled readers, seek-and-;nd titles, a junior novelization, and a
storybook for the ;lm, which is set for a
June release in theaters. “It’s a pretty robust program,” Sargent
says. Bendon is the coloring and activity publisher.
As has been the norm in recent years, products tied to superhero properties, including a variety of ;lms, remain ubiquitous.
Marvel alone has announced a roster of movies that includes
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Thor: Ragnarok this year, Black
Panther and Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 in 2018, and Avengers:
Infinity War Part 2 and Captain Marvel in 2019. In addition to
Disney Publishing Worldwide’s Marvel Press, book publishers
for Marvel include DK; Bendon; Little, Brown; Random House;
Walter Foster Jr.; and more. While not all publish movie tie-ins
per se, the ;lms tend to give the entire franchise a boost.
Products and properties with a retro feel always have a place in
the world of licensed toys. This year at Toy Fair, books and
book-based properties played a central role in this trend.
Quarto Publishing Group’s Walter Foster Jr. imprint—
which was jointly exhibiting with another Quarto company, the
recently acquired Becker & Mayer and its SmartLab activity kit
brand—announced a new license with the National Wildlife
Federation for Ranger Rick during the show. The character is
celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and Walter Foster is
publishing a series of guide and activity books. “There’s a nos-
talgic feel to the books, with the parental trust and expectation
of quality that come with that,” says Anne Landa, v-p and group
publisher of Walter Foster Publishing and Walter Foster Jr.
At its booth, Albert Whitman & Company was focusing
primarily on the Boxcar Children series, which is marking its
75th anniversary. “Everyone is so nostalgic when they see it,”
says account executive Lauren
Similarly, Highlights Press’s
Highlights for Children brand
began publication in 1946.
The ;rst-time Toy Fair exhibitor was promoting both its
Department | LICENSING
Movies help spur franchise
publishing sales, even for
books that are not direct
tie-ins, such as this Walter
Foster Jr. drawing title.
Even with its new look, The Boxcar
Children has retro appeal at age 75.
Scholastic is among the
publishers tying in to
collectible toy brands.