UnknownThe Toy Association’s TOTY Awards program annually recognizes the top toys of the year, from classic board games to innovative tech toys.

The Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) has announced the 2018 Toy of the Year (TOTY) Award finalists are available online at Amazon and Toys“R”Us® through February 2018, providing shoppers with unique access to a comprehensive list of the hottest toys of the season curated by toy and play experts.

Frequently referred to as the “Oscars” of the toy industry, The Toy Association’s TOTY Awards program annually recognizes the top toys of the year, from classic board games to innovative tech toys. Shoppers can trust that these are some of the hottest toys for children of all ages, as they’ve been vetted by the esteemed industry awards program and backed by Amazon and Toys“R”Us.

The TOTY Awards program supports the work of the Toy Industry Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the North American toy industry, and serves as a critical fundraiser to enable TIF to provide joy and comfort to millions of children in need. TOTY finalist companies have donated funds to the Foundation in support of a research-based program that will explore the role of play in trauma-informed care for pediatric hospital patients and their families.

“The holidays are the perfect time of year to celebrate the many joys of toys and play, as exemplified by this year’s wonderful TOTY finalists,” Jean Butler, executive director at the Toy Industry Foundation, said in a release. “We are very thankful for the generosity of so many companies, whose contributions will allow TIF to fund the second phase of an initiative with Nemours Children’s Health System, leading to the development of a new hospital program that will support and comfort sick children.”

This year’s TOTY finalists were reviewed and ranked by 20 expert judges, who considered each product’s creativity, design, play value, and marketing, before narrowing the field of more than 600 nominees to a slate of 122 finalists. Winners will be announced in February 2018.

Voting for TOTY 2018 is now open; winners will be announced during a celebration in New York City on Feb. 16, 2018. 

Zak Storm Trifecta Launch ImageThe series has launched in the U.S. on Netflix, and coincides with the release of Bandai America’s toy line exclusively at Amazon and Mobile Adventure Available on Apple’s App Store, Google Play and Kindle Fire.  

Jeremy Zag, founder and CEO of ZAG, the award-winning global independent animation studio specializing in the creation and production of original, high-quality IP for kids and family entertainment in the film and TV sector, announced the digital trifecta launch of its latest original, boys’ action/adventure comedy TV series under the ZAG HEROESTM brand, Zak StormTM  – Super Pirate.

Man of Action Entertainment (Ben 10, Big Hero 6) created the series.  

Zak Storm — Super Pirate, the only modern-day transforming superhero “Super Pirate” series for boys six to 11-years-old debuted fall 2017 in the U.S. on Discovery Family, and Sinclair Broadcast Group's KidsClick TV.  ZAG and global master toy partner Bandai America changed play by launching – Nov. 1 – a digital trifecta for the tech-infused brand that ushers in a truly connected play experience by interconnecting the TV show, toys and mobile game.  

When kids WATCH the TV series, it will sync with the Zak Storm Super Pirate free to play mobile game to deliver small-screen battles and adventures that mimic the real-time TV show scenes. This in turn provides the player digital game rewards. The Zak Storm Super Pirate experience is further realized when kids collect and PLAY with Zak Storm physical toys from Bandai America, available exclusively in the U.S. at Amazon for the month of November. 

Each comes with collectible treasure that provides rewards for the Zak Storm mobile game. Kids simply scan the unique QR code on the collectible treasure into the free to play Zak Storm Super Pirate app to receive weapons, powers, worlds, strength, health and much more in the mobile game.

With the Zak Storm Super Pirate app, players take on the role of Zak Storm as he assembles his crew, explores the treacherous seas, and confronts Skullivar’s minions in battle. Ultimately, the player’s journey centers on digital gameplay powered by physical toy scanning—and that journey syncs with the TV show to LEVEL-UP both digital and physical experiences. The Zak Storm Super Pirate app is available for download on the App Store and Google Play, as well as Amazon for Fire tablets.  

“We have had an overwhelming response from kids to Zak StormTM – Super Pirate in the countries where the TV series has already premiered, and we are excited to launch this digital trifecta that allows kids to synergistically play across the Zak Storm world via multiple platforms for a truly unique play experience,” Zag said in a release. “We have created endless possibilities for fun, as kids are rewarded for doing what they already love to do: WATCH, PLAY and LEVEL-UP!”     Zak Storm™ – Super Pirate has already released in some key territories around the globe.  In Europe, the series airs on Lagadère’s Canal J, and Gulli in France; on Sony’s POP in the UK—where it is a top five title for 2017 ; Spain’s Clan TV and Canal Panda; RTS in Switzerland (FR); Italy’s Super!; and RTL Telekids in the Netherlands.  Other leading broadcasters across Europe and the Middle East who will debut the series before Christmas and early next year include Germany’s Super RTL, Finland’s MTV 3, Portugal’s SIC, and Canal Panda, Ouf Tivi and VTM/KZoom in Belgium, and Israel’s Zoom. In Latin America, Zak  Storm™ – Super Pirate is available on Discovery Kids Latin America, the #1 kids cable network in the region, where the series is #1 for Boys 4–8 in Brazil and ranks over the channel average for Brazil, Mexico and Argentina for the month.  

ZAG HEROEZ  Zak  Storm™ – Super Pirate follows the adventures of the headstrong Zak Storm, a seemingly typical kid who is swept into the Bermuda Triangle—the cosmic “junk drawer” of the universe—while trying to win a surfing competition. Discovering an enchanted talking sword (Calabrass), Zak is magically transformed into the swashbuckling, renegade super pirate hero, Zak Storm. Bravely committing to serve as the captain of a high-tech, living ship, called The Chaos, Zak encounters the Triangle's seven mysterious seas while battling villains and creatures with the help of a unique crew of misfits. An equally empowered Atlantean female first mate (Cece), a thick-headed, heavy-fisted Viking (Crogar), a neurotic space traveler, and a poltergeist prankster kid join forces with Zak in an effort to unlock the secrets that will chart their course home.  

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UnknownOutsourcing will help to keep WIT Laser-Focused on its mission and members.

Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment (WIT), the leading global career development and networking organization for professional women working in the toy, licensing, and entertainment industries, has outsourced its management services to The Toy Association.

To best keep pace with its expansive growth while maintaining control of administrative costs, WIT will outsource to The Toy Association a variety of services including administrative, financial management, legal coordination, and back-end membership support. This will afford WIT the opportunity to improve productivity and efficiency, and allow its volunteers and small staff to place even greater focus on its mission, member services, and programming. With this agreement, WIT will continue to run as an independent nonprofit organization, without any changes to its governance structure.

“As WIT has grown and gained greater momentum, we have realized the value of adding the expert services and resources that The Toy Association has to offer,” says Ashley Mady, president of WIT and founder of Brandberry, Inc. in a release. “We’re excited to free up our volunteers and staff so they can focus their expertise on WIT’s mission and goals, and we’re thrilled to be working with The Toy Association to help take us to the next level.”

The Toy Association is the not-for-profit trade association representing all businesses that design, produce, license, and deliver toys and youth entertainment products for kids of all ages. As a global leader, The Toy Association sustains the Canadian Toy Association and acts as secretariat for: the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI), the governance board of ICTI CARE, and the International Toy Industry CEO Roundtable. 

“We’re passionate believers in WIT, its leadership, and the thousands of professionals it serves every year,” says Steve Pasierb, president & CEO of The Toy Association. “It’s both a distinct honor and a fantastic opportunity to bring our organizations closer together, to strengthen WIT’s operations, and look for opportunities to help take this great organization to the next level.”

WIT has more than 1,200 members worldwide and chapters across the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong, France, the UK, and Australia. WIT’s resources, events, educational and empowerment initiatives, and scholarship programs are funded in part by its generous sponsors and partners, including Mattel, Nickelodeon, Spin Master, Hasbro, PlayMonster, Bandai, and Toys“R”Us.

TOIA logoThe Toy Association urges families to follow age labels, keep small parts from kids under three-years-old.

A new national survey of toy-purchasing parents conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of The Toy Association has revealed troublesome findings about parents’ toy safety beliefs and behaviors. In light of these findings, The Toy Association is alerting families of the top safety tips to keep in mind leading up to the holiday season – and all year long.

According to the survey, while many of these parents (67 percent) say that toys with small parts are among their chief safety concerns, 82 percent think the age label on toy packaging is “just a suggestion” – and 73 percent think it’s okay for younger children to play with their older siblings’ toys.

What’s more, 81 percent of these parents say that when they shop for toys for children, they tend to focus more on the types of toys that kids are interested in, rather than the toys recommended for the child’s age.

”Parents and other consumers should always heed the age label on toy packaging. Toys labeled 3-plus are not safe for kids under three, because they may contain small parts, which can be a choking hazard,” Joan Lawrence, senior vice president of safety and regulatory affairs at The Toy Association, said in a release. “Contrary to what some parents might think, a toy’s age grading isn’t about how smart a child is. It’s based on the developmental abilities of kids at a given age and the specific features of the toy.”

Two-thirds of parents (67 percent) also said that they believe toys manufactured outside the United States are less safe than those made in America, when in fact all toys sold in the U.S., no matter where in the world they are made, must adhere to strict federal safety standards and laws that are in place to protect children at play. Parents can rest assured knowing that toys sold at reputable retailers – whether in stores or online – are tested to more than 100 rigorous U.S. safety laws and regulations.

However, adults play an important role in ensuring that kids are playing safely and appropriately. Staying safe this holiday season is as easy as 1-2-3 – check out The Toy Association’s top three safety tips:

1. Always follow the age label on toy packaging. Avoid toys with small parts for kids under 3 (or kids who still mouth toys). Toys with small parts have a warning label on the packaging, so keep a careful eye out as you shop.

2. Keep older kids’ toys, which may contain small pieces, out of reach from younger siblings and their friends. Always supervise children while they play.

3. Shop at a retailer you know and trust. Store staff at established businesses will be knowledgeable about age-appropriate toys. Online sellers will include safety information and the toy’s age grading in product descriptions. On the other hand, garage sales, secondhand stores, or temporary retailers may not know about the latest safety information and certified products – and may not be around should an issue arise later on.

“Once the gifts are unwrapped, parents should get on the floor and play with their kids,” Lawrence says. “Showing little ones how to properly use a toy or game is the best way to make sure they understand how to safely enjoy it. Best of all – playing together as a family is lots of fun and even has enhanced developmental benefits for children.”

The Toy Association and its members take toy safety extremely seriously and are committed year-round to educating parents and caregivers about safe play. Following this simple safety advice can go a long way toward preventing unnecessary accidents and injuries.

For more advice on safe play – including tips for first-time parents, advice on magnet and battery safety, how to ensure safe play outdoors, and much more, visit The Toy Association’s free resource for parents and caregivers - www.PlaySafe.org.

UnknownThe No. 1 specialty tween retailer aims to expand key lifestyle categories.

Justice, the No. 1 specialty tween retailer, has tapped The Joester Loria Group (JLG) to execute a brand extension program that will provide access to a range of branded lifestyle categories to tween girls at select third-party retailers.

Justice has unparalleled reach to today’s tween girls. Through inclusive marketing campaigns that serve every girl every day, digital Ambassadors, exciting in-store and online events, philanthropic activities and must-have fashions, Justice has established a unique bond with girls and parents in over 6 million households. The chain of 900 North American stores, with over $1 billion in annual sales, is far more than a clothing destination for tween girls. Justice is dedicated to enhancing a tween girl’s self-esteem, allowing her to express her style and individuality. The Joester Loria Group will expand the footprint of the Justice brand and the reach for Justice branded products for millions of customers.

Key lifestyle categories designed to capture Justice’s fresh fashion-driven approach will include bedding and room décor, back-to-school, optical frames, arts and crafts, games and party goods. Strategic partnerships with key manufacturers and select retailer partners will be supported on Justice’s marketing platforms and through innovative marketing opportunities with partners.

“Our business focuses on building our customer’s self-esteem and providing her with product and experiences that allow her to express herself,” Justice President Lece Lohr said in a release. “We look forward to working with The Joester Loria Group to extend the reach of our brand by bringing exciting product categories to the Justice customer wherever she shops.”

“We are delighted to represent this powerhouse brand and work with Justice in developing trend-right product designed specifically for young girls,” Debra Joester, president of The Joester Loria Group adds. “No other brand understands or reaches tween girls like Justice!”

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