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It's a sad statistic, but research from studies conducted at New York University, the University of Illinois and Princeton University has identified that girls as young as age five start to lose confidence in themselves, and even more disheartening than the research is that I've seen elements of that here at home. Despite the opportunities that my wife and I are tirelessly working to provide for our girls, the questions of self-confidence and self-worth have begun, and we see it often, particularly in our nine-year-old. There's many factors at play, and today a familiar name is taking a big step toward addressing them as Barbie announces the Dream Gap Project: a multi-year global initiative to raise awareness around limiting factors that prevent girls from reaching their full potential.

The holiday shopping season is upon us, and my friends at Disney Store | shopDisney have revealed their 2018 “Top 15 Holiday Toys” list. While hot holiday toy lists have been a regular staple for years, this is actually the very first year that Disney Store | shop Disney has shared one of their own - highlighting a list of must-haves for Disney fans and gift-givers alike. There's a lot to love on the Top 15 list (a companion to their full Holiday Gift Guide) with exclusive toys spanning Disney, Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar. They're also the only place to shop Disney Parks merchandise outside of the theme parks, including the Disney Parks Holiday Train Set and Cinderella Castle Play Set from Walt Disney World Resort. Check out the Top 15 below, and for more gift ideas, be sure to check out The Rock Father's Holiday Wish Guide™.

Monday, October 08 2018 08:12

31 Days of Halloween: Spooky SLIMYGLOOP Mix'Ems!

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If you have kids, there's a solid chance that slime is something of a fixture in your home at this point. Yes, every time I write about the slime craze I'm reminded of the fantastic He-Man and The Masters of the Universe Evil Horde Slime Pit that I once received as a kid but never got to play with (it was taken back to the store after a warning about staining was noted on the box). Decades later, my oldest daughter is all about the slime, from do-it-yourself kits to ready-made tubs. The consistency and texture varies greatly, but one regular purchase has been SLIMYGLOOP from Horizon Group USA. We just recently purchased a DIY Mermaid Slime Kit, but for the Halloween season they have something even better... ready-made Spooky SLIMYGLOOP MIX'EMS.

I feel bad for the small crew that's stayed on at Toys "R" Us (though not as bad as I do for the folks who weren't as fortunate) through the course of their spectacular collapse and extraordinarily unusual bankruptcy proceedings this past year. While the last of their stores closed on June 29th in the U.S., on June 20th the company registered a new trademark for Geoffrey's Toy Box - news that I broke right here on The Rock Father™ Magazine last week. All this time, there has been a crew working on what would emerge as Geoffrey, LLC, and before I go any further, I think it should be made clear that no one should be made to feel at fault for holding onto a job during times of crisis. Though the former Global Resource Center for Toys "R" Us in Wayne, NJ has been stripped-down and largely liquidated itself, there's been a small crew at work, and those folks were placed into a really hard spot - supporting their families while friends and colleagues were let go, and also tasked with trying to reimagine and perhaps revive a brand that they loved. That said, the news of Geoffrey, LLC living on as Geoffrey's Toy Box (branded merch, licensing, perhaps new stores... eventually) has been met with polarizing reaction from those within the toy industry, but tonight it became apparent that whoever decided to pull the trigger on re-activating the Toys "R" Us social networks wasn't counting on public backlash. 

It's been a massive week for the toy industry as the annual Fall Toy Preview has come to a close in Dallas. While the big news has been with Toys "R" Us lenders restructuring assets under Geoffrey, LLC and prepping to launch their Geoffrey's Toy Box initiative, a new opponent has entered the battlefield as retailers position themselves to grab market share left up for grabs following the closure of Toys "R" Us in the U.S. as we head into the holiday season. Go! Retail Group has announced a nationwide expansion of their toy business, and as part of that they're opening a new concept: TOYS EXPRESS. The new stores will open in 13 locations previously occupied by Toys "R" Us Express stores. 

While you won't find me at New York Comic-Con (NYCC) this weekend, you can certainly find some awesome toys and collectibles being offered by my friends at Funko and Entertainment Earth. One very much-anticipated item is the Funko / Entertainment Earth Convention Exclusive Classic Spider-Woman Pop! Vinyl Figure. First announced on the official Funko blog last month, Spider-Woman joins the Funko family TODAY and is available in super-limited quantities only at Funko's booth at New York Comic-Con or online through Entertainment Earth! These are in the EE warehouse and ready to ship next week, and although I'm not at NYCC, somehow Spider-Woman made her way to me. Check out this first hands-on look!

There's been a revival of late when it comes to play, with retro being all the rage. Mego is back in Target, the Transformers are taking on their G1 look in Bumblebee and between Super 7 and Funko, the chunky, 5.5" action figures from the era of He-Man and The Masters of the Universe have been making a comeback. For the latter, Funko's Savage World has been a big deal - most recently presenting both Horror Icons and Thundercats in the beefy style. Today things get weird, with the confirmation of some rumors from a few months back as Funko, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Consumer Products have announced the launch of DC Primal Age - a full collection of toys featuring retro-style barbarian fantasy-themed Super Heroes and Super-Villains from the DC universe. The inaugural line will be available for purchase starting October 5, 2018 on Amazon.com through a dedicated DC Primal Age storefront.

Much like the constant debate on whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie (it is), there's a frequent clash over whether Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween or a Christmas movie (it's both). For two-and-a-half decades, the debate has raged on, but in the end audiences are still just happy to enjoy the cross-holiday adventures of Jack Skellington whenever they'd like.  I've always found myself to be quite attached to Jack as The Pumpkin King (I'm an October child from the largest pumpkin-producing state in the nation), and his songs have always struck an important chord. That said, The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of those films that I've owned over and over again, from VHS to DVD to 20th Anniversary Blu-ray and now the 25th Anniversary Sing-Along Edition. Indeed, despite the music of the film being of such massive importance, a sing-along version for in-home viewing has just now become available.

Tuesday, October 02 2018 11:41

Is "Geoffrey's Toy Box" the New Toys 'R' Us?

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Updated 10:51pm with more details at the end of the article...

Less than 24 hours before the official start of The Toy Association's annual Fall Toy Preview in Dallas, court filings revealed that the long-awaited Intellectual Property Auction for Toys "R" Us had been cancelled. Reported on here (now updated with a statement from the company), the new chapter in the long saga of the TRU closure would see a new company rise from Geoffrey, LLC under control of the lenders. Having been rumored for months, one question raised is how long ago in the bankruptcy process were the lenders planning to relaunch the company themselves rather than sell the assets? Backing-up to the June 29th final closure of the remaining Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us locations in the United States, there were some cryptic messages posted on the TRU social accounts using the hashtag "#TRUBeContinued..." inviting followers to "stay tuned for news and information on the next chapter for Geoffrey and the iconic TRU brands." While the Facebook page has been deactivated and the Instagram account has gone dormant, someone recently did a clean-up on the TRU Twitter account, deleting all the liquidation posts and tacky video ads going back to March 9th - a message thanking customers for their support. So why is the June 29th date so important? Because on June 20th, just nine days prior to the doors being closed, Geoffrey, LLC filed for a trademark on a new name: Geoffrey's Toy Box. And just who is exhibiting in Booth #13-3229 at the Fall Toy Preview? Geoffrey's Toy Box.

UPDATED BELOW with Statement from the Company...

As I've said before, the saga of the Toys "R" Us collapse just continues to get stranger as time goes on, with new layers of unusual and in some cases, unheard-of activity still being revealed. Following the announcement that Bain Captial and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) were setting up a $20M fund to provide some severance to a portion of the 33,000 workers that were left jobless following the closure of the toy retailer in the U.S., now comes word that plans are in motion for a revived Toys "R" Us that could be run by some of the very companies that drove the company into liquidation in the first place. One theory that's been floated in back channels and among former TRU employees and business partners in recent months has been that the long-awaited IP auction has been intentionally delayed, having been postponed from June to August and then again to October. Now that auction has been flat-out cancelled, and the reason may come as a surprise (or not) to many: some of the same lenders that forced the company into liquidation have been plotting to revive both Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us under a new retail entity.

If there's a poster company for toy industry consolidation, Basic Fun! just might be it. As the industry of play continues to evolve and more companies jockey for position in the wake of the Toys "R" Us closure in the U.S. and elsewhere, team-ups and mergers are where it's at, and that's something that Basic Fun! saw coming. Announced during Toy Fair 2017 and reported on here, Basic Fun! was formed by combining two smaller companies - The Bridge Direct and Tech 4 Kids. At the time, Tech 4 Kids CEO Brad Pedersen said that the new company had the "expectation to acquire or merge with new businesses every twelve to eighteen months" to fuel growth. Indeed, the company has grown, but at an accelerated rate, having already absorbed K'NEX, Uncle Milton and Good Stuff. Today comes word that the company just pulled another PAC-MAN, gobbling-up Playhut, maker of indoor and outdoor play structures.

Sometimes things just have a way of working out... like launching the 2018 installment of 31 Days of Halloween alongside Phase One of the annual Holiday Wish Guide™. And since that's happening, it's only fitting that the debut entry for this year's celebration of October's finest moment is something that's in both. From PLAYMOBIL comes the new Take Along Haunted House (9312), an upgrade and expansion of an idea presented by the discontinued Haunted House Play Box (5638) from a few years back.

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