Licensing Expo 2019: Toyetic Properties Targeting Nostalgic Parents & Preschool Brands Dominate
June 10, 2019 |The global licensing industry descended upon Las Vegas last week for Licensing Expo 2019, where licensees scouted new trends, media properties, and brands with the goal of bringing merchandise to life for fans of all ages. With about a quarter of all children’s products sold in the U.S. featuring a license, Kristin Morency Goldman, member of The Toy Association’s trends team, was at the expo to discover what’s new and trending in the toy and youth space. Here’s what she had to say…
Q. What stood out at this year’s Licensing Expo?
KMG: I was amazed to see so many children’s brands and properties dominating the floor, as well as a ton of brands and entertainment from the 80s and 90s making a comeback. Hasbro noted that their heritage brands like My Little Pony, Transformers, Spirograph, Lincoln Logs, Lite Brite, and now Power Rangers (acquired last year from Saban Properties) are digging into nostalgia while also incorporating a “brand reset” to appeal to a new generation of kids.
Likewise, Nickelodeon’s Blues Clues & You reboot is slated for this November with consumer products coming in the last half of 2020, and its long-established Bubble Guppies show continues to perform well with preschoolers (2019 will see new episodes featuring new character Zooli, along with a line of bath toys and playsets from Just Play.) CatDog, Rugrats, and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, among others on NickRewind, cater to kids as well as nostalgic adults and collectors. Rugrats fans will be excited to learn that a live action/CGI hybrid movie is coming out in 2021 and a refreshed television series will be released soon after.
And then there’s JAKKS Pacific’s licensing deal with SEGA of America to create toys (collectibles, plush, novelty items, action figures) based on the iconic Sonic the Hedgehog video game brand. The Sonic franchise launched in 1991 and continues to be one of the most popular gaming brands of all time – it has a broad, multi-generational appeal.
Q. Did you learn about any new properties that have great potential in the toy & game space?
KMG: As a mother of two young kids under the age of 4, I can tell you that TV shows and products that are educational in nature stand out. The competitive preschool space is seeing some new launches that have great potential with the discerning millennial mom crowd.
PBS Kids announced a new animated series, Elinor Wonders Why, set to premiere Labor Day 2020. Characters Elinor (a curious bunny rabbit), Ari (an imaginative bat), and Olive (a perceptive elephant) will explore Animal Town and meet and learn from a range of interesting and quirky characters. The series will teach young kids about the importance of diversity, caring for the environment, and working together to solve problems.
Also in the preschool space, Nickelodeon is launching a line of singing plush and layettes this fall based on Canticos, an English/Spanish collection of bilingual nursery rhyme books. Canticos characters include Little Chickies Ricky, Nicky, and Kiki, and their friends Benji the Elephant, Lili the Spider, and Sammy the Bunny, who teach kids everything from shapes and colors to counting in both English and Spanish.
The Last Kids on Earth is a book-to-show franchise launching on Netflix in 2019 and Jakks Pacific is the master toy partner for the series. Jakks will be developing and bringing to market a range of merchandise based on the adventures of 13-year-old Jack Sullivan and his group of middle school friends, who live together in a treehouse in a post-apocalyptic world.
Q: Did anything else catch your eye at the show?
KMG: I met with Idea Glue, a small company based in Manhattan that aims to bring “digitally savvy marketing and beautiful branding to consumer products.” Founder Lana Li showed me her fantastic Mythical Slyme, which has a unique look and feel and an online cult following. Compound Crazy is one of our Association’s top trends for 2019 and Idea Glue’s approach to slime (innovative clear slime that is softer and more stretchy than typical slime, slime with “crunch” and bubble pop sounds, etc.) has great potential for younger kids and unboxing videos in the toy & play space.
I also asked toy companies what they think is shaping the future of licensing, and here is what I heard:
The Toy Association works year-round to see what’s new and coming down the pike in the toy, game, and youth entertainment space. For more information, visit www.ToyAssociation.org/trends.
- Toyetic properties are on the rise, with L.O.L. Surprise leading the pack;
- Evergreens, like vehicle-based properties for boys and dolls for girls, will always have a place on the shelf;
- Game properties are hot right now, thanks to Fortnite and top gaming streamer, Ninja;
- Online influencers continue to draw in kids and take away shelf space from traditional entertainment brands. Ryan’s Mystery Play Date and JoJo Siwa are still hot, but we can expect to see new players making waves in the space soon.