Mattel partners with contemporary artist and activist Shepard Fairey to launch environmentally focused UNO

Mattel has partnered up with the renowned contemporary artist, activist, and illustrator, Shepard Fairey for the release of a new UNO deck made with sustainable materials and themed around the artist’s environmental activism.

The new deck has been designed by both Fairey and the UNO team at the artist’s LA studio, Studio Number One and features new, original environmentally-themed art in Fairey’s iconic graphic style and design elements. These elements include a consistent illustration style and colour palette to mirror the artist’s signature style.

The latest in Mattel’s UNO Artiste Series, the new launch – housed on Mattel Creations – joins a line up of previous artists to have featured in the UNO series, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Nina Chanel Abney.

Shepard Fairey’s collaboration with Mattel sees the toymaker deliver an UNO deck made entirely with sustainable materials, including recyclable cards, a paper belly band around the cards, wood-free paper for the instruction sheet and the removal of all cellophane wrapping.

This special deck follows an earlier launch of UNO Nothin’ But Paper, recognised as the first fully recyclable UNO deck that did away with its cellophane packaging materials as part of the brand’s plan to remove the cellophane from 100 per cent of standard, paper-based decks in 2021. This is also in line with Mattel’s goal to achieve 100 per cent recycled, recyclable, or bio-based plastic materials across its products and packaging by 2030.

To take the partnership to the next level, Mattel is also making a donation on behalf of Fairey to Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the oceans through federal and state legislation, in support of his initiatives.

London’s iconic Hamleys makes major play for video gaming market with new department launch

The iconic London toy store and toy retail brand, Hamleys is making a major new play for the video gaming market with the opening of a new state-of-the-art console, PC and gaming accessories department in its Regent Street location.

The new 1,326 square foot gaming space is situated within the Lower Ground Floor of the seven floor London flagship store and features leading consoles, from PS4 and PS5 to Xbox One and XS, Nintendo Switch, and a wide range of PC games and accessories.

As well as signifying a dramatic shift in audience for the London retailer, the department also now becomes the largest gaming retail site on London’s Soho area and features the latest top ranked games and best-sellers across the gaming platforms, spanning titles from publishers including EA, Capcom, and Activision, as well as Nintendo, Ubisoft, Rockstar Games, and Bandai Namco.

Accessories brands in the new gaming offer include XRocker, Turtle Beach, Anda Seat, Power A, Nacon and Hori and feature everything from keyboards and mouse pads to a wide range of gaming chairs, controllers, arcade sticks and headsets.

“We are delighted to unveil this exciting new development in our Regent Street store, where we will deliver the very best range of products and the first-class expertise and service our customers have come to expect. This is a natural fit for Hamleys and in time, we would like to see gaming roll out across our wider global retail estate,” said Hamleys of London CEO Sumeet Yadav.

Top games available on Playstation 4 range from LEGO Marvel Collection and Batman Arkham Knight from Warner Bros to Asterix & Obelix – XXL Collection from Maximum Games and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End from Sony Interactive and Call of Duty Black Ops III from Activision. On PS5 they include Marvel Spider Man Miles Morales Ultimate Edition, Ghost of Tushima and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart from Sony Interactive.

On Nintendo Switch games include Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword from Nintendo, while on PC lead games include Minecraft from Mojang Studios to Diablo III from Blizzard.

On Xbox One, games range from Star Wars Squadrons and UFC4 from EA Sports to Snowrunner from THq1 Nordic and Call of Duty Black Ops III and WWII. On Xbox X/S they include Overcooked All You Can Eat and Fortnite: The Last Laugh Bundle from Warner Bros.

 The new Hamleys Gaming Department opened on 23 July 2021. The Regent Street store is open from 10am on weekdays and Saturdays and 12 noon on Sundays.

PlayMonster launches Schitt’s Creek version of hit party game THINGS… in ITV Studios deal

ITV Studios is building on recent licensing developments for its record-setting Emmy award-winning sitcom, Schitt’s Creek thanks to a new partnership with PlayMonster’s popular party game, THINGS…

THINGS… Schitt’s Creek Edition puts a new spin on the best-selling party game that has to date, sold more than four million globally since it launched to the market. The easy-to-play party game challenges players to cover topics such as ‘THINGS… you wouldn’t do for a million dollars’, but through the personalities of the show’s cast of characters.

Players will be challenged to create responses to topics like ‘THINGS… Moira needs to survive’, or ‘THINGS… the Roses whish Twyla served at the Cafe Tropical’, and then take turns guessing who said what.

“The hilarity and sarcasm of the Schitt’s Creek characters invites fans to relate on many different levels,” said Scott Flynn, VP sales and marketing at PlayMonster. “Paired with the game of THINGS…, this special edition gives fans a fun, unique way to engage and play, all while referencing their favorite show.” 

THINGS… Schitt’s Creek Edition includes 200 topic cards, a response pad and sticker sheet, and is for four or more players, between ages 14 to adult. It will be available for purchase for $19.99 exclusively at Target on August 15, 2021, and will be available everywhere else on October 1, 2021.

PlayMonster is an international toy and game company with a diversified portfolio that includes popular brands and products such as Koosh, “TOTY Game of the Year” Yeti in My Spaghetti, plus THINGS…, 5 Second Rule, Relative Insanity, Farkle, SET, Five Crowns, and Spirograph.

This is the latest US deal for the ITV produced and distributed Schitt’s Creek, following a slated of partnerships detailed late last year, and a more recent partnership with Lion Brand Yarn Company who launched a line of Rose Apothecary branded wool to enabling fans of the show to recreate some of their favourite looks at home.

Exploding Kittens launches first licensed title Exploding Minions with Illumination and Universal Brand Development

The hit tabletop games publisher, Exploding Kittens has launched its first licensed game, Exploding Minions, developed in collaboration with Illumination and Universal Brand Development.

The new game is a Minions-inspired take on its flagship Exploding Kittens card game, drawing on the appeal of one of the most successful animation franchises of all time, to bring an ‘easy to learn, quick to play’ game for kids and adults to enjoy together.

Read the full interview with Exploding Kittens’ Joeri Hoste here or in the Spring/Summer issue of ToyNews.

“We’re excited to combine one of the biggest card games with Illumination’s global pop-culture phenomenon, the Minions, to create a new family game night essential,” said Elan Lee, co-creator and CEO of Exploding Kittens. “Exploding Minions marries these two universes to create a simple yet strategic game for all to enjoy.”

Aimed at players aged seven and upwards, Exploding Minions is a family-friendly spin-off of the core Russian Roulette-style game that includes new card types and fun illustrations of Minions as imagined by The Oatmeal. Participants take turns drawing cards while trying to evade the Exploding Minions.

Players can avoid exploding by using clever strategies and favourite cards such as ‘Defuse’, ‘Nope’ and ‘See the Future’, as well as the new ‘Clone Card’. The last player who hasn’t exploded is declared the winner.

The partnership with Illumination and Universal Brand Development marks the first licensing partnership for Exploding Kittens who, until now, has seen most of its licensing activity take the form of outbound licensing, expanding its own IP into the likes of video games for the Nintendo Switch.

In an exclusive interview with’ sister title, ToyNews, Exploding Kittens’ director of international sales, Joeri Hoste revealed that should the partnership prove to be successful, then further licensing options will be an avenue the firm will continue to explore for its titles.

Sixteen South taps Bulldog Licensing as global agency for new preschool series tackling the big issues of today

The BAFTA-winning children’s television production house, Sixteen South has signed Bulldog Licensing as its global licensing agency for Odo, the new preschool series scheduled to premiere on Channel 5’s Milkshake this summer and KiKA later this year.

Aimed at kids aged three to five, Odo is designed to teach young children to believe in themselves to help combat the rise in anxiety and depression levels in today’s children. Funny, charming and heartfelt, Odo works on multiple levels to provide a humorous experience with important life lessons for kids and parents.

According to the team, the animation ‘lends itself perfectly to a full cross-category programme of licensed products’, as focus will fall on toys and games as well as apparel, accessories, publishing, home, and stationery. Bulldog Licensing has outlined its plans to partner with leading players in the licensing world everywhere.

Believing that there’s absolutely nothing that he can’t do, Odo is the littlest owl at the Forest Camp who is determined to prove that despite his size, he is as capable as all the bigger birds. The series aims to teach young children self-efficacy and to believe in themselves to help combat the troubling rise in anxiety and depression levels in today’s children.

Comedic and warm, with gender neutral appeal, the stories also deal with important themes such as immigration, racism, respect for others, and show kids how to deal with setbacks in a meaningful way while fostering the development of social skills.

Colin Williams, creative director of Sixteen South, said: “We’ve always been big fans of Bulldog and are delighted they are taking Odo under their wing to manage our global consumer products programme. With their outstanding reputation we know that Odo couldn’t be in better hands.

“We have had an amazing response to the series from broadcasters from the US to  Australia, Canada and all across Europe, with strong presales already, and we’re sure that Bulldog will soon have licensees flocking to get on board.”

Rob Corney, group managing director, Bulldog Licensing, said: “We were completely enchanted by Odo – it’s warm-hearted and funny with a really important message. We’re really excited to be working together with such a talented studio as Sixteen South to help it take flight around the world. It’s full of wonderful, endearing characters which we can already imagine enhancing a whole range of consumer product and experiences. Watch Odo fly.”

Odo is a 52 x 7 hand drawn ‘2.5D’ animation produced by Sixteen South and Warsaw-based 2D animation studio Letko with funding provided by the UK government funded Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF), which is managed by the BFI, NI Screen and the Polish Film Institute.

The Exec Producers are Colin Williams for Sixteen South, Jakub Karwowski for Letko, Sebastian Debertin for KiKA and Louise Bucknole for Milkshake! The Educational Consultant is psychologist Dr Natascha N. Crandall, Ph.D.

Publisher World Book eyes toys, games, puzzles and more with JRL Group

The Chicago-based international book publisher, World Book, is looking is making its move into the toys, games, puzzles, and science kits space with the appointment of the brand licensing agency, JRL Group.

Under the partnership, JRL Group will develop a strategic licensing programme that leverages the global recognition of World Book brand’s core values of delivering education in engaging, informative, and inspirational ways.

Recognised as a leader in reference and education publishing for over 100 years, World Book offers up to date and authoritative information on topics from STEM subjects to historical and current events. The publisher delivers its content to customers worldwide through various media, including online, audio, mobile, eBooks, and print.

“The World Book licensing program will use our trusted and recognized brand to introduce exciting new products that are kid-tested and parent-approved. We look forward to working with JRL Group to establish World Book as a premier licensed brand,” said Geoff Broderick, World Book President.

Initial product categories include Toys, Games, Puzzles, Science Kits, Telescopes, Globes, School Supplies, Publishing, Interactive Learning Aids, Educational Audio and Video products, and more.

“World Book is a name that is synonymous with learning and education. We are honored to have been selected to represent such an iconic brand,” stated Andrew Lieb, president of JRL Group.

“World Book’s world-renowned name, coupled with its extensive library of articles, illustrations, and content, make this licensing program a truly unique opportunity. World Book is positioned to provide supplemental learning products that reach beyond the classroom in fun yet challenging ways.”

Mattel’s classic Rock ‘Em Sock’ Em Robots game heads to big screen with Universal and Vin Diesel

The classic battling robot tabletop game, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots is heading to the screen as plans to develop a live-action motion picture starring Vin Diesel get underway.

The project is the combined efforts of Mattel Films and Universal Pictures, who are working with Vin Diesel’s own production company, One Race Films. Mattel Films will prodcue the project alongside Diesel and Samantha Vincent from One Race Films.

The action adventure film will follow a father and son who form an unlikely bond with an advanced war machine. The project will be led by Kevin McKeon of Mattel Films.

“To take the classic Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em game, with Mattel as my partner, and align it with the kind of world building, franchise making success we have had with Universal, is truly exciting,” said Vin Diesel.

“We are proud to bring this iconic piece of Mattel IP to life on the big screen with our tremendously talented partners Vin Diesel, One Race Films and Universal,” added Robbie Brenner, executive producer of Mattel Films.

“Our rich library of franchises continues to yield compelling stories and we look forward to creating what is sure to be a thrilling action adventure for the whole family to enjoy with Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.”

Launched in 1966, the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots game was inspired by an arcade boxing game which pitted Red Rocker against Blue Bomber in a fight to knock his rival’s block off. A staple in pop culture since its debut, the brand’s bright and bold gameplay has appeared in films, television shows and commercials over the past five decades.

Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots is the second project between Mattel Films and Universal Pictures, which are also developing a movie based on the Wishbone television series.

Other Mattel Films projects in development including movies based on American Girl, Barbie, Barney, Hot Wheels, Magic 8 Ball, Major Matt Mason, Masters of the Universe, Thomas & Friends, UNO, and View-Master.

Diesel is represented by CAA and Linden Entertainment. Engle is represented by CAA.

24 Hours of Le Mans renews IMG partnership to build 2023 Centenary licensing programme

The world’s oldest active sports car endurance race, 24 Hours of Le Mans is eyeing a new move into the toys, games, and collectables space as the prestigious annual event nears its 100th anniversary in 2023.

Under the renewal of its longstanding licensing representation agreement with IMG, the brand owner, Automobil Club de l’Quest is looking to develop further licensing opportunities for the event, building on its portfolio of some 80 strong licensees already in place.

Amid the plans for an extended licensing programme for the event that has been held annually near Le Mans in France since 1923, ACO is looking to take the 24 Hours of Le Mans brand into the toys, games, and collectables aisles, as well as apparel, homeware, and accessories.

The renewed licensing agreement will see IMG lead the licensing charge through to 2024.

With the return of major manufacturers such as Ferrari, Porsche, Audi and Peugeot, the ACO and IMG will be looking to add even more new renowned partners to the 24 Hours of Le Mans licensing programme.

Stéphane Andriolo, customer and events director, ACO, said: “The renewal of our agreement with IMG is in line with our global licensing strategy. The Automobile Club de l’Ouest is now focused on the Centenary of its iconic race in 2023. More than ever, our goal is to make the 24 Hours of Le Mans brand shine throughout the entire year and expanding our global footprint in all territories.”

Arthur Virapin, senior licensing manager, IMG, added: “We are proud that the ACO has once again entrusted us with the 24 Hours of Le Mans consumer licensing programme. In the last four years alone, together we have doubled the size of the race’s licensing portfolio, showing that almost 100 years since being established, its popularity and prestige is as strong as ever.

“As we start to rev up for the milestone centenary race in 2023, we look forward to further developing the programme into new and existing key categories and expanding 24 Hours of Le Mans’ presence globally.”

ALIEN, Disney Gargoyles and Taco Bell lead Ravensburger’s latest gaming portfolio

ALIEN, Disney Gargoyles, and a fully-licensed Taco Bell party game are among a line-up of new launches to be hitting the scene courtesy of Ravensburger for 2021, following what the US outfit of the global enterprise has billed as an ‘incredible last year.’

With a games division that continues to grow its breadth of titles and licensed partnerships, Ravensburger is continuing to explore new terrains in board gaming through impactful and engaging IP licensed titles.

Florian Baldenhofer, executive vice president, Ravensburger North America, told ToyNews: “Ravensburger had an incredible year last year. We’re so proud of our team; our games division continues to grow and find IPs that we can creatively translate to board games.

“We’re excited about the games in our 2021 lineup, which includes a number of fan-favorite IPs like Gargoyles and ALIEN, along with pop culture icons like Taco Bell and Pusheen. Our customers look to Ravensburger for immersive games and our team excels at finding the right balance between capturing and creating engaging gameplay.”

Leading the pack of a planned release of more than 275 products this year from Ravensburger, BRIO, Wonder Forge and ThinkFun is the officially licensed ALIEN: Fate of Nostromo, a board game adaptation of the cult classic sci-fi franchise.

With executive officer Kane dead, and the Alien stalking the halls of the Nostromo, players must work together in a cooperative strategy game to craft items, fulfill objectives, and compete one of five final missions, all while moving to avoid the ever-present Alien.

The title is swiftly followed by Disney Gargoyles: Awakening, based on the ‘90s Disney cartoon and another co-op game in which players take on the role of one of the heroes of the show to defeat Xanatos or Demona in one of four scenarios. Battle is done on a 3D cityscape board showing Manhattan as it was depicted in the cartoon.

Meanwhile, Taco Bell Party Pack Card Game sees players gather menu items to feed and satisfy their Crew’s specific cravings, while Marvel Eye Found It! Card Game is the latest in the Eye Found It series that has now sold over three million copies worldwide.

Ravensburger’s initial 2021 gaming line-up is completed by Mickey and Friends Magical Treats in which players help the gang sort out their lunch by matching colours, food, characters, or the number of stars on each card.

Elsewhere, Brio will also witness new lines enter the market with the BRIO Battery-Operated Steaming Train, the BRIO Mickey Mouse Deluxe Set, and the BRIO SMart Tech Sound Deluxe Set.

Ravensburger’s initial product roll-out for the year is completed with the GraviTrax PROP, a new line extension to the popular GraviTrax series.

Brand-Ward named UK and Ireland licensing agent for pre-school IP Pikwik Pack

The UK-based licensing agency, Brand-Ward, has been tapped to represent Guru Studio’s latest pre-school series, Pikwik Pack across the UK and Ireland, with a focus on consumer products including toys and games.

The licensing firm already represents Guru Studio’s True and the Rainbow Kingdom and will now add Pikwik Pack to its remit as it looks to build a licensing portfolio for the IP across apparel, housewares, accessories, publishing, party decorations, and live events.

“After a successful premiere on Disney Junior in the US and Treehouse in Canada, we’re excited to partner with Brand-Ward to lead Pikwik Pack’s expansion into the UK and Ireland,” said Jonathan Abraham, VP of sales and business development at Guru Studio.

“The team at Brand-Ward are industry veterans that have brought expertise and strategic planning to the forefront of all our deals. We will be announcing our broadcast partners for the UK and Ireland shortly.”

Trudi Hayward, co-Founder of Brand-Ward Services, said: “We are delighted to be extending our relationship out with Guru Studio and to be working with them on their delightful new property Pikwik Pack. Deliveries and awaiting for those special packages has become a very big part of our lives during this last year with lockdown, so Pikwik Pack could not be more topical right now.”

Pikwik Pack debuted on Disney Junior US and Treehouse Canada late last year, with new episodes continuing to air throughout 2021. The series will be rolling out worldwide later this year with broadcasters such as Super RTL (Germany), Canal Panda (Portugal), HOP (Israel), Minimini+ (Poland), and more.

In the US, the series is represented by Licensing Street, with Playmates Toys (master toy) and Scholastic (US Publishing) already on board.