Offering a range of innovative, high-quality toys and nursery products that kids love and parents ask for by name, TOMY International is on a mission “to make the world smile”. We caught up with the company’s Managing Director of Licensing and Global Development, Morgan Weyl, ahead of Licensing Expo to find out about TOMY’s latest licensing deals and the products we can expect to see on-shelf in the months to come.
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Hi Morgan! First off, can you describe your role at TOMY and what your responsibilities are?
I serve as the Managing Director of Licensing and Global Development. I joined TOMY in 2000 as we were expending the Gacha licensed toy vending machine business outside of Japan, and that early interaction got me hooked on the licensing business realm. I use my 20 years of licensing expertise to help build a complementary strategy across each of TOMY’s divisions (Juvenile Products, Preschool, Vehicle and Toys) and bring amazing brands and content to life with our innovative products.
In addition to my licensing role, I’m also responsible for optimizing our brands and product platforms across geographies, applying successful regional programmes to further expand TOMY’s global reach.
What is TOMY’s history in the licensing sector?
In 2024, our company will celebrate its 100th anniversary! Licensing has been an integral part of TAKARA TOMY’s history. Some of our early historical successes are licensed; a 1924 Breguet Airplane tin replica or a 1956 Mickey Mouse tin toy, for example. We have fostered and strengthened our licensing portfolio and expertise since then, partnering with top studios and brand owners around the world.
Across the entirety of the baby, vehicle and toy business today, we partner with inspiring brands like Mickey and Minnie, John Deere, Ford, Peppa Pig, Jurassic World, DC Comics, CoComelon, Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog, to name just a few.
Partnership defines our success in licensing. We highly value the uniqueness of our partners’ brands and ensure we infuse their DNA with a little bit of TOMY magic to always come up with something innovative and fresh.
You develop toys for large properties. How do you ensure the TOMY products stand out in the marketplace – and keep their TOMY ‘essence’?
As just mentioned, it is all about DNA! We look at licensing as a strategic part of our product offering and make sure it complements our core and proprietary brands. By the time we select a property, we already know we’ll be able to bring TOMY’s quality and innovation. We strive to keep our DNA intact, always putting play, surprise, creativity and design at the forefront of our design thinking.
To echo our founder, Eiichiro Tomiyama, “Toys must have an element of fresh surprise, a sense of creativity and design. Without these, there is no progress.” This is TOMY’s founding philosophy and remains true for all our toys today.
Any challenges in the licensing realm?
Credit to all creators, content quality is just too good! Between new brands, and evergreen and nostalgic properties making their way back, there is so content much available. A concentrated retail landscape, added to broadcast and content diversification, brings a dilemma to licensors, licensees, and retailers alike. Opportunities to widely launch brand-new IPs have compressed greatly and we need to adapt our go-to-market strategies.
Getting the time for a property to find its audience is more and more challenging. We partner with our licensing friends early in the process, growing the brand awareness, and getting to a place we feel confident we can launch. We narrow the initial offering down to hit clear winners, while preparing a wider range of products enabling us to chase success as it comes.
You’ve recently acquired Fat Brain – how do you expect that to impact TOMY’s go-to-market strategy?
I just talked about the impact the consolidation of retail has had on toy companies. We also need to take into consideration the fact that consumers’ shopping habits have evolved in the last two years. The 2020 acquisition of Fat Brain diversified our product brand portfolio with amazing toys and brands like Dimpl and it also expanded our ability to reach and connect our brands to consumers directly, building that ever-so-important sense of community.
As a digitally native brand, Fat Brain Toys has tremendous omni-channel reach, offering us a critical platform to nurture the brands and new products and receive real-time consumer feedback.
What’s in the pipeline for TOMY, licensing-wise, for 2022 and beyond?
We have news across all our divisions and categories, starting with our licensed toddler feeding cups. In cups, we have historically worked with some of the biggest IPs in the world. We’ve seen great success with our latest partnerships including Mickey, Minnie, and Baby Shark. CoComelon was just added and is already doing very well. More IPs will soon complement our portfolio. We ensure we stay on top of the latest trend in this highly competitive category.
Looking at our vehicle business, we keep our foot on the pedal with new brands and partnerships. Monster Treads’ fans will soon get their hands on amazing Transformers stylised vehicles, coming this autumn. In 2023, we will expand our “Build A Buddy” STEAM accredited vehicle platform, offering 2-in-1 building fun thanks to amazing AAA brand collaborations. For older kids, all collectors’ eyes will be turned to an amazing diecast ship from the beloved Star Trek universe!
Recently, our toy division also shared news: we announced a new partnership with successful author Diane Alber. We’ll be taking Diane’s acclaimed book series, “A little SPOT”, to the toy aisle. Our playthings will offer young children really fun ways to understand and interact with emotions.
Preschoolers will enjoy new Toomies collaborations and toys with Peppa Pig, DC Comics and a special nostalgic treat with the cutest look of E.T. to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Finally, our Club Mocchi- Mocchi- collector plush platform will expand its POP culture portfolio with many partnerships to be announced very soon.
All these strategic initiatives will further strengthen our portfolio as we approach our 100th milestone.
What are you most looking forward to at Licensing Expo – and what would you like to achieve from the show?
Seeing and celebrating the industry, creators, buyers, and retailers who make life a little happier and more fun. It has been almost three years since we all last gathered in person at the licensing show. I’m personally looking forward to seeing all my friends from the industry as well as sharing all the TOMY news.
Our company motto is to “Make the world smile.” It’s rare to come across someone in the toy industry who doesn’t just love being in it. We’re popular with friends and family because of what we do, we play all day – it’s fantastic. The Licensing Show is one of the moments in time when we gather to be inspired by each other and explore possibilities.
TOMY will be at Licensing Expo, Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas, from 24-26 May 2022.