A Former Toys "R" Us CEO Surfaces as TRU Preps to sell Geoffrey the Giraffe, Dozens of URLs and Piles of Augmented Garbage...Written by James Zahn
Monday, May 14, 2018 marked the end for many employees working at the Toys "R" Us Global Resource Center in Wayne, New Jersey. While "several hundred" staffers are said to have stayed on as the wind-down of the U.S. businesses continues, there's the "highly unusual" early exit of many top executives, including Chairman and CEO David A. Brandon. "Unusual" seems to be the key word as this story just gets weirder... could former CEO Jerry Storch want back in on the Toys "R" Us action?
Toys "R" Us Workers Meet with Senator Bernie Sanders and March Against Private Equity as the Legacy of Geoffrey is Further Tarnished...Written by James Zahn
As the final wind-down of U.S. operations for Toys "R" Us continues, it should be crystal clear by now that saving the business and its 33,000+ workers was just not a real priority. If it was, the company and its lenders and ownership would've found some way to make it happen, but we knew as early as the beginning of February that Bain Capital was pushing for a full liquidation - and that's exactly what they got. The private equity industry is a scummy bunch, and when it comes to representation, that's even clear in their own lobbying organization, the American Investment Council, which softened its name over the years from the more ominous "Private Equity Growth Capital Council" and "Private Equity Council" to become the AIC. While these groups have powerful representation, it's the American worker that gets caught in the crossfire during leveraged buyouts and their eventual collapse, and in retail this is a group who is typically under-represented (I do not believe that Unions are the answer, but that's a lengthier story for another time). Retail workers - both hourly and salaried management included - are generally underpaid and lack any long-term benefits. In a situation like what's happened with Toys "R" Us, you have the people who've been doing the real work - the ones out there on the front lines - facing unemployment with no severance as they have to deal with the general public and the sad position of closing up shop. Meanwhile, you have Chairman, CEO and LinkedIn Enthusiast David A. Brandon still kicking around the increasingly ghostly halls of Toys "R" Us HQ in Wayne, NJ, having to ride things out until the very end as part of the terms of the $2.8M retention bonus he took in September of 2017, just days prior to the company filing bankruptcy. Today, a group of Toys "R" Us employees met with Senator Bernie Sanders in Washington D.C., later marching alongside representatives from The Center for Popular Democracy and Rise Up Retail as they took to the AIC in protest of private equity destruction at the hands of Bain Captial, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Vornado Realty Trust. Watch the video below...
Hasbro is getting into the micro-collectible blind box realm with a new collection called LOST KITTIES. There will be over 100 to collect beginning this June, and each will have their own mischievous interests as part of eight Lost Kitties "squads" including the #Nomz, #Cattitude, #WorkinIt, #ifIfits, #Adorbs, #ScaredyCats, #Cathletic and #NotFelineIt. Ahead of the launch, Hasbro has unleashed the first-ever Lost Kitties music video, called "Who'z Hidin' Inside" - a parody of The Knack's "My Sharona."
It took all of about twelve hours to happen - the first round of Coleco Evolved Mini Arcades hit Kickstarter and became fully-funded. Back in 1981, Coleco first issued their classic tabletop arcade machines - versions of arcade favorites like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, shrunk into miniature form by a suspicious character known as "Mr. Arcade" (that's how it happened in the commercials, anyway). These machines have become iconic, and now they're coming back in a new form, ditching the primitive calculator screen for a full-color LCD display that's powered by a powerful new gaming chipset. They've also chucked the C-batteries in exchange for a rechargeable lithium ion battery pack, and the joystick and buttons have been revamped as well. The first two games available will be Rainbow Brite: Journey to Rainbow Land and Robotech The Macross Saga.
At The Toy Association's PlayCon in San Francisco, Ellia Kassoff, head of Strategic Marks, LLC, addressed toymakers and others about the plans for resurrecting the KB Toys brand in malls around the country. First announced back in March (with an update here), KB Toys will return as a new retailer rooted in nostalgia - and the plan is to do it starting with pop-up shops this coming holiday season. Prior to being destroyed by Bain Capital Partners (who also killed Toys "R" Us), KB operated under many variations of their name, including K•B Toys, K•B Toys Outlet, K•B Toy Works and Kay-Bee Toys between 1922 and 2009. With Toys "R" Us currently in the final processes of winding-down operations in the United States, the biggest question is how, exactly, will Strategic Marks be able to pull this off - and how it's going to be done in time for this year's holiday season. Today, Kassoff offered up answers - some of which came directly from members of the audience.
I feel so out of the loop on the Fortnite craze - I've never played it and don't even know where to start. Now comes news that Thanos is getting involved for a limited time mashup and I'm really tempted to jump in. As of today, the Fortnite x Avengers Mashup is live, and a short teaser has been released. Check it out below and then see if you have what it takes to control the Infinity Stones...
In honor of Star Wars Day, the team over at Lucasfilm has just unleashed a new clip from Solo: A Star Wars Story. In this new look at Ron Howard's upcoming film, we see Chewbacca and Han Solo taking control of the Millennium Falcon together as pilot and co-pilot for the very first time. Tickets for the film are also now on-sale via Fandango, so get yours ordered today!
At the 115th North American International Toy Fair this year, I happened to come across the Imperial Toy booth and some of their latest offerings on the bubble front. For years Imperial's bubbles have been a staple of outdoor play, but one new spin on the classic is something that's been kicking around since 2015, gradually being improved and readied for its major public push. Created by a pediatrician and allergist,Lick-A-Bubble is a special solution that allows kids to create flavored bubbles from just about any drink (just stay away from dairy, pulps, and steer non-carbonated). And for the grownups, yes - you can use this with your favorite "adult beverage" - and that's exactly how I first tried them.
There's 25 Wookiees in that photo above, and [SPOILER ALERT] one of them is The Rock Father™! While in Los Angeles last month, I stopped by Disney's Grand Central Creative Campus to meet with the team from Disney Consumer Products & Interactive. After taking a look at the full range of new products from Lucasfilm's Solo: A Star Wars Story, each member of my crew donned one of Party City's Chewbacca masks for a photo celebrating the launch of Roar For Change - the next initiative from Star Wars: Force for Change, presenting fans with a new global challenge in support of UNICEF. Curious how this is gonna play out and how you can do some good by showing off your best Wookiee roar? Check out the launch video below!
Star Wars Day brings forth a ton of surprise announcements, and for 2018 one of those is a new addition to the ever-expanding world of 6' action figures issued by Hasbro as part of The Black Series. My friends at Entertainment Earth (an affiliate) just announced that they'll be stocking a "Fan Channel Exclusive" - the Star Wars The Black Series Admiral Piett 6" Action Figure. Based on Firmus Piett (performed by Kenneth Colley) who appeared in both The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), this new super-articulated action figure features a removable cap and blaster, and will begin shipping this June.
Fun fact: When I was traveling to Los Angeles for the World Premiere of Avengers: Infinity War last month, I was wearing a pair of DEADPOOL High Tops that my friends at ThinkGeek sent me. Then, the following night - Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld and his son were a few steps behind me as we walked the purple carpet at the premiere. Me being the dork that I am, I neglected to say hello to the creator of the character whose style was adorning my feet not 24 hours earlier. A missed opportunity, but I'm still looking forward to the May 18 debut of DEADPOOL 2, and today we've got our first taste of the soundtrack... by Céline Dion. "Ashes" is the new music video staring Dion and Deadpool, and really it speaks for itself, so enjoy.
If you haven't seen Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War yet, what I'm about to share with you might be considered SPOILER territory... but it's not actually something that's in the film. In fact, it's something that is 100% not in the film, but based upon the earlier marketing materials (photos, trailers, tv spots) it is something that you might go into the film expecting to see. More below the jump...