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[Updated 9/18/2017 - 11pm CST - Toys "R" Us filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection]

There's a big problem at Geoffrey's house, and if you follow the toy industry or the retail sector in general, then you've no doubt seen it coming for years. Retail is a challenging space to begin with, and when you look at specialty retail, the landscape gets even bumpier. When it comes to toys, there's only one major toy store left in the United States, and that's New Jersey-based Toys "R" Us. While they've had their share of issues over the years, one thing that's really bothered me has been the involvement of Bain Capital Partners since 2005, at which time they, along with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Vornado Realty Trust took part in a leveraged buyout of of the iconic toy retailer. There's a lineage here in which Bain Capital has notoriously taken successful companies, saddled them with debt, and eventually flushed them down the toilet, all while the "partners" make out like bandits. One such victim was KB Toys, who Bain targeted as a profitable business with over $1.4B of annual sales. Strapped with debt, bankruptcy followed, and eventually KB was dead. History has been known to repeat itself, and it looks like Toys "R" Us could be the next victim. After all, Bain is playing the same game right now with another retailer - Gymboree, who was acquired in 2010 and filed for bankruptcy in 2017.

As we roll toward the holidays, the S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) category will once again be one of the hottest, and this month Educational Insights celebrates five years of empowering young girls to embrace their passion for science through their Nancy B's Science Club line of S.T.E.M. toys. Launched via Facebook, a new music video champions "all of the smart, cool, curious, science-loving girls out there." Check it out below...

Wednesday, September 06 2017 10:00

UNO for the Colorblind? Mattel Just Made That Happen...

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When I was a little kid, there were always UNO games present around our house. We had a lot of them due to the game having some Illinois roots with International Games having sponsored UARA midget auto racing in nearby Joliet. In fact, I recall a bright red midget ripping around the track with UNO graphics painted-on. Fast-forward a few decades, and UNO is still one of the most popular card games in the world, produced by Mattel, who've owned the game since 1992. Today, on International Colorblind Awareness Day, Mattel announced the launch of its newest deck, UNO® ColorADD, the world's first card game for the colorblind.  Check out all the details below!

You might not want to hear it, but the holiday season is fast-approaching on the horizon, and families will soon be seeking the perfect gifts for the little ones in their lives. The folks at Lakeshore, a leading developer of innovative learning materials for schools and homes, has just unveiled their Gifts for Growing Minds collection - a product line that "invites kids to discover the wonder of learning through play." The new assortment features over 200 items for kids ages 0–11. Check out some highlights below!

Highlights Magazine is timeless, and many would consider HABA toys right up there with it. Starting next year, the two will come together as the iconic children's brands are coming together in HABA USA's new Highlights™ toy line, available in 2018. The aim is to provide "an affordable new line of toys blending the time-tested educational and developmental expertise of both brands." The initial collection will launch with 12 developmentally-appropriate toys for children ages 12 months and older, incorporating Highlights' popular "That's Silly" designs as well as animal and monster-themed toys. 

Hatchimals were the hottest toy for Holiday 2016, and now they're poised for another big run. As the franchise has grown well-beyond the original hatching electronic toys to include Hatchimals Colleggtibles, clothing and more, Spin Master has now revealed the next evolution of the original toys: Hatchimals Surprise. Hailing from the world of Hatchtopia, Hatchimals Surprise are are said to be "different from any Hatchimals seen before." There's a completely new hatching process, with new species to meet and what's being called "a BIG surprise" set to come on the Second Annual Hatchimals Day, Friday, October 6, 2017!

One of the biggest surprises this summer was that ahead of THE EMOJI MOVIE was an all-new HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA short. I had no idea that PUPPY was set in Dracula's world, and that's a good thing as the kids were really surprised when we screened it at the birthday party for our oldest "Rock Daughter." Now, with an animated series airing on Disney Channel and a new feature film headed for theaters next summer, news has come into Rock Father HQ that Sony Pictures Consumer Products has partnered with Jazwards to develop a Hotel Transylvania toy-line, while Simon & Schuster Children's Group, Papercutz Comics and Bendon Publishing, will create a range of books inspired by the film franchise and new television series. The goodies will begin hitting stores leading up to the release of Sony Pictures Animation's HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3, in which Mavis surprises Dracula with a family voyage on a luxury Monster Cruise Ship -- the first time the characters will venture outside of the hotel. 

It has begun... FORCE FRIDAY II officially kicked off at 12:01am this morning, with STAR WARS fans on the East Coast being among the first to purchase new merchandise from Rian Johnson's upcoming film, STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI. The Disney Store in NYC was first to welcome a line hundreds long, starting a wave that's moved coast-to-coast this morning with midnight openings and events at retailers such as Toys "R" Us, Walmart, Target, Meijer and more. This year's Force Friday is actually a weekend event running September 1-3, 2017 with events planned at many locations. Check out StarWars.com/FindTheForce for full details. 

Note: Video on this has been added to The Rock Father™ YouTube Channel!

Since the 2015 relaunch of the Star Wars franchise with J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we've entered a new era of fandom in which families have regular access to perhaps the widest assortment of merchandise from a galaxy far, far away than ever before. Under Disney's leadership, Lucasfilm no longer has the lull of a "non-movie year," since there's going to be a new Star Wars film each year for the foreseeable future. For consumers, that means steady access to new toys and gear, but as recent years have shown us, there's just too much stuff out there, and it's not always what the people want. For our family, the true core of Star Wars imaginative play lies solely with Hasbro's 3.75" action figure line - the one whose lineage dates back to the original Kenner Star Wars Collection of figures, vehicles and playsets. For the current generation of kids and collectors, there's been a huge omission on the playset front, and with the Force Friday II launch of toys for Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Hasbro aims to fill that gap with the BB-8 2-in-1 Mega Playset. This impressive set* looks like a near life-sized BB-8 Astromech Droid while closed, but opens up into a First Order Star Destroyer packed with play features!

According to The Rock Daughters™, the characters from Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom are friends of Peppa Pig and her family. Not sure how that works in their fictional worlds (or if they ever truly collide), but the kids are onto something - both come from the folks at eOne, both originate from the UK, both have become big hits Stateside, and now they both have toys from Jazwares. This Friday (9/1/17), I'll be joining The Toy Insider as we talk about the new Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom toys, available now exclusively at Target! Of course, we'll also have some to give away, but you must RSVP and participate in the #benandhollyparty to be eligible! 

Following Lucasfilm's official announcement of their Global Force Friday II, now the retailers are chiming in with their plans for the launch of new toys and merchandise from Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Toys "R" Us hit Rock Father HQ with details on what's happening at the house of Geoffrey, and it's looking good. The main concern (as always) will be availability of enough product, particularly on the action figure & vehicle front at launch, but Toys "R" Us tends to have a pretty big set-up. See the announcement from TRU below...

Back in 2015, the first "Force Friday" was a pretty big deal - a one-day global event to celebrate the release of new toys and merchandise from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Now, Disney and Lucasfilm are following it up with Force Friday II (September 1, 2017), and today they've officially announced Find the Force, a global augmented reality (AR) event rolling out to commemorate the worldwide launch of new products inspired by Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It's a "pop-up AR treasure hunt" that aims to unite fans around the world in the battle against the dark side in a unique three-day event at over 20,000 retail locations (click here for a list) across 30 countries. As fans turn up to take home new Star Wars: The Last Jedi products, they will have the opportunity to activate a unique augmented reality experience featuring Star Wars characters, including fan-favorites and new surprise additions from the film. Check out the video and details below to see how it all works, and you can even get started by scanning the Rey graphic to collect your first character - the Porgs!

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