More than 60 book publishers exhibited at the 2001 New York International Toy Fair, held February 11—15. According to the show's sponsor, Toy Manufacturers of America, dollar sales of toys dropped 1.4% and unit sales were down 4.9% in 2000, reflecting conservative strategies by both toy manufacturers and book publishers, especially for lines linked to licensed properties.

This was the first Toy Fair for McGraw-Hill Children's Publishing to show buyers its full line since the acquisition of Landoll and American Education Publishing (AEP). MHCP displayed the licensed coloring and activity titles for which Landoll is known, including a new license, the Japanese-origin Cardcaptors. (McGraw-Hill retained the Blue's Clues license from Nickelodeon for AEP's workbooks, but Nick's non-Blue properties moved to Golden Books.)

The house also exhibited licensed titles from its pre-Landoll list, such as its Mercer Mayer and Cricket magazine series, its nonlicensed workbooks and storybooks, and items from Peter Bedrick Books and toymaker Instructional Fair/T.S. Ellison, both recently acquired. Fifty-nine percent of the McGraw-Hill unit's sales occur through retail channels, with about 60% of that from the mass market, according to David Kelly, marketing manager.

Golden Books also had a new look. It showed its new Hasbro, expanded Nickelodeon and ongoing Barbie and Cartoon Network lines; these have taken the place of the company's former Disney license. Rich Maryyanek, senior v-p of marketing, emphasized that Golden's alliances with the two largest children's entertainment networks and toy companies give it a stable of evergreens, supplemented by potentially hot properties such as HIT's Bob the Builder and Nickelodeon's SpongeBob SquarePants . "The two Bobs will be our breakouts," Maryyanek predicted. The Cartoon Network family of properties has performed well for Golden over the last year; each Powerpuff Girls title sold no fewer than 400,000 total units.

Modern Publishing introduced new formats, such as $2.99 illustrated classics, a new type of magic slate book and plush/book novelty titles, in lieu of new licenses. "There doesn't seem to be a new hot license," said Wendy Friedman, v-p of sales. "We're focusing on perennials." She cited Fisher-Price, Barbie and Hot Wheels as strong ongoing sellers, along with musicians Britney Spears and 'N Sync. Britney sticker books have reached 600,000 in print since August. Friedman noted that the company's animé titles, including Dragon Ball Z and Digimon, "have done really well and they're still viable." Modern also debuted coloring and activity books based on Scholastic's Clifford.

American Greetings, which owns educational publisher Learning Horizons—several of whose executives have come over from Landoll—highlighted its new Parents magazine license. The line includes eight workbooks for pre-K through grade three, among other items. "It's the first licensed venture for us," reported Robert Rawlins, director of sales, who said the line will be cross-promoted in the 12-million-reader magazine. Learning Horizons also showed the rest of its line, including one of its strongest brands, Know-It-Alls, gained through the 1999 acquisition of McClanahan.

Harcourt Brace's director of special sales Larry Jonas noted more interest among toy stores and other buyers for items with perceived educational value, which bodes well for publishers selling into the toy channel. Among the products Harcourt highlighted at the show were Lois Ehlert's Waiting for Wings , a photo journal tied to Debra Frasier's On the Day You Were Born and a facsimile edition of Valentine Davies's original Miracle on 34th Street . Jonas reported good reaction to a night-light packaged with Time for Bed, the company's bestselling board book, written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Jane Dyer.

"This is the best venue for people looking for giftworthy items and things that can be merchandised with other things in their stores," said Linda Coleman, HarperCollins's retail sales manager handling accounts such as Spencer Gifts and Dapy. Offerings included bestsellers by Shel Silverstein and E.B. White and TV-supported titles such as Rolie Polie Olie and Harold and the Purple Crayon , all packaged as boxed sets or collectors' editions; a Runaway Bunny toy-and-book package; licensed titles including Digimon, NASCAR Racers, Seventeen and Froot Loops; Charming Classics, a series of classic titles packaged with charm necklaces; and several Laura Ingalls Wilder editions.

Reader's Digest used the show as an opportunity to emphasize its positioning as a publisher not just of licensed, novelty and preschool books, but of literary titles for older children. While it showed its Fisher-Price, Barbie and Bear in the Big Blue House novelty books, it highlighted literary titles such as Lisa McCue's Sweet Dreams .

Some publishers used Toy Fair to test new products. Silver Dolphin Press, publisher of the Maurice Pledger and Let's Start lines, tested a Let's Start plush-and-book set in a see-through backpack. "We're seeing what reaction we're getting," said Janet Nelson, publicity and marketing coordinator, who noted that the company would probably change the book's format from paperback to a board book because of feedback received at the show. Silver Dolphin exhibited a range of new formats, such as Giant Touch and Feel and Peek and Find books, and tied into the glitter trend with a series of four titles including Angel Bear .

A first-time exhibitor at this year's show was Canadian publisher Chouette, which displayed its Caillou books. Caillou has been published in Canada since 1987 but was introduced into the U.S. last year after the tie-in television series began airing on PBS Kids. Chouette featured four new titles, and several of the property's 30-plus licensees exhibited Caillou merchandise.

Another first-timer was Viz Communications, publisher of graphic novels based on animé properties such as Zoids and Yu-Gi-Oh and licensed directly from Japan. Director of marketing Dallas Middaugh told PW the company was testing the show as it tries to expand its distribution from mostly mom-and-pop comic stores into the mass market, but said Toy Fair attendees seemed to consist largely of existing customers.

Literary Licenses

As has been the norm in recent years, many of the prominent licenses at the show were based in literature. Two licensors of book-based properties took booths. The itsy bitsy Entertainment Company promoted Eloise, as did nine of its licensees. Robin Sayetta, president of off-screen entertainment, reported that a holiday promotion with Barnes & Noble involving Eloise pink hot chocolate and gift cards will be reprised this spring with Eloise pink lemonade.

Universal Consumer Products highlighted Curious George , celebrating its 60th anniversary. Houghton Mifflin has sold more than 21 million Curious George books worldwide. Universal announced several new promotional partners, including General Mills, Lifetouch Portrait Studios, Sbarro and Mastercard International.

Another high-profile literary license was Scholastic's Clifford, now supported by a PBS television series and 40 licensees. Leslye Schaefer, Scholastic Entertainment's senior v-p of marketing and consumer products, said sales of the original Clifford books have risen nearly 100% on average since the TV series premiered; tie-in books roll out this spring.

A new book-based license for children is Jane Seymour and James Keach's series This One and That One; Putnam has published three titles—Yum!, Splat! and Boing! —in the series so far. Seymour said she and Keach are providing voices and creative direction for a new animated TV series from Nelvana, which is in serious discussions with PBS Kids to add the show to the Bookworm Bunch programming block. A line of toys from Toymax will be introduced in conjunction with the show, possibly as early as fall 2001. Seymour's licensing agent Anthony Gentile of Abrams Gentile Entertainment said three more Putnam books are planned and discussions are ongoing for TV tie-ins.

McFarlane Toys is teaming with author Clive Barker on Tortured Souls, a line of original figures and stories. Barker and Todd McFarlane, president and designer at the toy company, created six characters; each will be packaged with a 1,000- to 2,000-word Barker story. Customers who collect all the figures will end up with a complete novella.

Many Toy Fair attendees were awaiting a look at the Harry Potter products for fall. Several licensees had eye-catching Harry Potter—themed displays, but most, including master toy licensee Mattel, showed a small range of merchandise, hoping to avoid market oversaturation. Many toy and book exhibitors offered nonlicensed wizard-related merchandise.

Most of the movie licenses featured at the show were subject to conservative approaches, similar to Warner Bros.' Harry Potter strategy, spurring limited product lines. Highlighted films included Disney and Pixar's Monsters, Inc. (toys by Hasbro, in its debut as Disney's master toy licensee), Dreamworks's Shrek (McFarlane), Warner Bros.'Osmosis Jones (Trendmasters), Nickelodeon's Jimmy Neutron (Mattel) and Twentieth Century Fox's Planet of the Apes (Hasbro).

Book-Based Toy Specialists

Toy companies specializing in book-based products included MerryMakers, which showed soft dolls tied to Barbara Park's Junie B. Jones , Kevin Henkes's Wemberly Worried , Helen Lester's Tacky the Penguin and Wodney Wat , Joan MacPhail Knight's Charlotte in Giverny and Peter Sís's Madlenka .

Game and puzzlemaker Briarpatch exhibited new items inspired by Harold and the Purple Crayon and author Byron Barton (of Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones fame), while Leap Frog's Leap Pad Learning System, a top-selling electronic learning aid that teaches children to read, added licensed titles including Arthur, Scooby Doo, Superman and the books of Candlewick Press to its storybook roster. Eden Toys introduced dolls and accessories for Anne: The Animated Series , a Sullivan Entertainment production based on Anne of Green Gables, debuting on PBS this spring.

One specialist in book-based toys told PW that the popularity of children's books as a basis for television programming had given rise to a challenge for companies like hers that distribute literature-inspired items through book and specialty channels. Studios or networks option the rights to a book, at which time licensing is put on hold, eliminating literary product specialists' prime window of opportunity.

New Developments

New developments at the fair this year included Mattel moving out of its Sixth Avenue building and into a Toy Center showroom. Mattel sells its products to major retailers prior to Toy Fair, so it used the exhibition this year to highlight key items to the press. Hasbro, which announced significant layoffs prior to the show, said it would do the same thing next year.

The day before Toy Fair, British animation house HIT Entertainment announced its purchase of Barney licensor Lyrick Studios. As part of the acquisition, Lyrick closed its publishing operations and Barney Publishing moved to Scholastic; rights to the company's third-party book series, Humongous Entertainment and Little Suzie's Zoo, reverted to their licensors.