Japanese toy company TOMY is getting into the Pixar business.
Toys, play sets, stuffed animals and other merchandise licensed from Disney for the upcoming Pixar movies Inside Out (opening June 19) and The Good Dinosaur (Nov. 25), as well as the Disney Junior channel series Miles From Tomorrowland (which premiered Feb. 6), will be shown to retailers for the first time Saturday at the annual New York Toy Fair.
What makes these product lines stand out is not just the craftsmanship, design and technology, but the company behind them.
The master license holder for all three is TOMY International, a Japanese company with U.S. and European subsidiaries that is trying to take a step up in the global toy business.
TOMY until now has handled licensed toys and merchandise for brands including Pokémon, Sonic the Hedgehog, John Deere and others. But handling high-profile Pixar movies and a Disney TV show is an ambitious move.
“Our goal is to become one of the largest toy companies in the world,” says Willie Wilkov, TOMY’s chief marketing officer, who is based in Oakbrook, Illinois. “We want to gain share and we think we can do that with innovation and quality.”
Publicly traded in Japan, where it is known as Takara Tomy, it had about $1.5 billion in toy sales last year. Wilkov says on a global basis it is behind only Hasbro, Mattel and Lego, with aggressive plans to grow.
“We have a global footprint and the ability to operate as one universal global team better than some other companies,” says Wilkov. “That’s where we think we can create an advantage.”
Disney is certainly backing that bet. “TOMY has a history of creating compelling, innovative and high-quality toys,” says Josh Silverman, executive vp global licensing at Disney Consumer Products, “and we were impressed at their ability to capture the spirit of our characters and bring the diverse range of stories from our newest Disney-Pixar films and Disney Junior television show to life.”
TOMY was founded in 1924 as Tomiyama and changed its name to Tomy in 1963. In 2006, it merged with another Japanese toy company, Takara. Designing is done in Tokyo, Oakbrook and the U.K. Most of its products are made in China.
In 2011, TOMY acquired RC2 Corporation, which markets brands including Learning Curve (infant and preschool merchandise) and Lamaze (baby toys). They followed that by acquiring the license for Pokémon, a popular Japanese brand that next year celebrates its 20th anniversary.
“It was our first opportunity to prove ourselves as a global company,” says Wilkov, adding: “We’ve been able to translate that into these opportunities with Disney.”
Like other major toy makers, TOMY is focused on using technology to improve the expression and emotion that the toys can project to the users to enhance the play experience.
“When we partner with companies that bring these great characters to life,” says Wilkov, “we want to make sure the toys do that as well.”
For instance, there are Inside Out character figures that come with “memory spheres” that can project scenes from the movie — and they glow when brought near a related game console.
Inside Out toy characters also can wave their arms in joy or fear, slump with sadness and roll their eyes in disgust. Each will retail for $24.99.
The merchandise for Inside Out will arrive in toy stores and mass retailers in May, while Miles From Tomorrowland products hit stores in late August for back to school and holiday sales. TOMY will be showing samples of the Good Dinosaur products to retailers at the Toy Fair, but they don’t reach stores until at least October.
Wilkov says they aren’t worried that dinosaurs from Universal’s Jurassic World will be out this summer. “We think it’s a good thing,” he says. “Some are saying this is the year of the dinosaur. Our toys are targeted toward younger children [than Jurassic World products] and will play very differently.”
Disney’s Silverman says, “We’re looking forward to seeing how fans of all ages across the globe connect with these very unique toy lines.”
“We’re taking a step up and working with different partners,” adds Wilkov, “and it’s exciting. When you have great IP to work with you can put together some very nice products.”