For the January/February issue of ToyNews, out now, Editor Kiran Grewal sat down with Max Rangel, CEO and Global President of global children’s entertainment company Spin Master, to discuss the recent developments at the company, including Spin Master ventures.
Spin Master is a global children’s entertainment company focused on creating exceptional play experiences for children and families. Founded in 1994 by friends – Ronnen Harary, Anton Rabie and Ben Varadi – with a single product innovation, today the company has a diverse portfolio across three thriving creative centres: Toys, Entertainment and Digital Games.
Spin Master Toys has created award-winning evergreen brands including PAW Patrol, Bakugan, Kinetic Sand, Air Hogs and Hatchimals; is the trusted licensee for DC, Gabby’s Dollhouse, Monster Jam and Wizarding World among other popular properties; and has further diversified its portfolio through strategic acquisitions including GUND, Cardinal Games, SwimWays and most recently Rubik’s Cube. Renowned for its innovation, Spin Master is always pushing the boundaries of creativity delivering magical play experiences.
Spin Master Entertainment creates and produces compelling multiplatform content, stories and endearing characters through its in-house studio and partnerships with outside creators, including the preschool success PAW Patrol and nine other original shows along with multiple short-form series, which are distributed in more than 190 countries. In 2021, it expanded its entertainment slate with its first feature film, PAW Patrol: The Movie, the first of many in development.
Spin Master’s Digital games creative centre, with offices in Toronto, San Francisco, and Sweden, is anchored by the Toca Boca and Sago Mini brands, which combined have more than 65 million monthly active users and are rapidly growing. Just recently, Apple named Toca Life World by Toca Boca iPhone App of the Year, praising how Toca Life World is masterfully iterating on the art of play and self-expression for kids. With a penchant for innovation, Spin Master is on a mission to reimagine where imagination can take us.
How has the toy landscape developed into digital games?
“At Spin Master, our toys are designed to foster creativity and imagination, with open ended play opportunities. Our digital games offering mirrors this ethos, with Toca Boca apps created as digital playgrounds for kids to explore, free of rules, competition and scoring – facilitating social play. While digital games were already on the rise, their popularity was further amplified by the pandemic as kids turned to them not just as a form of entertainment, but to connect and interact with their friends virtually.
“Recently we have also seen the evolution of toys entering virtual worlds. An example is our Purse Pets line of interactive purses which partnered with Adopt Me, a world record breaking Roblox Game, to bring a virtual version of Purse Pets to life for their community of over 64 million monthly active players. Players could buy a Purse Pet in the virtual world, the first ever animated accessory offered within the game. To date, more than two million virtual Purse Pet’s have been purchased.
“Similarly, in September our global battling franchise Bakugan entered the metaverse. Anchored by an anime adventure series that also boasts digital content, an innovative toy line, card game and video game, Bakugan engaged fans in an immersive viewing experience on Roblox. A brand-new episode of the series debuted within the Roblox metaverse – the first ever premiere of a full-length episode series on the platform. The immersive experience brought together existing Bakugan fans and attracted new ones.”
How have you created a balanced offering between physical brands, entertainment franchises and mobile digital platforms?
“Spin Master started as a toy company, and over the years, we developed a deep understanding of play. Our entertainment and digital games creative centres are areas that we are continuously investing in and expanding, as we see opportunities for further growth. This was exemplified this past quarter (Q3 2021) where we saw entertainment and digital games grow over 120% combined compared to last year, accounting for approximately 15% of our total revenue, which is more than double what it was in 2020. It’s rewarding to see that our strategic approach to toy innovation, multi-platform engaging storytelling, and open-ended digital play is driving strong, diversified global revenue growth across all three creative centres.”
Do you see multi-platform content as an important avenue for success?
“Absolutely, multi-platform content is an important avenue for success. We want to be where kids are and are investing in content that resonates across platforms.
“Across our three creative centres we are driving innovation and growth and interacting with our customers more broadly and more deeply than ever before. Families and kids can access our products and content through a wide range of channels including brick-and-mortar retailers, direct to consumer websites, streaming services, broadcasters, digital platforms like YouTube, in theatres, via subscriptions and our games as a service model.
“Our physical toys promote imaginative play and are often complemented with additional content to be experienced across platforms. This year we kicked off our toy licensee with Universal Brand Development for DreamWorks Animation’s preschool series Gabby’s Dollhouse that airs on Netflix. The characters from the show are brought to life in playrooms through our toy line and we also extended the world of Gabby with an app, inviting preschoolers to interact and explore Gabby virtually. Our toy line features QR codes to download the app plus families can unlock bonus items and features in the app when they purchase Gabby’s Dollhouse toys.
“Our entertainment franchises also span various platforms. For example, our global Bakugan franchise consists of an exciting anime-adventure series, a YouTube destination, an action role-playing video game and integrations onto other popular platforms including Roblox. This fall we were the first ever to premiere a full-length series episode on the global online platforms that brings millions of people together through shared experiences.
“Lastly there is Toca Boca from our digital games creative centre. With 65 million kids currently playing the digital game, there is also a collection of YouTube digital shorts. Fans further engage creating their own Toca-inspired content that they share across their own social platforms – TikTok alone has generated a total of over 16 billion views. The quirky characters are so loved they’ve also extended beyond the digital world with make and play subscription boxes and an H&M kidswear collaboration.
“Whether a toy, a character in a TV show or a colourful cast in an app, we succeed by creating engaging storylines and aspirational characters that are accessible across multiple platforms, resonating with kids across the globe.”
How has Spin Master been inspired by innovation in its development?
“Since its inception, Spin Master has been fuelled by it’s drive and mission for continuous innovation. We have dedicated teams focused on scouring the globe in search of new ideas and innovation. This includes our internal advanced concepts team of inventors, designers and engineers, as well as a powerful, global network of 200 external inventors. We believe that a good idea can come from anywhere! Collectively we nurture a culture where innovation drives growth and where we continue to deliver the most imaginative experience for kids and families around the world.
“Innovation has inspired many of our own award-winning brands such as PAW Patrol, Bakugan, Kinetic Sand, Air Hogs, Hatchimals and GUND and we are constantly inventing and bringing new, innovative toys to market. Last year we acquired the world-famous Rubik’s Cube, an iconic puzzle that has permeated pop culture, captivating fans for more than 40 years. This iconic toy has inspired us through innovation, and we are excited for the opportunity to put our marque innovation on the entire Rubik’s portfolio inspiring future generations through play.”
Tell us about Spin Master Ventures
“We announced Spin Master Ventures in October 2021, with a goal of accelerating growth in each of our three creative centres. The children’s entertainment space is rapidly changing and through Spin Master Ventures we will make strategic minority investments in start-ups and with entrepreneurial game changers with promising ideas. These investments will help them start or grow their business while giving us access to new ideas, products and services that complement our own R&D. We aim to become the ultimate partnership generator, widening our relationships, networks and knowledge, ultimately bolstering our leadership position in the space.
“We are inspired by our first two minority investments which include Nørdlight, a mobile game development company based in Stockholm and Hoot Reading, an online tutoring service that provides children with live, 1:1 reading lessons. These two investments align with our growth plans for the digital games creative centre.”
Do you have any recent launches you can tell us more about? What is the BRAVE BUNNIES line?
“Absolutely. In 2021 more than 20 of our toys were named to retailers’ holiday top toys lists in the US alone and we received eight Toy of the Year (TOTY) Award nominations showcasing our commitment to reimaging play experiences. Our 2022 line up is equally exciting, we have toys from award-winning franchises, highly sought-after licenses, and trailblazing new intellectual property.
- PAW Patrol sees the introduction of new themes, Rescue Knights in the spring and Big Rig Pups in the fall, which will be introduced across both the entertainment property and toy line.
- In 2021 we debuted our Gabby’s Dollhouse toys, based on DreamWorks Animations Netflix original preschool series. Standing at over two feet tall, the Gabby’s Dollhouse playset was one of the hottest toys for the holidays. This year we will introduce more fantastical worlds inspired by the show including Kitty Fairy’s Garden Treehouse in the spring and Gabby’s Dream Closet in the fall.
- Our Cool Maker brand, which inspires kids to express who they are through style, introduces new Go Glam Nail Surprise, a press on nail kit with exciting unboxing surprises and then later in the year the Sew Stylin’ Fashion Studio that empowers kids to create and design their own accessories.
- After the 2021 launch of the first ever Orbeez Playset #Challenge, innovation is levelled-up with Glow-In-The-Dark Orbeez.
- Purse Pets go micro with a new mini version. The collection features twelve different animals with unique fabrics and textures including denim, soft Sherpa plush, holographic patent vegan leather, glitter accents and more.
- Heading into our second year as toy licensee for DC, we have an exciting slate as the franchise is set to launch four feature films this year, all which will have Spin Master toy lines.
- Set to launch this year, we will bring to market the Brave Bunnies line as the new master toy licensee for the series. This preschool show, produced by Glowberry, will be complemented with Spin Master’s toy line that will include playsets, figures, plush, games and puzzles expanding the Brave Bunnies universe for kids as they can bring the world and its clever characters into their playrooms.
- At the end of 2021, Toca Boca welcomed global lifestyle brand Sanrio’s pop icon Hello Kitty & Friends to the digital playground with the launch of a furniture pack for the home designer creator tool, which features home decoration items from Hello Kitty, Kuromi, Badtz-Maru, Gudetama and My Melody. The pack encourages self-expression so kids can create, play and explore new environments with Hello Kitty & Friends.
“That’s just a sneak peek, we also have high performance RC vehicles, amazing collectors’ items and innovative IP slated for later this year.”
Read the latest issue of ToyNews here.