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The Playground Podcast

The Playground Podcast

By Chris Byrne & Richard Gottlieb
Join Chris Byrne, The Toy Guy® and Richard Gottlieb, president Global Toy Experts on their new podcast
Two industry experts will tackle the topics of the toys, culture, toy history and talk with some of the leading people in the business of toys and children’s entertainment. Designed for anyone interested in toys, play and great stories, each weekly episode will feature engaging, entertaining conversation, useful information, insights, tales of the toys that we’ll never forget and so much more.
As they say, if it concerns toys and play, we’ll be kicking it around in The Playground.
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Currently playing episode

David and Goliath: Mr. Norman on How You Play the Game

The Playground Podcast

David and Goliath: Mr. Norman on How You Play the Game

The Playground Podcast

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Take 10: Independent Toy Stores & the Pandemic
In this brief conversation, Richard and Chris discuss the implications of a survey suggesting that as many as, 1,800 independent toy stores in the U.S. may struggle or fold as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. What does this mean for retail and toys? Listen in.  This conversation first appeared as The Endcap after the interview with Gerrick Johnson.  The Playground Podcast is supported by Global Toy Experts, The Toy Guy, and Chizcomm.
05:53
November 23, 2020
Gerrick Johnson: Inside The Analyst's Process
Gerrick Johnson, Toy & Leisure Analyst for BMO Capital Markets, is one of the most insightful, accurate and knowledgeable analysts covering the toy industry today. He's also a lot of fun. A lover of the toy industry and the people in it, Gerrick talks with Richard and Chris about his role as an analyst, what he sees as the trends for 2020 and into 2021 and how he thinks this very unusual year will finish out. Listen in and get some inside scoop on a process that is a blend of art & science. In The Endcap, Chris and Richard talk about a recent survey that indicates that many independent toy stores may struggle or even close as they deal with the fallout of the pandemic...and what that means for the toy industry as a whole.  The Playground Podcast is supported by Global Toy Experts, The Toy Guy, and Chizcomm. 
47:37
November 23, 2020
Jim McCafferty of JMP Creative: Talking Invention at the Magic Workshop
In an episode recorded back when we could still travel, Chris visited the Magic Workshop at JMP Creative in Irvine, California and spoke with president and CEO Jim McCafferty. The conversation ranged from invention to patents to creating dynamic partnerships with toy companies. Chris also found out why JMP has a spaceship in the offices. In the Endcap, Chris is joined again by Richard and they talk about toy awards and hot toy lists, what they mean and how they support the toy industry.  Listen in for a fun and fast-paced episode. The Playbround Podcast is supported by Global Toy Experts, The Toy Guy and Chizcomm. 
39:37
November 16, 2020
David and Goliath: Mr. Norman on How You Play the Game
Listen in as David Norman, president of Goliath Games, talks with Richard and Chris about his career, Goliath Games and its history, and some very topical insights about 2020 and looking forward to 2021. From development of product to dealing with dynamic supply chain issues, David talks about it all. Currently in more than 75 countries, Goliath is the third largest game manufacturer in the U.S., and a powerhouse for making kids laugh. In The Endcap, Chris and Richard talk about international changes from the implications of the new lockdowns in the UK and Europe to what the growth of the Shenzhen region may mean for the future, international toy business. This week, we welcome new supporter Chizcomm, as well as ongoing support from Global Toy Experts and The Toy Guy. 
40:46
November 9, 2020
Crazy Aaron and an Empire Built on Putty
Join us for an insightful conversation as Richard and Chris talk about entrepreneurship and the growth of Crazy Aaron's Puttyworld. From an idle fiddling to a product, from the basement to a global enterprise, Aaron Muderick talks about how he's built  his business, the challenges of tariffs and Covid and how he supports his community. It's a lighthearted talk about building an empire on putty, but it's anything but silly. In The Endcap, Chris and Richard talk about Barbie and her evolution, and the forces of the market and innovation that drove the brand to a 29% increase in Q3 over last year. The Playground Podcast is supported by Global Toy Experts and The Toy Guy. 
36:57
November 2, 2020
Kim Culmone: The Ultimate Designing Woman for Barbie and Mattel
You'll want to listen to this lively discussion as Richard and Chris talk with Kim Culmone, SVP, Global Head of Design Barbie & Fashion Dolls at Mattel. In this wide-ranging conversation, they talk about Barbie as a style icon, the importance of doll play, fashion and history. if you love Barbie, or if you're curious how a brand has survived for 62 years through all kinds of ups and downs (but up 29% in Q3 2020), this is the episode for you. In the Endcap, Chris andRichard discuss the various retailer toy lists issued every year, what they mean, and are they really predictive? The Playground Podcast is sponsored by Global Toy Experts and The Toy Guy. 
48:04
October 26, 2020
Take 10: Hong Kong, Shenzhen and What Changes Mean for the Toy Biz
In the wake of the postponement of the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair, Chris and Richard discuss in this short conversation the implications for buying and the toy year, as well as what impact the rise of Shenzhen as an international trade show destination may have on the toy business.  This segment first aired as the Endcap in our interview with Chris Bensch about the Toy Industry Hall of Fame.  The Playgrond Podcast is supported by Global Toy Experts and The Toy Guy. 
09:17
October 20, 2020
The Toy Hall of Fame: Chris Bensch of the Strong Museum
Join us for a lighthearted and informative conversation as Richard and Chris welcome back a favorite guest Chris Bensch of the Strong Museum in Rochester to talk about the Toy Hall of Fame. Get some backstage stories of the push to include toys, what toys make and what don't and the celebration of play that's at the center of everything the Strong Museum does. In the Endcap, Chris & Richard talk about the postponement of the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair in 2021 and the larger issue of the emergence of Shenzhen as a toy destination and what that may mean for the industry in the future. The Playground Podcast is supported by Global Toy Experts and The Toy Guy. 
37:19
October 19, 2020
Take 10: No Schoolyard Play & Implications for Toys: The Conversation
Chris & Richard talk about the implications for the toy business with the loss of word-of-mouth among kids in the schoolyard as education is increasingly remote. This Conversation first aired as The Endcap in our interview with Richard Dickson of Mattel.  The Playground Podcast is supported by Global Toy Experts, KidStuff Public Relations, and The Toy Guy.
06:10
October 12, 2020
Richard Dickson, President & COO, Mattel: Insights on Play, Products and the Corporation
Richard and Chris talk to Richard Dickson, President & COO of Mattel and get his unique, inspiring and informative take on toys, play and the opportunities and responsibilities for Mattel in this dynamic time. From tools for parents to an organizational commitment to diversity to the launch of Mattel Creations, Richard's enthusiasm, vision and commitment to leading the world's largest toy company is a must-listen for anyone who cares about kids, culture and play.  In the Endcap, Chris & Richard talk about how the separation of kids and the lack of schoolyard influence may impact the toy industry this year. The Playground Podcast is supported by Global Toy Experts, KidStuff Public Relations, and The Toy Guy. 
40:32
October 12, 2020
Alan Dorfman of Super Impulse: Building a Big Business on Tiny Toys
Richard and Chris chat with Alan Dorfman about his career, how he became the biggest guy in miniature toys, and, of course, coping with the pandemic. Listen in for his insights on the power of creating and building a unique category in the toy biz over many years of success and the classic power of impulse toys for diverse audiences. He also talks about the revival of a 60s favorite Wacky Packages in a new format that's made a hit with kids in 2020. In The Endcap, Chris and Richard talk about the implications of of the postponement of Spielwarenmesse in Nuremberg and the ongoing topic of how to manage marketing and sales in Covid world. The Playground Podcast is sponsored by Global Toy Experts, KidStuff Public Relations, and The Toy Guy.
34:27
October 6, 2020
Richard North CEO of Wow Stuff" Innovation, Licensing and Thriving in the Pandemic World
Richard and Chris catch up with the busy Richard North, one of the founders of Wow Stuff from his car on a busy London street and they talk about the growth of the company, the challenges and opportunities of working in the world of Covid...and the innovative product launching in October that's set to help the company make it through these challenging times. From a strategy that leverages hot properties to outrageously creative product, and a company that's pulling together, you'll be entertained and inspired by this conversation and Richard. The Playground Podcast is sponsored by Global Toy Experts, KidStuff Public Relations, and The Toy Guy. 
44:18
September 28, 2020
Alex Tongue: CEO of Vango Toys. Entrepreneurship, Innovation & the Power of Social Media
Join Richard and Chris as we continue our series on Upstarts and Innovators with a conversation with Alex Tongue, CEO and founder of Vango Toys. Hear how this 27-year-old entrepreneur took the tremendous risk to start a new toy company even in a pandemic and the success of his first product, The Upside Down Challenge. Richard, Chris and Alex talk about the power of social media, how it's upending promotion and driving sale, its  use and how to judge its effectiveness. Alex represents a new generation of toymaker, and we're excited to bring you his story and insights. In The Endcap, Richard and Chris discuss the current political state of Tik Tok and WeChat. It's a fluid situation with many implications for the toy business, and toy marketing. The Playground Podcast is supported by Global Toy Experts, KidStuff Public Relations, and The Toy Guy. 
35:26
September 21, 2020
Chris Down, CDO Mattel on the Strategies of a Design-Led Company & More
Join Richard and Chris in an engaging and lively conversation with Mattel's Chief Design Officer, Chris Down as they discuss Mattel's evolution into an increasingly design-led company, strategies and practices for dealing with Coronavirus and a look at the future of content. Down's experience and passion are evident in this segment, and you'll want to listen in. In the Endcap, Chris and Richard talk about the many variables shaping the toy business in Q4, including the "Bah-Humbug Factor."  Find out what that is. The Playground Podcast is sponsored by Global Toy Experts, KidStuff Public Relations, and The Toy Guy. 
47:03
September 14, 2020
Ken Lewis: An Industry Veteran Talks about the Past, Present and Future of the Toy Industry
Richard and Chris talk to industry veteran Ken Lewis, CEO of 4Kidz, Inc. Ken is a second-generation toy executive who literally grew up in the business and shares his insights about how the business has changed, what the present situation represents, and how he's looking ahead. Get an inside look at a career characterized by innovation, market-responsiveness and a keen understanding of what makes good play.  In the Endcap, Chris and Richard talk about what it means that New York Toy Fair has been postponed and what the implications are for the industry both historically and in responding to the current situations.  The Playground Podcast is supported by Global Toy Experts, The Toy Guy, and Kidstuff Public Relations.
35:13
September 8, 2020
Jo Hall, CCO, Toys "R" Us Asia: An Inside Look at a Merchandising Powerhouse
Join Richard and Chris as they talk with Jo Hall, Chief Commercial Officer for Toys "R" Us Asia. Jo, a highly respected industry veteran, shares her insights on what's made TRU Asia such a success over so many years, their rapid response to the pandemic and perspectives on the international toy business. Hall, is dynamic and passionate personality whose love of the business is matched only by her strategic thinking, team building, and drive to serve kids and families. You won't want to miss this lively conversation.  In an extended Endcap, Chris & Richard discuss an incendiary article about the new TRU Kids and Amazon deal in U.S. from Forbes, Richard's response in Global Toy News, changing business environments that make make this worth the risk, and the dangers of the current move towards  "clickbait reporting."  The Playground is sponsored by Global Toy Experts, The Toy Guy, and KidStuff Public Relations. 
39:19
August 31, 2020
Mastermind Toys New CEO Sarah Jordan: On Leadership, Innovation, Service and Excellence
Richard and Chris speak with Sarah Jordan, the new CEO of Canada's Mastermind Toys. Taking the reins in January of 2020, Jordan has had to deal with a pandemic, as well as keeping the nearly 40-year-old iconic chain vital and vibrant in this time. Jordan talks about her customer-facing strategies, emphasis on employees and how their mantra, "Play is kids work," inspired by Maria Montessori, has allowed them to be more than competitive; it's empowered them to grow and continue to excel in the current marketplace.  Jordan's enthusiasm and vision is inspiring, and if you'd like the inside story on how Mastermind continues to find the best toys,  maintain its loyal customer base, and continue expanding, you'll want to listen in. In The Endcap, Chris and Richard talk about how remote work may be been a lifesaver in this time, but its long-term prospects may not be as often promoted. The Playground is sponsored by Global Toy Experts, The Toy Guy, and KidStuff Public Relations.
40:49
August 24, 2020
Ronnie Frankowski, CMO Moose Toys: Innovation, Insight and Coping with Covid from Down Under
Join Richard & Chris for a light hearted, but substantive conversation with Ronnie Frankowski, CMO of Moose Toys. Hear how the company has managed growth and expansion while maintaining its creative culture. From current promotional successes to leveraging toys as IP and entertainment, you'll want to hear Frankowski's take on where they've been, where they're going...and a positive outlook on the back half of the year. The Playground Podcast is supported by Global Toy Experts, The Toy Guy, and KidStuff Public Relations. 
37:35
August 17, 2020
Dr. Lisa Willams: The Fresh (Dolls) Interview & her Incredible Journey from Academia to Walmart
Chris and Richard speak with Dr. Lisa Williams PhD, founder of Fresh Dolls. Here the amazing story of this trailblazing professor, researcher and passionate toy designer on how she created her successful line of African American and multi-cultural dolls. Dr. Williams is insightful and inspiring as she talks about the need for authentic ethnic dolls, the opportunity for toymakers, and the importance of understanding diversity as an integral element of success in today's culture and marketplace. Listen in, and we're sure you'll be as delighted as we were. In The Endcap, Richard and Chris talk about Q2 numbers for Hasbro and Mattel, conditions that will influence the second half and Disney's release of Mulan direct to streaming.  The Playground Podcast is brought to you by Global Toy Experts, The Toy Guy, and KidStuff Public Relations. 
40:41
August 10, 2020
ASTRA Goes Virtual: The Association Deals with COVID-19
(33 minutes) Chris and Richard talk with Kimberly Mosely, president of ASTRA and board member, owner of Angelina's Toys Shop and education consultant Betty Burns about the state of the specialty toy business, and ASTRA Camp, the virtual show and educational program.  They talk about what makes ASTRA unique in the industry as well as their innovative approach to community building the specialty sector at this time. Find out more at astracamp.org. In The Endcap, Richard and Chris have a lighthearted chat about how toy folks really do live in the future... and how we're all eager to get there right about now. The Playground Podcast is brought to you by Global Toy Experts, The Toy Guy, and KidStuff Public Relations.
33:23
July 31, 2020
Anatomy of a Mega-Hit: The Story of Zuru's Rainbocorns
(32 minutes) In this special episode, Chris interviews senior executives at Zuru about how the international hit Rainbocorns evolved from a crazy idea to a sensation in more than 100 countries, with sales that grew nearly 240 percent in just under a year. Chris talks with the executives about how they developed the product, marketed it, and in less than two years on the market (after an August 2018 introduction), have introduced three series, hot spin offs and embarked on an international licensing program. Listen in to hear how they did it. This is a classic toy industry tale of how a nimble, well-structured, forward thinking company seized an opportunity and ran with it.  But it's more than a "tale as old as toys," it's also the story of how a company has leveraged its very contemporary capabilities and insights to launch and sustain a hot property. The Playground Podcast is sponsored by Global Toy Experts, The Toy Guy, and KidStuff Public Relations. 
32:35
July 27, 2020
From Kitchen Table to Hit Product: The Eggmazing Story, A Classic Toy Tale
(32 minutes) Chris talks with the inventors of the  hit product, The Eggmazing Egg Decorator. It's an amazing, funny story of a classic toy biz success: how an idea at a kitchen table turned into a million-dollar idea. The first in our Upstarts and Innovators series, Chris talks with entrepreneurs Curtis McGill and Scott Houdashell about how they came up with the idea, how they went for it, and what happened when they went on Shark Tank and teamed up with Shark/Investor Lori Grenier.  The story of their company Hey Buddy Hey Pal, is a classic toy industry tale, full of trial-and-error, how to deal with a shipment of 10,000 units, and how a lucky (and unplanned) event catapulted them to huge popularity. You'll enjoy hearing how they went from two guys who were making it up as they went along, made this a huge hit, along with very cool line extensions that have made it a year-round hit and their ongoing work at giving back. In The Endcap, Chris provides some historic perspective on challenges facing the toy industry, and while it won't change the current Coronavirus crisis, perhaps there's some comfort in the fact that the toy industry just keeps bouncing back...and it will again. Richard is on vacation during this episode, and he'll be back next time. The Playground Podcast is brought to you by Global Toy Experts, The Toy Guy, and KidStuff Public Relations.
31:46
July 20, 2020
Playing with PlayMonster: A Conversation with Bob Wann & Tim Kilpin
Richard & Chris talk with Bob Wann, chief Play Monster for PlayMonster, and the new company president, Tim Kilpin. In this lively conversation, they discuss PlayMonster's newest product entry, Snap Ships and the decision to create and launch a dynamic, innovative property in the current market.  In addition, the conversation covers marketing in today's market, acquisition strategy, and what makes a successful acquisition. And much more. Tune in as these industry veterans share their experience and insights. In The Endcap, Chris & Richard toss around some ideas about how movie licensing may be altered in the changing environment, and the challenges moving forward. The Playground Podcast is sponsored by Global Toy Experts, The Toy Guy, and Kidstuff Public Relations.
35:56
July 13, 2020
Diversity & Inclusion: Understanding The Need and Implementing Programs
Chris & Richard have an important conversation with Eric Pliner, CEO of YSC, an international leadership consulting firm. In the conversation, Eric discusses what constitutes effective inclusion, how to integrate diversity in the fabric and values of a company, and the ways in which these programs can significantly enhance a company's performance and profitability.  Eric goes beyond the so called "performative" actions many companies are engaging in today and shows how effective, sensitive and skillful authenticity are both the "right thing to do" and competitive advantages in contemporary business. You will not want to miss this rich, thoughtful and wide-ranging conversation. In The Endcap, Richard and Chris discuss the changes in the movie business, what it means for licensing and companies like Disney. The Playground is sponsored by Global Toy Experts, The Toy Guy, and KidStuff Public Relations.
43:48
July 3, 2020
Catching Up with WIT: Janice Ross & Mary Kay Russell
(31 minutes) We sit down with Janice Ross, president of Women in Toys (WIT) and executive director Mary Kay Russell for an insightful conversation about that organization, how it is actively developing and supporting women in the toy industry, and a variety of programs that are having worldwide importance in the age of Coronavirus.  Janice and Mary Kay also talk with Chris and Richard about issues of race, diversity, and how the industry can transform to address a changing world. It's an exciting, frank, and heartfelt conversation you won't want to miss. In The Endcap, Richard and Chris discuss the trend of resale and rental in the luxury good business and whether it may have relevance to the dynamic toy biz. The Playground Podcast is sponsored in part by KidStuff Public Relations.
31:30
June 26, 2020
Bryan Stockton, Former CEO of Mattel, on The Past, Present and Future of Toys
Richard and Chris have a lively conversation with Bryan Stockton. The former CEO of Mattel has remained engaged with an industry he loves. Stockton shares his insights on current business topics, what's working and where he sees the business is going. The hosts also catch up with Bryan's current life as a professional photographer and musician. You won't want to miss Bryan's insights based on a long career in senior management at Kraft and other companies that have made him a particularly thoughtful and insightful executive who understands both the challenges of management and the creative mandate to delight children. In The Endcap, the hosts talk about the future of trade shows, and what may be ahead. The Playground Podcast is sponsored in part by KidStuff Public Relations. 
31:08
June 19, 2020
Current Issues in the Dynamic Toy Industry: A Conversation with James Zahn
(44 minutes) Richard and Chris talk to James Zahn, The Rock Father about issues in the toy industry, including Q4 outlooks, how to look at various statistics and what may be ahead. In the second part of the conversation, James,  Richard and Chris look into the recent confusion about LEGO's actions in suspending promotion for toys reflecting law enforcement heroes to respect the current political climate. The three talk about race and diversity in the toy industry and thoughts on how the industry can do better.  The Playground Podcast is sponsored in part by KidStuff Public Relations.
43:54
June 13, 2020
Toy Fair, Licensing and What's Going on with Hong Kong: A Conversation with Jay Foreman, Part 2
(26 minutes) In the second part of their conversation with Jay Foreman, CEO of Basic Fun, Chris and Richard continue the frank conversation about the state of the toy industry, including a lengthy conversation about the viability of toy fairs. Jay is also the Chairman of the Toy Association's Trade Show committee, and he has some valuable information about planning for upcoming events. Then, the conversation turns to the impact of streaming on licensing and consumption patterns and concludes with a clear-eyed assessment of the current situation in Hong Kong as it relates to the toy industry. In The Endcap, Richard and Chris talk about the history of Toy Fair, why it was cancelled during World War II, but not during the pandemic of 1918.  The Playground Podcast is sponsored in part by KidStuff Public Relations.
26:25
June 5, 2020
Coronavirus, Bankruptcies and Challenges in the Toy Industry 2020--A Conversation with Jay Foreman, Part 1
(23 minutes) Chris and Richard welcome back Jay Foreman, CEO of Basic Fun for a frank and insightful conversation about the state of the toy industry, including the impact of Coronavirus on all aspects of sales, the supply chain and retail. Plus, a look ahead at some of the issues that will impact Q4. This is the first of a two-part conversation. You'll want to hear what Jay has to say, as one of the most informed and thoughtful senior executives in the toy industry.  The Playground Podcast is sponsored in part by KidStuff Public Relations.
23:13
June 5, 2020
The Story of Pictionary: A Conversation with Game Inventor Rob Angel
Chris and Richard talk with game inventor Rob Angel about Pictionary, how the phenomenon happened, and the evolution of games. thirty-five years after the launch of the game in a Seattle restaurant, Rob has published a new book, Game Changer that provides the amazing backstory of how this now-iconic game got its start. In a lively conversation, Rob tells many of the stories that should inform and inspire game lovers and would-be game inventors of all types. Order the book from Amazon. Chris and Richard are also professionally connected to the game. During the period when the game was taking off, Richard was working at Western Publishing, and Chris led the team at Pezzano+Company that did the marketing with game industry marketing wizard Linda Pezzano.  In The Endcap, Richard and Chris discuss the current state of the games business and what may be ahead in this dynamic market segment, one that's feeling some pressure right now.  Lead sponsor for The Playground Podcast is Kidstuff Public Relations.
36:03
May 28, 2020
Mattel During COVID-19: A Conversation with Steve Totzke, Mattel CCO
(26 minutes) In this episode, Richard and Chris talk to Steve Totzke, Chief Commercial Officer of Mattel. In this lively conversation, the three discuss Mattel's response to the pandemic, changes in sales processes, the future of manufacturing in Asia, how technology is amplifying the sales process, and much more. Totzke, a Mattel and toy industry veteran, draws on his global experience, and his love of play in talking about these issues. In The Endcap, Chris and Richard talk about the economic impact of COVID-19 on the culture, the toy industry and thoughts about life returning to "normal," whatever that may be. This episode is brought to you by our lead sponsor KidStuff Public Relations.
26:00
May 21, 2020
Music, Play and More--Josh Shriber of Jammin With You
(18 minutes, 30 seconds) Chris and Richard chat with Josh Shriber, musician and creator of Jammin With You, a music school in Boston and New York. Listen in as they talk about the challenges of taking music instruction online during COVID-19, the value of music education as play and much more.  You can find out all about Josh and his innovative, interactive and totally fun approach to music education at  the Jammin With You site.  Plus, Richard and Chris introduce a new feature for The Playground Podcast. It's a new feature called The Endcap where the hosts talk about current issues in the toy industry. In this episode, they talk about a new survey from Global Toy Experts about how the industry is responding to the Coronavirus crisis.  The Playground Podcast is also very proud to welcome our lead sponsor: Kidstuff Public Relations.
18:30
May 15, 2020
Robots, Electronics and Toys--A Conversation with Davin Sufer of WowWee Toys
Richard and Chris talk to Davin Sufer, chief technology officer at WowWee. They talk robotics, designing toys and how even as technologies advance, the complexities and costs of toy manufacturing create new challenges. You'll also hear about the "moon shot" that WowWee created in the robotics category. They didn't hit the moon, but in the process developed technologies that have helped propel hits like Mip Robots and Fingerlings. It's a great story of market-responsiveness, creativity, fun and innovation at its best. 
22:21
May 7, 2020
University Games: Bob Moog on the Company's History and the Future of Games, Retail and Engagement
(23 minutes) Richard and Chris chat remotely with Bob Moog co-founder and CEO of University Games. From the 35-year-history of the company to its role at the forefront of consumer engagement, the conversation highlights the enduring power of play and the new ways that consumers, especially Millennials and Z-ennials are shopping and engaging with media.  Moog and his company have been at the forefront of changing retailing, pioneering online shopping, and with the launch of UGN (University Games Network), the company is talking directly to a new generation of consumers. Hear how University Games has done it...and their vision for the future in a post-Coronavirus world.
23:28
April 28, 2020
Inside the Strong Museum of Play, A Conversation with Head Curator Chris Bensch
Length: 32 minutes Chris and Richard talk with Chris Bensch, head curator,  about the amazing Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, NY. From its history to some of its most famous acquisitions, to the experience of visiting the museum, join us on a a wonderful tale of history and a virtual tour. Plus, find out what highly unusual toy is always the last item on a private tour. After listening, you'll want to book a trip to Rochester...at least once we can all travel again. 
32:38
April 21, 2020
Inside The Learning Journey : From World Book to World Class (24 minutes)
Richard and Chris talk to JB and Debbie Frere of The Learning Journey. Starting as a multi-level marketing company owned by World Book, this husband-and-wife team turned the company into an international player in educational toys. Hear how they did it, where the category is now, and how they're coming through the current challenges with Coronavirus. 
24:13
April 13, 2020
Patents, Trademarks & Protecting Your IP, Part 2 (22 minutes)
Richard and Chris continue their conversation with Joseph Farco about the tools for protecting your IP through patent, trademarks and copyrights. They discuss the importance of international protection, necessary research, and options for the inventor community seeking to protect its work prior to pitching to toy companies. Together, these two parts provide an essential primer for anyone in the toy industry concerned about protecting ideas. You can reach Joseph directly at jafarco@narris-law.com or 917.369.8865
21:38
April 8, 2020
Patents, Trademarks & Protecting Your IP, Part 1 (33 minutes)
Chris and Richard talk with Joseph Farco, patent and IP attorney with Norris-McLaughlin. Join us for a conversation on the importance of protecting IP and an in-depth understanding of how different patents can protect you, as well as copyrights and trademarks. Joseph recently visited Toy Fair in New York and became concerned that toymakers and IP owners are not sufficiently protecting their works. Here's what you need to know.  You can reach Joseph at jfarco@norris-law.com or at 917.369.8865.
33:23
April 8, 2020
Coronavirus Toy Industry Update with Steve Pasierb, CEO of The Toy Association (20 minutes)
Richard and Chris talk with Steve Pasierb about the current impact of the Coronavirus on the toy industry. The conversation includes information on how the Association is supporting its members, news, perspective, and updates and resources for companies in the business as we all try to negotiate the situation. As Pasierb says, "hope is not a strategy," but there are reasons to be hopeful as the business makes its way carefully through the crisis. (20 minutes, 34 seconds)
20:34
April 1, 2020
Current Toy Issues: Coronavirus, Plastics and Predictions
Richard and Chris talk about current topics in the toy industry, including: The impacts of the Coronavirus on the industry, changing retail, sustainability, and the expansion of LEGO in China. What's happening now...and some predictions for what may be down the road. 
31:31
March 30, 2020
Arnie Rubin: A Look Back, A Look at Current Issues & His Secret of Long-Term Success
Chris and Richard talk with Arnie Rubin. Rubin was a co-founder of Imperial Toy Company, and later went on to found Funrise. He's a 2012 inductee into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame, and one of the most loved and respected industry leaders of the latter part of the 20th Century. In this conversation, he shares some of his stories about coming up in the toy business, and the creative and management practices that have helped build is 50-years-plus success.  Arnie, Chris and Richard also have a candid conversation about one of the major product issues facing the industry in 2020, the challenge of private label. Listen in as one of the icons of the industry (We'll say it because Arnie won't.) shares his experience and insights. 
33:55
March 21, 2020
Transmedia Storytelling: What You Need to Know for IP & Licensing
Richard and Chris sit down with Jeff Gomez, CEO of Starlight Runner, and Danny Simon, founder of the Licensing Group, Ltd. Listen in to an insightful conversation about "transmedia storytelling" (utilizing multiple media platforms to develop characters, properties, and narratives and compellingly engage audiences) and how Gomez and Simon are leveraging their expertise in the relaunch of Ultraman, a 50-year-old property generating $50 million annually in Japan and poised for a U.S. re-entry. Find out what makes a viable licensing platform and a great story in this hotly contested and very crowded content arena. Get inside views and tips from two succesful industry veterans. This is a must-hear episode for anyone working with content and licensing. 
30:11
March 3, 2020
Toy Fair New York 2020: Past, Present and Predictions
Richard and Chris share stories about past Toy Fairs, trends that will be affecting the business in the year ahead, and a look at the TOTY awards and much more. Start your Toy Fair adventure here!
29:19
February 20, 2020
A Groundbreaking New Platform for Inventory Management: Alloy.ai's Matt Hansen
Richard and Chris talk with Matt Hansen, client engagement manager for the start-up Alloy.ai. This data-driven platform helps toy companies manage inventory, track sales and forecast demand and supply down to the individual store level. Aggregating all data and putting it in a user-friendly dashboard, Alloy's cloud-based solution is a dynamic resource for everyone in the supply chain. Hear how and why it works and how businesses in our data-driven market can use this productively.
20:42
February 18, 2020
Nuremberg 2020: Wrap-Up Trends and Conversations with Hog Wild and Lottie Dolls at Spielwarenmesse
Chris provides some perspective on the emerging trends at Spielwarenmesse. Plus conversations with Ian Harkin of Lottie Dolls and Josh Loerzel of Hog Wild. They talk about the unique benefits of the Spielwarenmesse and what's ahead for their companies in 2020.
21:41
February 12, 2020
Nuremberg 2020 Day 3: Overall Trends, German Market Insights And How Exhibitors Can Maximize the Show
Richard and Chris discuss the trends emerging at the Spielwarenmesse. A chat with Jerry Kallman provides insight for would-be exhibitors, Lisa Hilbert discusses trends in the German and Austrian markets, and Chris sits down with Jorg Meister, trade editor and CEO of Little Big Things to talk more in depth about the German market and trends. 
27:25
February 2, 2020
Nuremberg 2020 Day 2: The Value of Toy Fairs, One Company's Sustainable Structure, and Timeless Dolls
Chris and Richard talk the present and long-term value of international toy fairs with Ernst Kick, CEO of Spielwarenmesse, sustainability with Alain Derauw of Plan Toy and the challenges and opportunities of launching a high end doll line with Frances Cain, plus more on the world's largest toy fair.
21:59
January 31, 2020
Nuremberg 2020: An Interview with Mark Foster of Playmobil, Strategy, Expansion & More
Live from the Playmobil booth at the Nuremberg 2020 Toy Fair, Richard and Chris sit down with Mark Foster, general manager of the U.S. and U.K. for Playmobil. Mark talks about current strategies, the company's successful expansion into licensing, entertainment and new launches for 2020. It's an engaging conversation about how a nearly 46-year-old brand holds onto its classic roots and expands to meet the demands, consumption and communication patterns of the audience in 2020.
21:09
January 30, 2020
Toy Fair New York: What to Expect, What's New...And What's Ahead
Richard and Chris sit down with Marian Bossard, EVP Global Market Events for the Toy Association to talk all things Toy Fair. From innovative educational programs, assistance for first-time attendees and the evolution and history of the show in response to a dynamic marketplace, this lively discussion gives you special insight into the opportunities and importance of this show on the eve of its 117th edition. 
31:43
January 23, 2020
The Decade in Review-Part 2: The Trends
Richard and Chris finish the first season of The Playground Podcast with a look at the trends that shaped the decade and their implications for the industry as we move into the 20's. From the changes in demography to trends in toys, to ecological developments. Listen in as they approach these issues and more from a variety of perspectives.
27:59
January 13, 2020
The Decade in Review-Part 1: The Toys
Richard and Chris talk about the toys that shaped the decade from Sing-A-Ma-Jigs, to Monster High, to the revolution in play ignited by the iPad, this freewheeling conversation covers some of the hits, and misses, of the past 10 years. 
22:45
January 6, 2020
Year-End Conversation with Steve Pasierb Part Two
In the second part of their conversation with Toy Association President and CEO Steve Pasierb, Chris, Richard, and Steve discuss the ongoing importance of a Los Angeles presence for toy companies, the need for, and benefits of, the Dallas Show, the evolution of New York Toy Fair, and the renewed emphasis on industry education. Plus, a look forward to the 2022 expansion of the Javits Center in New York, and much more. 
20:12
December 27, 2019
Year-End Conversation with Steve Pasierb-Part One
In the first of a two-part conversation, Chris and Richard sit down with President and CEO of the Toy Association, Steve Pasierb. Listen in as they discuss tariffs, counterfeits and the ongoing work of the association to work with Congress and promote the toy industry. 
21:00
December 27, 2019
FAO's David Nigli Talks about The Iconic Store and Brand--The Original Experiential Marketer
Richard and Chris talk with David Nigli about the return of FAO Schwarz and its role as an iconic American brand. From its founding in 1862 to today, FAO has a special place in the hearts of toy lovers worldwide. What makes that success? And while "experiential retail" may be the new buzzword, it's been the essence of FAO for 157 years. Listen in as Chris, Richard and David talk about this beloved toy institution. 
30:01
December 17, 2019
A Conversation with Keith Meggs of Far Out Toys
Richard and Chris talk with Keith Meggs of Far Out Toys about building a company from the ground up, the importance of a solid business model, the process of innovation in the toy business and what it means to be a toy company created in the post-TRU toy business.
38:04
November 25, 2019
Barbie, YouTube, Dallas and More: Current Toy Industry Issues
Listen as Richard and Chris engage in a wide-ranging conversation talking about current issues in the toy industry. They'll discuss the state of Barbie and what's behind her resurgence, marketing, what the changes at YouTube might mean for toy companies, and the changes in the selling process as Los Angeles emerges as a destination for showrooms and buyers. 
36:20
October 30, 2019
The Inside Story: Content, Entertainment, Kids & More. A Conversation With the Head Writer of Paw Patrol--Part 2
Chris and Ursula Ziegler, head writer of Paw Patrol, continue their conversation about bringing the world of Adventure Bay to to life, what makes a powerful story, the need for bad guys and how children relate to entertainment and, hopefully, take it off the screen in the form of toys. Chris is then joined by writer Andy Guerdat, who writes for Paw Patrol as well as Fancy Nancy and other shows, to talk about reaching kids through entertainment.  If you're considering creating content for your products, you'll want to hear what these two, award-winning children's entertainment veterans have to say. 
17:39
October 15, 2019
The Inside Story: Content, Entertainment, Kids & More. A Conversation With the Head Writer of Paw Patrol--Part 1
Chris sits down with Ursula Ziegler, head writer of the smash hit Paw Patrol. Recorded in June, this episode talks about kids' entertainment, creating powerful content, the role of toys in entertainment and much more. Listen in and hear about what makes content that kids return to...and that drives toy sales. As Paw Patrol's seventh season is in development, hear about what makes this a success as well as important things to consider for anyone who wants to create successful kid-directed content. 
26:45
October 15, 2019
Staying Safe, Avoiding Counterfeits and More for Q4: A Conversation with the Toy Association
Richard and Chris chat with Adrienne Aappell and Rebecca Mond of the Toy Association. They talk about battling aggressive NGO's and their "dangerous toy" lists, the consumer safety site Play Safe (www.playsafe.org), a new white paper on avoiding online knock-offs The Real Threat of Fake Toys, and a bit of fun coming up in the holiday season. 
25:33
October 2, 2019
A Conversation with Charles Albert, CEO Creativity, Inc.
Join Richard and Chris as they talk with Charles Albert of Creativity, Inc. In an expansive discussion, Charlie shares his thoughts on dealing with the dynamic toy industry particularly with regard to the role of his company as a bridge between the digital and the analog worlds of toys. He shares insights on innovation and success stories about adding sounds and technology including what's worked in the past and how to be prepared for the future. 
23:55
September 24, 2019
Tariffs, China & The Dynamics of an Uncertain Market: A Conversation with Jay Foreman CEO of Basic Fun
Chris and Richard sit down with Jay Foreman, industry veteran and CEO of Basic Fun. With more than 30 years of working with China, Jay has a unique perspective on the current trade situation. Listen as he shares his unfiltered, unabashed opinions and insights into the reality of what's going on and its implications for the toy business and the economy.  Jay's bold point of view needs to be heard by everyone not just in the toy industry but who is doing business in China. Jay shares his clear-eyed assessment and straightforward approach to the realities of an industry facing uncertainty and turmoil. 
32:51
September 12, 2019
Industry Check-In: Tariffs, Hong Kong, Entertainment & More
Richard and Chris discuss the current, dynamic state of tariffs, implications of the situation in Hong Kong and entertainment. Is Hasbro's purchase of Entertainment One, besides being a strong, strategic move for Hasbro, a game changer for the the industry? Listen in as they discuss these issues. 
17:36
September 6, 2019
Innovation, Creativity and Transforming Businesses with Jamie Gallagher
Chris and Richard talk with Jamie Gallagher, CEO of Faber-Castell about the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment and how the Four C's (communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity) can provide a new path forward for toy companies, and many others, in the current economy. Jamie, Richard and Chris discuss the transformative power of creativity at all levels of business. This is the first in our series on innovation. Join us as we discuss creative learning, what quality means and much more. This one's a little longer than our usual episodes, but we hope it will get you thinking about what creativity means and its practical application in any business. 
41:33
August 20, 2019
Live From Sweet Suite, Part 2: More Conversations from the Floor
Richard and Chris talk to Lisa Orman, founder of KidStuff Public Relations about new products and trends in marketing and PR. Then they chat with Jerome Dureau of Namco Bandai about a breakthrough, new learning and creativity software package called Tori that adds collaboration and family engagement to dynamic play. 
14:57
August 5, 2019
Live From Sweet Suite: Conversations with Industry Leaders
Listen in as Chris and Richard go live to the Sweet Suite event and talk to James Zahn, The Rock Father; Ashley Maddy of Basic Fun and Women in Toys; Lisa Wuuenneman from Play Monster, Ryan Birkhardt from Pacific Cycle and Erika Merklinger from Crayola. Find out what's new and hot, and how these executives are responding to trends and the changing toy industry. 
30:42
July 31, 2019
The Changing Entertainment Landscape & What It Means for the Toy Biz
Join us for a conversation about the changing world of movies and children's entertainment and what it might mean for the toy industry. How has streaming changed the game? And what about kids as their own programmers? What new challenges and opportunities does that present to toy manufacturers and everyone in the business. 
24:05
July 18, 2019
Toys "R" Us and the Future of Toy Retailing
Richard and Chris discuss the current state of toy retailing. Is there a need for a national chain? How has the current market changed for manufacturers, consumers, and kids? And what about the planned relaunch of the Toys "R" Us brand? Is it viable? How can it compete in this dynamic market. The hosts explore these ideas and more. 
26:04
July 8, 2019
Living in "What Is" vs. "What If": A Chat with Lenore Skenazy of Let Grow
Chris talks with Lenore Skenazy, founder of the Free Range Kids movement, author and blogger at Let Grow. It's about giving kids freedom and not worrying and how kids are, and can be, self-reliant and fearless from an early age.
19:54
June 26, 2019
Britain, Brexit & Baulch: A Conversation with John Baulch, Founder and Managing Editor of Toy World
Richard and Chris talk with John Baulch of Toy World about the state of the UK toy market, implications of Bexit, retailing in the UK, the sate of innovation in the toy business and what may be ahead in the dynamic toy market. 
30:07
June 20, 2019
A Conversation with The Hong Kong Trade Development council
Richard and Chris talk tariffs with Ralph Chow, Regional Director, Americas, Hong Kong Trade Development Council. They talk tariffs, the changing face of the toy supply chains and how Hong Kong is continuing its leadership position in the global toy industry. Plus, a special event coming in September, 2019 seeking to foster greater partnerships between U.S. and Hong Kong companies. Join us!
25:31
June 11, 2019
Licensing in 2019: A Conversation with Maura Regan, President Licensing International Part 2
Richard and Chris continue the conversation with Maura Regan, president of Licensing International, talking about the state of the business, the power of character and more on the power of licensing as a profitable business strategy in 2019. Plus, how companies can work with the newly re-branded Licensing International to make the most of their licensing efforts. 
24:57
June 3, 2019
Licensing in 2019: A Conversation with Maura Regan, President Licensing International Part 1
Chris and Richard talk with Maura Regan, president of the newly re-branding Licensing International. Listen as they discuss the state of the licensing business in 2019 and insights into the power of licensing to build and expand brands.  
24:32
June 3, 2019
Tariffs: Implications & Predictions. A Conversation with the Toy Association
With the release of List 4, tariffs of up to  25 percent appear increasingly likely on finished goods, as soon as July. Richard and Chris talk to Ed Desmond and Rebecca Mond about the tariff issue and its implications for the toy industry. We talk about what the Toy Association is doing, the current climate in Washington, and how members of the industry can get involved. 
32:17
May 22, 2019
A Conversation with Tech Expert Robin Raskin - Part 2
Richard and Chris continue their conversation with Robin Raskin from Living in Digital Times. In this episode, they talk about the demise of Anki and its implications for toys and play, STEM in tech, changes in the family dynamics around tech and some best parenting practices around tech and kids. 
24:43
May 15, 2019
A Conversation with Tech Expert Robin Raskin - Part 1
Richard and Chris sit down with family technology expert Robin Raskin, founder and president of Living in Digital Times. They talk about current technology, CES, and the role of tech in family entertainment and, of course, toys. 
21:26
May 15, 2019
Stem Toys Substantive Learning...Or Marketing Tool?
Richard Gottlieb and Chris Byrne talk about the hot issue of STEM and STEAM in toys and play and their role in development. From the foundational to the curricular, they talk about how all play for kids is learning based and what makes a good STEM/STEAM toys.
21:24
May 8, 2019
Talking About the China Toy Market (and more) From the Guangzhou Toy & Edu Fair
Richard and Chris talk about developments in the domestic Chinese toy market, implications for the broader international toy business, and, of course, some fun stuff. Recorded on the floor of the show in Guangzhou, China. 
20:54
May 1, 2019
Toy Fair & 2019 Trends, Continued
Richard and Chris continue the conversation about Toy Fair and product trends, with a (very) brief conversation about the evolution of the New York Toy Fair. 
20:21
April 26, 2019
2019 Trends & Toy Fair Wrap-Up
Richard and Chris talk about news coming out of the Toy Fairs as the toy year heats up. Plus, a conversation about some of the trends that will be shaping the business in 2019. 
31:30
April 22, 2019
Introduction to The Playground! Come play with us!
Richard Gottlieb and Chris Byrne introduce The Playground Podcast, and you're invited to join us!
07:42
April 22, 2019