Dolled up and looking plush: ToyNews’ guide to the latest in the dolls and plush markets

Both staples of the traditional toy sector, the doll and plush markets have seen a year of strong sales and investment among gift-givers, parents, and families looking for long play value and toys that encourage empathy and social development – in a year of social distancing – through nurture and role-play.

Here, ToyNews rounds up some of the latest products and companies to be pushing the envelope of innovation in both the dolls and plush markets.

MGA Entertainment – Rainbow High | Na! Na! Na! Surprise | Secret Crush

0800 521 558 | www.mgae.com

MGA Entertainment has seen widespread success in 2020 with its continued strength within the UK dolls market, despite the ongoing difficulties faced industry-wide. Following the launch of its new brands Rainbow High and Secret Crush, alongside expanded collections from Na! Na! Na! Surprise, the toy giant now has its eyes firmly set on what’s to come in 2021.

Rainbow High

Rainbow High has experienced huge success following its launch in Autumn 2020. The range was named the fifth fastest-selling fashion doll shortly after launch in late August.

Featuring a series of six colour themed fashion dolls; Poppy Rowan, Jade Hunter, Sunny Madison, Ruby Anderson, Violet Willow, and Skylar Bradshaw, Rainbow High allows fans to collect the rainbow and join the colourful creative arts school where everyone learns to flaunt their true colours.  

The brand is set to launch the Cheer Dolls range next month. Each Rainbow High Fashion Cheer Doll has a sporty cheerleading outfit, new make up and hairstyles, hair accessories and a hairbrush. Product launches alongside its bolstered animated content slate on the Rainbow High Instagram and YouTube channels.

Na! Na! Na! Surprise

Na! Na! Na! Surprise, the brand which ranked as the number one new doll and number one new fashion doll in both August and September (NPD data) has now launched series four of the popular collectable, alongside two play-sets.

Series Four introduces three new characters, who fans can pop for an exciting confetti burst surprise, revealing a wearable clip-on and animal themed plush pom. The pom is then unzipped to reveal a soft articulated fashion doll with a surprise outfit and scented shoes. 

Also launched is the fast-selling 3-in-1 Bedroom Backpack Play-set. The play-set is a soft, stylish backpack, that comes with a special edition doll and is a complete bedroom play-set that opens up to reveal a wardrobe, fold-out bed, real mirror and pillows. 

Meanwhile, expanding the unboxing experience, is the new rainbow-themed play-set which includes a giant confetti pom and an exclusive, taller Na! Na! Na! Surprise fashion doll, with all her accessories and outfits hidden in smaller balloon poms ready to be popped. 

Secret Crush

Secret Crush launched to market in autumn 2020 featuring both large and mini dolls and offering a unique unboxing experience for children, who can use the candy-themed hammer to break through the heart-shaped crushable layer before revealing the secret surprises within. 

Kids can unwrap each surprise to build a mini doll and collectable beads that can be used to create DIY jewellery. With 10 mini dolls to collect, fans can mix and match to make loads of sweet combinations.  

There are currently two sweet-themed Secret Crush Large dolls to collect, each with their own mini best friend and beads, with surprises hidden in secret compartments for children to discover. The packaging doubles as storage and the expansive mix and match capability means that children can crush, collect, swap and make with Secret Crush.

Vivid – Love Diana

01483 449944 | https://vividtoysandgames.co.uk

Vivid’s talent for picking out hot new brands in the YouTube space is enhanced with the launch of the Love, Diana range for 2021. The star of YouTube’s Kids Diana Show is the top creator in the world with over 4.8 billion views a month globally and her popularity continues to rise.

The Love, Diana launch range will focus on four key categories: collectables, dress up, cosmetics and dolls. The fashion dolls line will see launches at various scales become part of the range as well as classic play patterns such as swapping outfits, hair play, accessories, and play-sets. The full range will be available from January 2021.

As Love Diana’s popularity grows, AW21 will see the Diana fashion dolls given a Series Two refresh; the range will include all-new outfits and accessories across six-inch and 13-inch varieties. New lines introduced will expand into 2-in-1 fashion accessory play-sets where an accessory can be opened to unveil additional play value inside for double the fun. 

Mattel – Barbie | Polly Pocket | Cave Club | Spirit

01628 500000 | www.mattel.com

Mattel presents an impressive range of dolls in 2021 from its portfolio of world class brands including Barbie, Polly Pocket, Cave Club and new to the portfolio Spirit.

Barbie’s momentum will continue into 2021 with its mission to show girls “You Can Be Anything” along with its new product range kicking off with diverse editions to the Barbie Fashionistas collection. New launches will include a wide variety of skin tones, eye colours, hair colours and textures, body types and fashions. 

Barbie adds some unboxing fun with the Color Reveal Series and Barbie Extra dolls, each with their own unique style that’s playful and over the top. Inspired by the new Barbie content special is the Barbie & Chelsea Story set and Chelsea Jungle River Play-set.

Mattel’s dolls portfolio continues to expand as Polly Pocket adds the Koala Purse to the Large Wearable Compact Assortment, while new animal themed compacts join the Pocket World Assortment. Finally, Cave Club has exciting new characters: Bashley and Rockelle and new to the Mattel’s portfolio is Spirit, an exciting range covering horses, dolls, collectibles and play-sets all inspired by the Dreamworks animated film, Spirit Untamed.

Zapf Creation – Baby Born | Baby Annabell

01424 444117 | www.zapf-creation.com

Zapf Creation continues to lead the nurturing dolls market with its best-selling and award-winning Baby Annabell, Baby Born and Baby Born Surprise brands.

Despite the difficulties of 2020, Zapf Creation UK has launched new dolls and themes across its Baby Born and Baby Annabell brands, introduced a new series to its collectable Baby Born Surprise brand, and launched two new transactional websites.

Now, with 2021 on the horizon, the year ahead promises to be a big one for the firm as Baby Born turns 30, Baby Annabell introduces new dolls and themes, and Baby Born Surprise launches a raft of new play-sets, large dolls and more collectables.

With the increased demand for traditional toys this year, the Zapf brands are in a very good position to appease market demand. Baby Annabell remains the number one nurturing doll in the market, while Baby Born holds the number two position. The firm is now geared for the new year with new launches and 30th birthday celebrations. Zapf promises to continue supporting parents through providing toys that offer development, build skills, and enhance imaginations.

Moose Toys – FailFix

0800 389 8591 | www.moosetoys.com

Inspired by popular online beauty fails, FailFix allows kids to takeover the makeover and create head-to-toe transformations. FailFix dolls arrive with hair and makeup fails, and with a new outfit, face and hair tools, kids transform their dolls from epic fail to epic fix. There are five FailFix dolls to collect in the range.

FailFix is the first doll collection to brings to life the viral trend of beauty fails and fixes, letting kids save the day by fixing the doll’s make up, hair and outfit. To launch a first-of-its-kind toy, Moose is running national media, created original digital content in partnership with Nickelodeon, and launched a robust influencer campaign including a Tik Tok, YouTube and Instagram.

The line launches with five dolls and expands in 2021. From style, skin tone and body type, to hair and makeup, diversity is celebrated, allowing kids to find a doll that looks or dresses like them.

Plush Toys

Flair – Trudi

0208 643 0320 | sales@flairplc.co.uk

Flair has the plush category covered with its comprehensive range of soft, high quality Trudi plush pals. Renowned for its quality soft toys with refined designs, Trudi recreates the animals of the world in the finest of plush. 

Having officially launched the full Trudi portfolio in the final quarter, this collection of premium soft toys introduces freshness to the UK plush market. Flair’s extensive Trudi offering is ideal for all ages, from children in their infant years and up. Plus, thanks to the diverse range of products, from plush playmates to precious puppets, as well as collectable charms, there is a Trudi soft toy to suit all budgets. 

Meanwhile, Fluffies are the super cute characters with longer plush. The extra-long fur enhances their full bodies and tender baby face impressions. 

Now available from Flair, the Trudi portfolio benefits from PR support, including online reviews, social media, and celebrity gifting.

Simba Smoby Toys UK – Disney Plush

01620 74 778 | sales@sisotoysuk.com

 Having launched in 2020, Simba’s Disney Plush collection includes a host of Disney properties including Frozen II, Toy Story, Disney Princesses, Dumbo, Lion King, Classics, Minnie and Mickey and more. Sizes include 25 and 35cm animal core classics together with other such favourites as The Child, who arrived this autumn, direct from Star Wars: The Mandalorian. 

Just in time for the Christmas gifting period is the 50cm Extra Large Dumbo Plush, an irresistibly soft toy that is suitable for the youngsters.

In 2021, Simba Smoby Toys UK will continue to grow its Disney plush offering. Launching for SS21, the super-soft range of 20cm Classic Beanies includes a series of six fan-favourite characters to collect, each fashioned in their classic Disney style. With the upcoming release of the new Cruella movie, the Dalmatian is sure to be a hit, as too will Dumbo. Be sure to also keep your eye out for an assortment of four 25cm plush pups from 101 Dalmatians. 

Disney plush remains a top priority for the firm and each collection benefits from its own focused PR and marketing activity.

Basic Fun! – Care Bears

0118 925 3270 | Tim.Ives@basicfun.com

Having re-introduced the iconic Care Bears brand in AW20 following the hit TV show Care Bears: Unlock the Magic (airing on Tiny Pop), the range was met with a fantastic response. Basic Fun’s 14-inch hero plush range now arrives for SS21 as each Care Bear comes with a collectable coin. Meanwhile, the nine-inch super-soft Care Bears Bean Plush will also feature a refresh. 

Basic Fun will also be plating up an extended Cuteitos menu over the coming months. Kids will want a slice of the action with Series Five Wave Two Pizzaitos. Kids can collect eight new animalitos in adorable prints and fun new pizza wraps. Plus, keep an eye out for a multitude of other new series including Cuteitos Taste Budditos, which come in all-new packages inspired by food pairings. 

Another brand benefitting from Basic Fun’s comprehensive PR and marketing support this year is Pound Puppies. This collection has been further enhanced with a tie in with Dogs Trust; every UK purchase results in a donation to the leading dog welfare charity. The message “a dog is for life and not just for Christmas” can be seen across all media messaging.

Character Options – Peppa Pig

0161 633 9800 | sales@charactergroup.plc.uk

Shaking up the plush and pre-school categories for SS21 is a range of Peppa Pig soft toys made entirely from 100 per cent recycled materials and designed using plant-based printing inks. 

This environmentally friendly launch will see Character Options break into a new category for 2021. Having already witnessed first-hand the demand for eco-friendly ranges, with this year’s launch of Peppa’s World of Wooden Toys, the arrival of this new collection couldn’t be more appropriately timed. More parents and gift buyers than ever are scouting the shelves, both in-store and online, for high quality, planet-friendly purchases that their kids will cherish. 

With two lines set to launch initially, the soft toys have been carefully fashioned for young Peppa fans, while staying true to the classic Peppa styling that children know and love. First up, the eight-inch Red Dress Peppa, which is supplied in its own individual platform box. Peppa’s dress features an adorable green leaf mark to indicate that she’s an eco-friendly toy option.

Meanwhile the packaging is carefully designed to highlight that the toy is manufactured from 100 per cent recycled materials. There’s also the six-inch collectable plush, which is available in a CDU assortment of Peppa and George. Again, the toys feature the green leaf emblem, and the CDU and tags make these plush characters easily identifiable as an environmentally friendly option. 

Posh Paws – Minions | Jurassic World | Sesame Street | Swizzels | Sunny Bunnies

01268 567 317 | sales@poshpawsinternational.co.uk

When Minions madness is set to takeover UK cinemas in July 2021 with Minions 2: Rise of Gru, Posh Paws will be on hand with a brand new range of Minions soft toys. The range will feature Bob, Kevin and the new Minion on the block Otto in a variety of sizes from the six-inch assorted characters in a CDU, to 10-inch and large 18-inch characters.

The Jurassic World franchise remains one of the most popular franchises and with Universal’s new hit show, Camp Cretaceous that is already top-rated on Netflix, Posh Paws will be launching a new soft toy range focussed on the T-Rex and fan-favourite, Blue the Velociraptor. Both will be available in a six-inch assorted CDU, 10-inch and large 18-inch sizes.

Having been announced as the new plush partner for the ever popular Sesame Street, Posh Paws will launch with a range of basic plush toys in a variety of sizes and interactive learning plush toys such consumer favourites ‘Tickle Me’ Elmo where children can hear Elmo giggle and laugh as he wiggles about. 

Expanding its partnership with the Swizzels license, Posh Paws will be introducing a range of scented Rainbow Drops soft toys. The new toy and gifting range will consist of six scented characters, each with their own personalities, flavoured scent and produced using on-trend squidgy/stretchy fabrics. Available in small and larger sizes, fans can pick up, cuddle and smell the deliciously adorable Susy Strawberry, Ollie Orange, Bobby Blueberry and others. 

Finally, with its Sunny Bunnies feature plush proving popular with young children and seeing strong sales from their pre-Christmas digital marketing campaigns across Social Media platforms and influencer partnerships, Posh Paws will be adding to its range of feature plush toys in 2021.

Vivid – Animagic

01483 449944 | https://vividtoysandgames.co.uk

Following the sell-out success in 2020, with stand-out pets including Waggles, the wigglin’ sausage dog and Rainbow the Glowing Unicorn, Animagic will receive a brand refresh for AW21. Animagic will receive a new logo, bolder packaging and introductions of new interactive furry friends for children to discover.

For A/W ’21, meet Heart Warmers, a range of two cuddly plush families designed to warm your heart.  Cuties RRP £9.99 and Cuddles RRP £19.99 are plush animals with a heart-shaped tummy that when clicked begins a captivating colour-change process as the plush warms up. Cuties are available with four options to choose from: Dog, Cat, Rabbit and Bird. 

Inspired by the Animal Kingdom, meet Tiki & Toko; a Gorilla duo with over 100 different sound and movement sequences to discover and they can be played with both together and separately. Touch Tiki’s head, she will make happy sounds and start a two-way conversation with baby Toko. If Toko is taken away; Tiki will look high and low and when reunited.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of ToyNews and its sister title, Licensing.biz. He has worked his way from Staff Writer to Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@biz-media.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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