TOY FAIR DAILY: Hit unveils Thomas 65th anniversary plans - ToyNews

TOY FAIR DAILY: Hit unveils Thomas 65th anniversary plans

New partners, new products, new content and new events for the pre-school brand.
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Fisher-Price, the new global master toy partner for the brand, has revealed its Take–n–Play line of portable play-sets in the US, UK, EMEA and Latin America along with an array of pre-school items, including puzzles, games, bath toys, plush, push 'n go and pullback vehicles and talking pre-school vehicles.

Fisher-Price will also launch new TrackMaster sets in the US and South America, while in the UK and EMEA Tomy will continue with new TrackMaster products and pre-school items until Fisher-Price takes over the TrackMaster brand in autumn.

In Asia, the firm will launch Take-n-Play across all territories and will take over the TrackMaster rights from Funtastic (Australia/NZ) as of autumn.

In Japan, consumer products will mark the anniversary with the debut of the first local character – Japanese engine Hiro. New toys for this market will come from TakaraTomy, Pilot, TakaraTomy Arts and apparel from World Inc.

Long term partner, Learning Curve (formerly RC2), will continue to manufacture and market the Thomas Wooden Railway and will launch a new Early Engineers line, designed specifically for children as young as 18months-old.

Additional new partners for 2010 include global licensor Mega Brands which will launch a line of construction toys; Flair and Sambro will introduce new ranges of Thomas arts and xrafts products for spring 2010 in the UK and Upper Deck (US) will introduce new Thomas & Friends trading cards.

In the UK, five new characters join the Thomas Story Library in May, taking the collection to 65 books in the 65th year. All titles are published by Egmont for the international markets.

Other consumer product licensees are also on board for the anniversary celebrations including stationery, publishing, apparel and more.

Kicking off the anniversary year, Thomas & Friends has premiered a new series on Five in the UK, Treehouse TV in Canada, TV Tokyo in Japan and in Q4 in the US.

Now produced in full CG animation, Thomas and his engine friends now speak in their own voices for the first time. New characters to join the adventures on the Island of Sodor include Japanese engine Hiro, Victor and Kevin from the Sodor Steamworks, and Charlie, a new steam engine.

Several new Thomas DVD titles will be released in 2010 and in Los Angeles, work has commenced on a theatrical feature for the property. Scriptwriter Josh Klausner (Shrek the Third) is signed on to develop the script.

Day Out With Thomas live events will mark the 65th anniversary with special celebratory events. In the UK, seven heritage railways will stage themed parties, while in the US and Canada a Celebration Tour will visit heritage railroads in more than 45 cities.

In the US, Six Flags America will open the 5th and largest Thomas Town on Memorial Day weekend 2010. Featuring ten rides, the new Thomas Town is more than double the size of any existing Thomas Town. Special parties will be staged at all Six Flags locations on 6/5 (5th June) to celebrate the anniversary.

And in the UK, Drayton Manor Park, home of Europe’s Thomas Land, will round off the year with the ultimate 65th anniversary event on December 4th. Similar celebrations are planned in Thomas Land Japan.

2010 also sees the launch of the second Thomas theatrical tour entitled “A Circus Comes to Town”.

The brand’s main website, www.thomasandfriends.com, is getting a CGI makeover timed to the 65th anniversary with new navigation, functionality and content.

In the UK, US, Australia and Canada completely redesigned home pages have launched featuring an all-new Engine Depot, a 65th anniversary section, and more than 60 new activities.

All major markets will follow suit in 2010. Localised versions of the website also exist in a number of countries, including China, Japan and Korea. In the UK, a 65th anniversary landing page has been created, providing a hub for fans to access all the events and activities slated for 2010.

To support the activities in the UK, a special guide The Little Blue Book has been distributed through retailers, VUE cinemas, Thomas DVD cases and nurseries, providing a complete overview of activities taking place throughout the celebratory year.

A further highlight is a Thomas themed month in March at Hamleys, featuring an interactive branded window display, alongside activities such as an attempt to make the longest Thomas train out of cake (on Sunday 7th March).

Rick Glankler, SVP of global brand management at Hit Entertainment said: “This global celebration is unprecedented in the brand’s 65 year history and befitting a character so loved around the world.

"Everyone’s favourite number one engine is paired with a wide array of top-tier partners, all united in their support and excitement for this powerhouse brand. 2010 is going to be an exciting year for Thomas on his journey to another 65 years of great destinations.”

Peter Byrne, EVP consumer products international at Hit added: “Thomas’ 65th Anniversary really represents a unique sales opportunity for all of our partners around the world.

"There is incredible momentum building across product, marketing and promotions, which is guaranteed to drive the Thomas brand to whole new level.

"Activity throughout 2010 really cements Thomas & Friends’ status as the undisputed number one global pre-school brand."

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