Along with Lalaloopsy, MGA Entertainment also has proven, successful toy brands such as Little Tikes and Bratz, and it continues to develop new ideas such as the Mooshka line of dolls. The company plans to introduce many new concepts to the market in 2014, and with its new focus on its entertainment division, it expects to continue to make gains with retailers over the next several years.
Morrison recently joined MGA Entertainment after spending 20 years as a licensing executive at Disney, and he says he was impressed immediately with the talent MGA Entertainment has in-house. “The amount of creativity that’s here, for a company our size, is incredible,” he says.
That creativity is being leveraged through the company’s new entertainment division, which Morrison says will be a large part of the company’s strategies moving forward. “I think Lalaloopsy is a great example of something where it’s a great toy line, and it’s inspired a great animated kids’ series on [Nickelodeon],” he says. “Animation’s going to be so important to anything we do.”
Animated TV series won’t be the only outlet for MGA Entertainment to explore, however. Morrison says the company has a digital creative group focused on developing apps for tablets and smartphones that feature characters from the company’s toy lines. Alongside that, the company looks to develop short-form, live-action content based on its fashion doll lines to distribute through non-traditional sources such as YouTube.
“A multi-channel, multimedia approach to delivering content, that’s what you’re going to be seeing from us,” Morrison explains.
With the development of the entertainment side of the business comes a shift in how MGA Entertainment creates and develops brands, Morrison says. The traditional model in the toy industry has been to create the toy line and then find multimedia opportunities after it becomes a hit. Today, thanks to the advent of non-traditional media channels, it’s possible for MGA Entertainment to develop characters or brands first and then merchandize them after they attract an audience.
Morrison says the creativity at MGA Entertainment and the new opportunities afforded by the entertainment department have presented the company with a welcome problem for the near future. “We have 15 to 20 nascent ideas, and our biggest challenge is going to be deciding which ones to commercialize,” he says. “We’re going to have to make some hard decisions on that.”
Lalaloopsy was MGA Entertainment’s biggest success story in 2013, and a major part of the reason why the company experienced growth during a time when the rest of the toy industry remained relatively flat. The rag-doll-inspired fashion dolls have been very popular with girls for a few years now, but the 2012 announcement that the property would begin appearing on Nickelodeon has given it some serious staying power.
The typical lifespan of a toy line is only a few years at best before retailers start looking for the next hot thing to fill shelf space, but the additional interest created by the Lalaloopsy TV show when it debuted in early 2013 helped get the brand over the hump and establish it as a proven winner.
Along with the relatively new Lalaloopsy line, MGA Entertainment also has the long-running Little Tikes brand to thank for its robust sales in recent years. Since purchasing the brand from Newell Rubbermaid in 2006, the highly popular line of toddler toys – including its iconic Cozy Coupe toy car – has been a major component of MGA Entertainment’s growth and success.
The most recent property launched by MGA Entertainment is Mooshka, which was introduced last fall but is receiving a big push for 2014, including a major presence at Target stores. With a look inspired by paper dolls and soft bodies, the Mooshka line is unlike any other doll line in the market right now.
Coming over from Disney, Morrison brings not only the experience of working with one of the world’s biggest brands, but also a consumer-based focus to MGA Entertainment. He says brand stewardship is a major focus at Disney, and he believes that begins with concentrating the company’s efforts on ensuring consumers have the best possible experience.
“First and foremost, everything we do needs to be grounded in the consumer,” Morrison says.