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How ROUND 2 Saved Christmas!
As many of you know I was a HUGE fan of Playing Mantis’ holiday "Memory Lane" lines of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Peanuts lines back in the day. As a result theirs was always one of my favorite showrooms to visit each year at Toy Fair, not just to see the new product, but for the elaborate displays they would build each year. A few years back Playing Mantis was sold to RC2/Ertl and the lines lasted a year past that, but eventually .
I own just about everything Playing Mantis put out in the 5"-6" lines of Rudolph, Peanuts, and the K-Mart exclusive "Santa Clause is Coming to Town lines. These ARE my Christmas decorations every year.
I was surprised to walk into a CVS Pharmacy this October and see some "Great Pumpkin" product from a new company called "Round 2, Corp." I wrote down the web address from the back of the package and looked it up that night and was delighted to see the rebirth of lines like Peanuts and Rudolph with new product and refreshed product with new accessories and features under their "Forever Fun" banner. But that wasn’t all! There was a NEW line based on one of the Frosty the Snowman holiday specials.
My holidays were shapeing up with this news, but I needed to know more! What was coming? Who was this mysterious new company? What’s next?
I contacted Bob Plant, Creative Director of Round 2 Corp to get the straight scoop on who they are, what they are doing and what’s next from Round 2.
Can you tell us about the birth of Round 2?
Round 2 was started by Tom Lowe in 2005. He launched with a line of slot cars under the AutoWorld brand. He acquired the brand name from Oscar Kovaleski, who ran the original AutoWorld mail-order hobby catalog from 1958 to the mid 1980s. It’s a nostalgic brand that has a lot of equity to the hobbyists and slot car enthusiasts who grew up during that era.
What was Round2 CEO Tom Lowe doing prior to 2005? Was he always interested in toys?
Tom has always been interested in toys — primarily those with an automotive bent, but really, pretty much anything toy-related. Tom’s a big kid at heart! He launched Playing Mantis in 1994, starting out with the popular Johnny Lightning brand of 1/64-scale diecast cars and expanding into Polar Lights model kits and Memory Lane seasonal toys and collectibles. Playing Mantis was sold to RC2 in 2004.
Do you have any former Playing Mantis employees working for you?
Yep — sure do! Tom went back to several former employees and asked if they’d be interested in helping him make some great toys and collectibles again — who could resist! Tom has always given his employees a lot of freedom to do what they do best. Tom has a knack for finding people who are really good at what they do (whether it’s design or product development or managing the workflow) and who are passionate about the licenses and products we make. We all work very hard — it’s a demanding business, but it can also be a lot of fun, as you can imagine!
Do you have access to all of Playing Mantis?/RC2?s molds and licensees?
No — we have limited access to some tooling; primarily "Memory Lane"-related product. We handle all the licensing for the product we manufacture.
Do you have the ability to rerelease the Kmart exclusive "Santa Claus is coming to Town" product?
SCICTT was a line that we worked very hard on — we are very proud of the way the line turned out. We tried to bring a level of detail and authenticity that was even a step up from our popular "Rudolph" line. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is one of my favorite Rankin/Bass Christmas specials, and I think our devotion to the source material is reflected in the product. However, the line was less than successful at retail. I think the timing wasn’t quite right to make toys based on the property. Now that the special is running on network television again, who knows — maybe increased awareness of the special and exposure to new generations will one day make it viable to re-release the figures. I would love for that to happen!
He’ll Go Down in History!
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Collectibles Shine Again.
These Misfit Toys are sure to find a home this holiday season! Featuring authentic styling and detailed accessories, the 2007 line of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” figures and collectibles from Round 2 features rereleases of favorite characters plus some new surprises. Based on the popular holiday character, and in particular the beloved 1964 television special, the “Rudolph” line features Poseable Holiday Figures, Talking Playsets and Holiday Figurines that are displayable and playable. While easily at home on the mantel as a decoration, they are also wonderful holiday playthings for the young and the young at heart.
“Rudolph is a true holiday classic, and has become an integral part of the American Christmas tradition,” said Tom Lowe, President and Owner of Round 2. “Rudolph has entertained families for generations; he’s part of our lives around the holidays – it’s like celebrating Christmas with an old friend. We feel like our product is allowing people to commemorate Rudolph and his friends in ways that take the character beyond simply watching him on television. He’s part of our holiday culture. We want people to feel like these little characters have stepped right out of their TV sets and into their homes.”
Round 2’s detailed, accurate sculpts of the figures go a long way toward fulfilling Lowe’s product philosophy. Standard Poseable Holiday Figures — which include Rudolph, Boss Elf, Santa Claus, Harpist Elf, Violinist Elf, Big Elf, Hermey and Sam the Snowman – feature a new selection of accessories for 2007, authentically-styled and accurately detailed. Poseable Holiday Figures with Talking Bases are new for 2007, and feature audio right from the 1964 television special. Each base features detailed environmental elements – Rudolph includes a snowscape display base with Christmas trees; Santa features a throne and segments of his castle wall. Hexagonally-shaped bases fit neatly next to each other – collect several and create a special holiday scene. Look for Rudolph, Clarice, Sam the Snowman, Casual Santa, Skinny Santa with Baby Rudolph and Charlie-in-the-Box with Misfit Toys.
Round 2’s popular holiday line doesn’t end there – with a property as deep as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” the product possibilities are nearly endless. Santa’s Musical Sleigh Team features a detailed, miniaturized version of Santa’s famous mode of transportation, complete with a display base that plays a lively snippet of the famous “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” tune. Holiday Clip-Ons feature tiny figurine versions of the characters. Deluxe versions of Yukon Cornelius (the self-proclaimed “Greatest Prospector of the North”), the Abominable Snow Monster, and an oversize, 8” tall version of Rudolph feature special details as well as audio culled directly from the classic TV special. Talking Playsets feature detailed environments that consumers can populate with little figures — The Elves’ Toy Shop, filled with painstakingly accurate accessories, is practically begging to be inhabited by little toy-making elves. The Rudolph and Family Cave features Mr. and Mrs. Donner and a little newborn Rudolph – complete with a light up nose, of course.
For under-the-tree decorating, Rudolph’s “Christmas Town Express” is a battery-operated locomotive featuring electronic train sound, featuring tiny figures of Rudolph and Santa. Offered in classic Christmas red trimmed with gold and black, the “Christmas Town Express” is dressy enough for even the most discriminating Christmas tree!
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is undeniably a bit of American holiday pop culture, and it looks like the little red-nosed guy is going to be around for a long time to come, perpetuated by annual airings of the holiday classic and the product that it has inspired. Like the song says, “He’ll go down in history!”
I have seen many Rudolph products re-released with new features such as
sound chips, are there any new figures for 2007?
We re-released many of the old favorite Rudolph figures for 2007, with some enhancements such as new accessories and the addition of sound. Talking Bases are new for 2007, and add a new wrinkle to the poseable holiday figures. Audio from the 1964 Rankin/Bass special adds a touch of novelty and a further element of authenticity. The bases with scenic elements create new display opportunities for collectors and fans who use the figures as holiday decoration. For 2008, we have plans to add several new figures and peripheral items to the lineup, hopefully we can make an official announcement late winter or early spring, once plans are firmed up and buyers have made initial commitments.
Is there a complete product list anywhere of the entire Holiday product you
have this year?
Check out rudolphstore.com for a comprehensive listing of all Round 2 Rudolph product. Other Rudolph licensees are represented as well.
All Frosty items are well-represented on our brand new website, www.foreverfun.com; Peanuts items are described in the press release I sent you. (Next year we hope to have all our brands clearly listed on the website.)
Any Chance for "Rudolph’s Shiny New Year" product?
I’d love to do product based on the further adventures of Rudolph, in particular those other Rankin/Bass versions, including "Rudolph’s Shiny New Year" and "Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July." However, there are some serious licensing hurdles that would have to be overcome in order for that to happen. Considering that those specials aren’t as well known as the original Rankin/Bass "Rudolph" (and even less known than "Santa Claus is Coming to Town") it’s unlikely that we could get buyer support to justify moving forward with such a line. It would have to make financial sense before we could invest in what we perceive to be a very small niche within the Rudolph collecting community.
Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and Snoopy have been a part of our American holiday culture since the special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” first aired to enthusiastic response in 1965. Round 2, a collectibles company located in South Bend, Indiana has lovingly recreated characters and scenes from the animated special in 3-dimensions. 5” tall Poseable Holiday Figures of the Peanuts gang, complete with detailed, carefully recreated accessories, and 7” Deluxe Holiday Figures of Snoopy and Charlie Brown are faithfully reproduced in plastic, cloth and vinyl. Detailed enough to satisfy even the most discriminating Peanuts fan, collectors can recreate scenes straight from the holiday special for their own “Charlie Brown Christmas”-themed holiday display.
Peanuts has been part of the pop-culture consciousness since the strip’s debut in 1950. “I’ve been a Peanuts fan, as I guess a lot of other folks have, since I was a little kid,” declares Tom Lowe, owner and President of Round 2. Lowe’s tastes lean toward the nostalgic, and those interests are reflected in the products his company manufactures. “Everyone remembers the TV special – it first aired in the sixties and the strip was going strong at the time, and still is. Peanuts is simply a part of our culture – I can’t imagine celebrating the holidays without ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas.’ A lot of our Peanuts product is inspired by the TV special, but it’s also a great jumping-off point for product based on the comic strip as well. For instance, we have a deluxe ‘Santa Snoopy’ that is straight out of the character’s appearance in the comic strip. It’s really cool to see these drawings come to 3-dimensional life, so to speak.”
The plastic figures really do have a charm all their own. And unlike static ceramic or resin statues, the poseable figures present great opportunity for display (and play!) allowing customers to assemble their own little tabletop, mantel or shelf holiday tableaus. Poseable Holiday figures for 2007 include Charlie Brown with his pathetic tree, Sally, Frieda, Snoopy with his doghouse, Lucy, Pigpen, Snoopy with Woodstock on stage and Charlie Brown as the director of the Christmas play. Collectors will be on the lookout for variant facial expressions on Lucy and Charlie Brown. A scowling Lucy is faithful to the character’s reputation for crabbiness!
7” tall Deluxe Holiday Figures feature several versions of everyone’s favorite comic strip beagle: Christmastime Snoopy, complete with an in-scale pathetic tree; Santa Snoopy, including cloth Santa Suit and Woodstock as a reindeer; and Dancing Snoopy, featuring a little piano that plays a segment of the famous “Linus and Lucy” theme! A special 7” tall version of Charlie Brown, available exclusively at CVS Pharmacy in 2007, makes his debut as part of the Deluxe line. Featuring detailed cloth clothing and 7 points of articulation, this highly poseable figure includes a miniature, bendable version of Charlie Brown’s famous pathetic tree.
“Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!” the Peanuts gang enthusiastically declares at the conclusion of the animated holiday special. It’s a surprising moment of triumph for downtrodden Charlie Brown, who sees that, with a little help, his wilting, pathetic evergreen has been transformed into a lush, sparkling Christmas tree. The TV special’s concluding image, along with Linus’ simple, clear retelling of the Christmas story, is an indelible part of the pop-culture landscape, and Round 2’s collectible Peanuts product proudly embraces all the warmth, humor and charm of what is now considered a holiday classic. “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown,” indeed!
Can you tell us what products there will be for "It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown?"
We are releasing a series of 5 mini-figures with Easter Eggs as a 2008 CVS exclusive. Each figure fits inside a colorful snap-together egg; they are designed as Easter basket toys, but are also a great little collectible.
(See attached image.)
Mini Figures are 2" to 3" tall. The line includes Snoopy, Woodstock, Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy.
Memory Lane had been planning on doing a variety line of several of Snoopy "personalities", so is that something Round 2 might follow through with?
We hope to one of these years! Support for Peanuts is pretty solid, so we’re hoping we can finally release those. Again, much of what we end up actually producing is dependent upon buyer support.
Any chance of non-holiday Peanuts product being available year-round?
Again, we would love to, but have not received the buyer interest for a year-round line. Right now, our buyers seem to have the mindset that Peanuts is a holiday item. At Playing Mantis, several years ago, we released a year-round "Good Ol’ Charlie Brown" line, which experienced limited release and lasted only about 6 months at retail. Perhaps some rethinking is in order, maybe a different way to present or package the line would do the trick. It’s something we are planning on exploring.
Any chance of getting Marcie and Peppermint Patty?
We are hoping to release Peppermint Patty as part of the CVS-exclusive version of the 2008 Halloween holiday poseables line. (Yes — we know she did not appear in the "Great Pumpkin" TV special, but it is a way of "sneaking" her into a lineup that is getting buyer support.) We would love to produce Marcie as well — maybe in 2009.
Look at Frosty Go!
Frosty and Friends come to life as a line of poseable figures!
For the first time ever, FROSTY THE SNOWMAN and other characters from the classic holiday special come to life as a line of Poseable Holiday Figures! Each 5” tall figure features authentic styling, multiple points of articulation and detailed accessories. Perfect for holiday play and display, these artfully-crafted figures have a wide range of appeal — from kids to adult collectors, to moms decorating the fireplace mantel for the holidays — and bring a sense of light-hearted, pop-culture fun to holiday display and décor. Featuring the lovable man of snow himself, Frosty the Snowman, along with his snow wife, Crystal, snowman Parson Brown and Jack Frost, that mischievous winter imp, the 2007 lineup promises to be the start of a complete line of charming Frosty collectibles and holiday décor.
Many fans have noticed that the Frosty figures are based on the sequel "Frosty’s Winter Wonderland" and not the original "Frosty the Snowman." Can you explain the decisions behind that?
That is the version of Frosty that was available to us as a licensee. There are some weird legal issues at play here that I do not fully understand; the classic characters from the original TV special are currently not a part of the Frosty merchandising license. We are working with the licensor to incorporate those oft-requested characters (Hocus Pocus, Professor Hinkle, Karen, etc.). The licensor, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., has been supportive and has assured us they are doing all they can to resolve the issue.
However, things seem to move at a different speed in the legal world and it does not seem as if it will happen in time for 2008 product. Hopefully you will see Hinkle and friends for 2009, though — keep those fingers crossed!
Are there plans for any other Rankin/Bass product such as Mad Monster party?
We have discussed many different properties that would be a good fit for our holiday lines. The most honest answer I can give at the moment is "Maybe!"
A big "Thank you" to Bob Plant and the whole gang at Round2 Corp for bringing Christmas back! We’ll keep tabs on the Round 2 gang and their future holiday releases!
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