By HILLARY GAVAN
Senior staff writer
BELOIT — For the first time in company history, PlayMonster has been named a finalist for six Toy of The Year (TOTY) 2018 Awards — the industry’s highest achievement known as the “Oscars” of the toy industry.
PlayMonster’s calling on the community and its fans to cast votes at www.PlayMonsterVote.com to help this Beloit-based company’s products win. PlayMonster, 1400 E. Inman Parkway, is a toy and game company employing 75 in Beloit, according to PlayMonster Director of Marketing Lisa Wuennemann.
Last year PlayMonster was a finalist for five TOTY awards. In the seven years prior to that, the company earned at least one TOTY finalist distinction annually. PlayMonster was founded as Patch Products in 1985, and changed its name in 2016 to reflect the company’s continued commitment to provide play for all ages.
Being a finalist is an especially great honor for PlayMonster this year because the company has nominations in six different categories. There are only three toy companies that have more nominations than PlayMonster — Mattel, Hasbro and Spin Master, Wuennemann said.
PlayMonster’s nominations are as follows: Playset of the Year for My Fairy Garden Magical Cottage; Game of the Year for Ultra Dash; Doll of the Year for Wonder Crew; Specialty Toy of the Year for Mirari Juballees; Infant/Toddler Toy of the Year for Mirari Shellby; and Vehicle of the Year for Automoblox SC1 Chaos and HR5 Scorch 2-Pack.
Wuennemann said PlayMonster is hoping for a big win this year, noting that Yeti in my Spaghetti won Game of the Year last year.
The winners of the TOTY 2018 Awards will be announced on Feb. 16 at the TOTY Awards Ceremony in New York City. The ceremony is considered to be the official kick off of the North American International Toy Fair, held Feb. 17 – 20.
One of PlayMonster’s strong finalists is Wonder Crew, up for Doll of the Year Award. A different twist on a doll, it’s considered a companion boys can play with and go on adventures with. The caped companion also comes with a matching cape and mask for the child. If kids are scared of a medical appointment, for example, Wuennemann can bring their caped buddy along. His body is soft so he’s great for snuggling.
Ultra Dash, up for a Game of the Year, is appealing to everyone and has great online reviews. Wuennemann said it’s also in line with PlayMonster’s focus on active play. When playing the game, kids press a button and then race to match the color of the tagger with targets which can be placed around the room or within an obstacle course. Kids can play against themselves by trying to beat their time, play against friends or siblings or vie against teams.
My Fairy Garden, up for the competitive Playset of the Year Award, has been one of PlayMonster’s biggest sellers. It comes with seeds and dirt for an educational experience growing live plants in a playset.
Mirari Shellby, up for Infant/Toddler Toy of the Year, is a rolling turtle with balls which come out of its mouth and tail. The games is helpful for tots as it forces them to crawl after the balls. Mirari Juballees, up for Specialty Toy of the Year, are a set of children’s toy balls which can click or stack together, roll and shake.
Automoblox SC1 Chaos and HR5 Scorch 2-Pack, up for Vehicle of the Year, are buildable vehicles with real wood as well as interchangeable components. The vehicle has the appeal of a traditional wooden toy, but comes with modern features which can be mixed and matched creatively.
With so many popular products and the holiday season coming, Wuennemann said it’s a great time of year for PlayMonster in Beloit. Workers in the warehouse are gearing up for massive holiday shipments, order entry personnel are getting busy and the marketing department is working to ensure all marketing and advertising plans are going seamlessly.
Wuennemann said half of PlayMonster’s 2018 products are in production and the other half are still being finalizing. The company already is brainstorming for 2019 products.
The TOTY Awards finalists were announced last week from a field of more than 700 nominations. Finalists were determined by elite members of the toy industry, including retail buyers, inventors/designers, academics, journalists, trade media spokespeople and bloggers.