History

Founded in Hong Kong in 1966, Playmates Toys is one of the leading toy marketers in the world today. Over the past 45 years, Playmates has brought to market a number of toy brands that defined generations of kids, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Waterbabies, Star Trek, Simpsons, Space Jam, Nano, and the Amazing dolls, among others.

Despite the inherent volatility of the promotional toy industry, Playmates Toys has remained a market leader, guided by the operating principles of creativity, flexibility and simplicity. Today, Playmates continues to build upon a strong and focused brand portfolio, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hearts For Hearts Girls, and Family Guy.

The Company was founded as Playmates Industrial in 1966, as primarily a doll manufacturing subcontractor for US and European toy marketers. By the mid-1970s, Playmates had earned a reputation as a leading supplier of top quality dolls. In 1978, Playmates took an important step toward becoming a global toymaker by establishing a sales force in Boston to market and distribute its own lines of dolls and preschool toys, Li’l Playmates.

In December 1984, Playmates became the first toy company to list on the Hong Kong stock exchange, under the ticker 0075. A portion of the capital raised was used to establish a new marketing and distribution center in California, with the goal of preparing the Company to enter the promotional toy segments of the industry.

Two years later, Playmates had its first big success in promotional toys with Cricket, the first ever interactive doll to be brought to the mass market.

The initial success of Cricket was quickly followed by one of the greatest hits in the history of toys – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Playmates introduced the Turtles, then an unknown property, at the 1988 New York Toy Fair. Despite an unenthusiastic reception, Playmates pushed forward with the line, funding the first five episodes of the cartoon series. And from an initial 3,000-piece order, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles went on to become one of the greatest success stories of the industry. By 1990, the Turtles had become one of the best-selling toys ever, and the cartoon show was the top-ranked Saturday morning kids show in the US. The first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, released in 1990, grossed over $200 million worldwide, setting a new record for a release by an independent studio. In the same year, the Turtles had an estimated 60% share of the action figure market.

Driven by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles phenomenon, Playmates sales exceeded $500 million in 1990, and the Company became the first toy company in history to generate over $200 million in pretax profit.

In 1991, Playmates introduced Waterbabies, a line of water-filled baby dolls. Children and parents were captivated by the life-like, warm and cuddly baby dolls. Waterbabies sales reached reached almost two million units in the US in 1991, making it the number one promotional doll in the US. Waterbabies would remain a top-selling doll brand for over a decade.

A number of successful toy introductions followed throughout the 1990’s, including Star Trek, Exo Squad, Primal Rage, and Space Jam.
In 1997, Playmates launched the Nano line of virtual pets, which quickly became a “must-have” toy that Christmas, and established Playmates as a major player in the electronic toys business.

The following year, Playmates set a new industry standard for dolls with Amazing Amy, a highly intelligent interactive doll that could respond with over 10,000 phrases. For the next eight years, the Amazing dolls remained one of the most popular doll brands in the US.

In 2000, Playmates revolutionized the industry again with The Simpsons collector figures that interacted with playsets with phrases from the TV show.

In 2001, Playmates launched the Disney Princess line of dolls. The relationship with Disney expanded further in 2005 with the acquisition of the Disney Fairies toy license.

A number of other toy introductions contributed to the Playmates line-up in the 2000’s, including King Kong, Strawberry Shortcake, a new generation of Amazing dolls, and the re-launch of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

In 2010, Playmates introduced Hearts For Hearts Girls, a collection of 14-inch dolls, each from a different underserved region in the world. The line was created to deliver an empowering social message to girls around the world and has received very positive consumer response, as well as a number of industry awards.

By maintaining discipline in inventory control, product mix, and overhead management, Playmates has successfully navigated the cycles inherent to the promotional toy industry. Going forward, Playmates will continue to pursue profitable growth by introducing safe, innovative, toys to kids throughout the world.

Timeline

1966

Sam Chan founds Playmates Industrial as a doll manufacturer. Playmates earns its reputation as a top supplier of high-quality dolls during the 1960s and 1970s with products like Dolls of All Nations and Shirley.

1970s

Playmates grows into one of the largest doll manufacturers in the toy industry. Shown below is the cover from the 1976 Playmates catalog, featuring the Playmates factory building in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong.

1978

Playmates launches the Company’s first branded preschool toy line, Li’l Playmates.

Establishes sales operation in Boston to market and distribute Playmates’ lines of dolls and preschool toys

1981

Li’l Playmates expands with the introduction of the first licensed product featuring classic Disney® characters

1982

Playmates Toys, Inc., is incorporated in California.

1984

Playmates becomes the first publicly-listed toy company in Hong Kong.

1986

The Cricket doll line, Playmates’ first promotional toy product, ships in the US

1988

Playmates introduces Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the US.

1990

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon show becomes the top-ranked Saturday morning kids show in the US

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles becomes one of the best-selling toys ever

The first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie grosses over $200 million worldwide

Playmates generates over $500 million in sales, and becomes the first toy company in history to generate over $200 million in pretax profit 
 

1991

Playmates introduces the Waterbabies line of baby dolls in the US, which becomes the number one promotional doll in America.

1992

Playmates acquires master toy rights to the Star Trek franchise and launches the Star Trek Collector Series in the US. Shown below are the figures for Star Trek Voyager.

1997

With the Nano brand, Playmates becomes the number two player in the global virtual pets market. Thomas Chan is appointed Chairman as Sam Chan retires after 30 years with Playmates.

1998

Playmates introduces the Amazing Amy interactive doll.

2000

Playmates revolutionizes the collector business with The Simpsons figures that interact with playsets to produce phrases from the hit TV show.

2001

Playmates launches the Disney Princess brand with My Interactive Princess Cinderella.

2003

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles return with all new entertainment, products and marketing support.

2004

Playmates acquires master toy rights to Peter Jackson's new King Kong movie franchise.

2005

Playmates launches the Strawberry Shortcake toy line and Amazing Amanda, the first of a new generation of Amazing interactive dolls.

2007

Playmates introduces a complete line of action figures and accessories based on the fourth Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, TMNT

2009

Playmates launches a broad line of toys for the new Star Trek and Terminator movie releases.

2010

Playmates aims to "change the world one heart at a time" with Hearts For Hearts Girls, a line of beautiful, multicultural, dolls that deliver an empowering message to girls around the world. Hearts For Hearts Girls wins a number of industry awards, including a Doll of the Year award from Doll Reader, a coveted Oppenheim Toy Portfolio award, and a Ten Best Socially Responsible Products from Dr. Toy.

2011

Playmates prepares for a re-launch of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 2012 in cooperation with Nickelodeon.