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.
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, Hearts For Hearts Girls, a new generation of Amazing dolls, and the re-launch of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
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.