Rest In Play - 2020 - 2029

Toy World is sad to report that industry veteran Les Cooke passed away peacefully at his home on 15th October. Les’s former colleague and close friend, Bob Brechin, shared his memories of Les wit...h Toy World. When Bob joined Palitoy in 1967 as a toy designer, Les was responsible for the marketing of Action Man, which had been licensed the previous year from Hasbro. Les famously once said: “I had the best job in the toy industry – Action Man’s first Brand manager.” “Les was quick to realise that Action Man provided more play scenarios than solely military adventures,” Bob explains. “Attending a research study, he noticed that one little boy was playing with the Mountain and Arctic Trooper Action Man as Scott of the Antarctic. This inspired Les to develop a range of adventure sets, which I was instructed to design. Action Man began to live up to his name, took on many roles and became a truly British icon.” Action Man was named Toy of the Decade in 1980, after winning the title Toy of the Year in its first outing. In 1968, the Palitoy brand and its Coalville factory were bought by new owners General Mills. Les became Marketing director and was instrumental in introducing many iconic lines, including the hairstyling and makeup toy, Girls World; pocket-sized fashion doll, Pippa and the Discovery Time pre-school range. When the Star Wars phenomenon exploded, Palitoy became the UK distributor of toys developed by sister company Kenner. Bob tells us that Les was loath to market the Star Wars range alongside Palitoy’s flagship Action Man concept, nervous about relying on the success of an unknown film to sell toys. He was persuaded by Kenner president, Bernie Loomis, who declared: “Star Wars will go on for twenty years.” After seeing the film, Les agreed with him. Palitoy owner General Mills began to pursue global branding, introducing more ranges from the US to add to the success of Star Wars. As the likes of Care Bears joined the company’s portfolio, many of the classic ranges developed by Palitoy – including Action Man – started to be phased out. Les resigned from the company to join outgoing UK MD Bob Wilson to establish Emblem Toys in Leicester. Later they would resuscitate the ailing Matchbox Company. “During my long association with Les Cooke, I have found him to be very committed, willing to embrace my ideas and always giving total support,” says Bob Brechin. “Everone I have talked to has demonstrated their respect and admiration for him. He had a strong affinity to toys and the long list of products he introduced attests to that. The British toy industry will mourn the passing of one of its stalwarts.” Bob added that his thoughts were with Les’s wife Diane, and his children and grandchildren, at this sad time. Toy World would like to add its condolences to the family and all who knew Les.Show more


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Skies of Arcadia producer and team leader on the original Phantasy Star games Rieko Kodama has passed away at age 58. According to a Sega statement to IGN, Kodama passed away in five months ago in May... 2022. No cause of death was given. Word of Kodama's possible death began to spread after owners of Sega's Mega Drive Mini II retro console noticed her inclusion in the console's credits, which stated "In Memory of Rieko Kodama." In response to queries about the message, Sega Producer Yosuke Okunari confirmed fan suspicions, writing "as you understand it. We respected her." Kodama's three-decade career in video games (which she began under the name Phoenix Rie) spanned multiple console generations and game genres. She is often credited for being a trailblazing artist, director, and producer in an era when women's contributions to the video game industry were less-recognized. Her early games at Sega included work on games llike Champion Boxing, Sega Ninja, and Quartet. Her art appeared in several landmark Sega titles including Altered Beast and Sonic the Hedgehog. Most recently, she produced the Sega Ages series of classic game ports on Nintendo Switch. Many of those ports brought games she helped create to modern audiences. In 2019, the organizers of Game Developers Conference (disclaimer: our sibling organization) honored Kodama with the Pioneer award. In a message where she accepted the award, she gave thanks fellow Sega collaborators like Yoshiki Kawasaki for supporting her in her career. In a rare interview with Kotaku around the same time period, Kodama reflected on the success of Skies of Arcadia, which has remained a cult classic among fans of Japanese Role-Playing Games. "Portrayal of dark worlds was certainly what was trending in Japan at the time, but our team preferred to create an optimistic protagonist who explored the world," she said in reflection. "[That] gave birth to Skies of Arcadia’s scenario and characters." With Kodama's passing, the video game industry has lost one of the few women who has been a constant presence from the console industry's early days all the way into the modern era. Even fewer have worked on so many titles that would inspire game developers around the globe.Show more


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(Tribute by Jacqueline Fulmer, Ph.D., Director of Omnidoll Research.)  Pioneering mass media toy reviewer and early childhood studies author, Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D., known to her readers and viewe...rs as “Dr. Toy,” passed away in San Lorenzo, CA, on Wednesday, October 19, 2022, at age 84, due to complications from stroke.  Stevanne Auerbach was an accomplished speaker, consultant, and author, who had trained in child development and special education. Her works ranged from the esoteric: editing volumes on early childhood studies; to the practical: handbooks on the Peace Corps, careers in Home Economics, physical education for differently abled children, and the search for quality childcare; to the creative: a children’s book (The Alphabet Tree, 1988), a novel (The Contest, 2009), a book of poetry (Petals, 1973), and a screenplay. Her title, “Dr. Toy,” dated to her first assignment with Creative Playthings in 1968, where she developed its first education marketing program. She became one of the first mass media “toy reviewers,” evaluating toys, publishing articles, and appearing on radio and television in American markets from coast to coast, from 1986 to 2018. When her distinctive gold foil “Dr. Toy Award” stickers appeared on retail products, consumers would know that they were purchasing a quality toy that would enrich their children’s lives. To have known Stevanne was to experience her enthusiasm for the value of play in everyone’s lives and her generosity in helping people at every stage of their lives. Stevanne is survived by her husband Ralph Whitten, daughter Amy Beth Auerbach, grandson Josiah Metz, and sister Judy Schwartz (Martin Schwartz). Stevanne was born to Jeane Sydney Rosen Stockheim and Nathan Carl Stockheim on September 22, 1938, in New York City. She was raised in Juniper Park in Middle Village, a newly developed neighborhood in the borough of Queens in New York City. Her mother spent most of her career working in public health, and her father worked as a firefighter and math and science teacher.   READ MORE...Show more


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Laurie Peterson 1 month ago Thursday,27 October 2022 at 09:43:19

Stevanne was my mentor and friend. I proudly received several Dr Toy awards while producing toys for LeapFrog, and then later for my own magnetic toy line Build & Imagine. Stevanne was generous with her advice as I was getting my startup off the ground, spending hours with me at the Berkeley startup accelerator program Skydeck. We then fell into a somewhat regular routine of three hour long lunches and interesting conversation, often at Eureka in Berkeley. We once had lunch outside at the Claremont Hotel, where we both wore giant hats and posed for a photo with Steve Kerr, the basketball coach for the Warriors. Even after Stevanne became house bound due to her health, her capacity for dreaming big never stopped. We would talk about her hopes for "Dr Toy" to live on as an institution, encouraging the importance of play for learning. We would talk about all kinds of business ideas, and she encouraged me to open up a toy museum to help carry on her life's purpose. And she would share about her many interests, including butterflies. I have found comfort in her butterfly collection book these past few days. Stevanne was a unique person who I will miss dearly, and I am so grateful to have known her personally and professionally. Thank you for your friendship and guidance, Dr Toy.

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R.I.P. - Carl Woodiwiss

2022-10-21 08:06:24

Toy World is sad to report the recent untimely passing of Carl Woodiwiss, a much-loved and highly respected member of the A.B.Gee sales team. Carl Woodiwiss worked at A.B.Gee for over 20 years during ...which time he met his wife of 12 years, Cath, with whom he had two children, Lucy and Jack. Carl started off working in the model department at A.B.Gee, where his knowledge of cars, kits and collectibles was second to none, and it was this that helped Carl build up a remarkable rapport with the many customers he looked after. Colleagues at A.B.Gee say Carl was a natural salesman, full of enthusiasm and always took great pride in representing the company at London Toy Fair, the Toymaster Show and The Toy & Gift Show. Carl had such a good relationship with his customers that he still kept in close contact even when he moved on to the Toy side of the business. He was very concerned that he might lose contact with customers whom he considered to be his friends, but this was never the case and he ended up making many more close connections with his new customers too. Paying tribute on behalf of the A.B.Gee team, sales manager Andrew Hardwidge said:“Carl was a fantastic colleague and a dear friend with a great sense of humour. He had a heart of gold and a twinkle in his eye when he spoke about Cath and the kids, whom he loved very much. He will be greatly missed by his co-workers, customers, friends and most of all his family.” Carl’s wife Cath has set up a JustGiving page with donations going to Cancer Research UK as this was a charity close to Carl’s heartShow more


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Toy World is sad to report that retailer and toy industry veteran Diana Wallman has passed away after a short illness. (photo: Diana, with husband Ken) Both Diana and her husband Ken have been f...ervent supporters of the Fence Club since Ken joined in 1989. The couple were regular supporters of functions until they moved to Australia about 10 years ago. Clive Jones of The Fence Club shared the sad news with members who knew the couple. Many will remember Ken and Diana’s successful toy shop, Young Folk, and their sports shop, in West Wickham. Diana was heavily involved in both businesses; she loved working in the shops and being part of the wider toy trade through the Fence Club and the BATR. The couple were members of Upper Thames Wholesalers and subsequently Youngsters for many years. Clive, a friend of the couple, explained that Ken and Diana were in the UK for their granddaughters wedding in July which they thoroughly enjoyed. Before they left Australia for the occasion, Diana had been given the news she had terminal cancer. READ MORE...Show more


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Sega Europe developer Brian Ayers has passed away at the age of 42. Ryan King confirmed during the weekend, saying that Ayers passed after a "short illness." "[Brian] was truly the best of us - warm, ...funny, brilliant, a huge loss to us all," wrote King. Ayers joined the game industry in 2008 as a sales executive for Konami. He was promoted to the rank of PR manager in 2010. He'd serve as the publisher's European brand manager until 2014, when he jumped ship to be Capcom's brand manager. Come 2021, Ayers left Capcom to become a senior product marketing manager at Paradox Interactive. Towards the end of 2021, he worked at Sega Europe for a similar position. Prior to working in games, Ayers was a vocalist for the London punk rock band Hitechjet. Ayers is survived by his partner Kay, and well-wishers can provide support via Ayers' JustGiving page.Show more


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Travis Day, an Irvine-area game designer who spent over a decade at Blizzard Entertainment, has died at age 41. The news comes from his sister Rachel Day, a VFX artist and producer at Bonfire Studios.... No cause of death was given. Day's journey in the video game industry began at 2005 at Blizzard Entertainment, where he worked first as a customer service representative, then quality assurance tester. He would eventually become a game designer on World of Warcraft and system designer on Diablo III. He also worked on major expansions for both titles. In 2018, he left Blizzard Entertainment and joined Phoenix Labs, working on Dauntless. According to his Twitter profile, he also spent time at Lightspeed LA, Tencent's Irvine-area game development studio. Day's colleagues left kind words for him in response to the news shared by his sister Rachel. He was described as "a pleasure and chat to work with," and "a friend, colleague and caring individual who shared his life and insights with anyone who would listen." For her part, Rachel Day said that "Travis was loved greatly by friends and family and will be deeply missed."Show more


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Michael John Lyden, of Greendale, Wisconsin passed away Friday, August 26, 2022 peacefully at the age of 80. Born in Fall River, Massachusetts he spent his youth along the eastern corridor from Rhod...e Island to Virginia and Pennsylvania. The toy industry was his heart and soul, along with the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle (done proudly only in pen) and endless books loaned from the library. He adored visiting zoos around the world, fascinated by Snowflake, the albino gorilla at the Barcelona zoo and Tandi & Khanya, the rare white lion cubs (along with generally most animals). He adored long evenings at restaurants, discos, bars around the world, making new friends wherever he frequented. From Carlos & Charlie's in Hollywood to TJ's Piano Bar in Westport Connecticut, to most recently his daughter's wine bar in Greendale, Wisconsin, he was one to charm the socks off of anyone he met. Given the opportunity he'd gladly take you up on a well-made steak tartare with the perfect frites. He adored gushing stories about the golf courses he'd played or flying the Concord all while extending the evening with a sambuca and coffee, with exactly three beans for good fortune in life. He loved regaling new friends and old with stories of his time spent in the toy industry, starting as a teenager as a stock clerk in the first Toys "R" Us in Virginia. From there he worked tirelessly and steadfastly to rise the ranks at Toys R Us, then to Mattel. At Mattel he led the development of Hot Wheels as Vice President of Boys Brands in El Segundo, California. At Tyco Toys in Mount Laurel, New Jersey he rose to President of Tyco US where along his journey he was instrumental in the creation of the legendary Garfield telephone of the 80s, and Tickle me Elmo of the 90s. His favorite times were spent at Toy Fair every year in New York City, and with his many dear colleagues he made over 50+ years in the industry. He was the ultimate perfectionist, with a lust for life that is rarely encountered. He endeared himself to many throughout his broad and unique life around the world. He was the proud father of daughters Kelly (Jeff), Megan and Jennifer (Jason); Grandfather of Russell, Jessica (Steve), Rachel (Brett), Elle, Sadie and Uma; Great-Grandfather of Zachary, Emilie, Madelyn, Nikolai, Hazel and Theo. He is survived by his sisters Frances (George) and Colleen. He is preceeded by his parents Francis and Evelyn (nee Lassonde) Lyden. Show more


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Longtime Pixar animator  and the Oscar-winning director behind the 2000 short film For the Birds who also worked in the art departments of films like Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles — h...as died. Eggleston died in San Rafael, Calif., on Monday of pancreatic cancer at the age of 56, according to Variety. Pixar Animation Studios confirmed Eggleston's death in a statement released on Twitter Monday. "In memory of Ralph Eggleston — animator, director, art director, storyboard artist, writer, production designer, and our dear friend. Pixar and the world will be forever grateful," the studio tweeted. Among his colleagues, Jorge R. Gutierrez, director of The Book of Life, also honored the moviemaker with a tribute.Show more


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