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The New Face of Toy Success

The Beatrix Girls target girls ages 6 to 12 by using edgy rock star characters and through original pop genre music created specifically for the line. The dolls -- Brayden, Ainsley, Lark and Chantal -- are essentially members of a pop music band living out their celebrity personalities.

The dolls themselves launched at Toys "R" Us stores nationwide in mid-October and more recently on Amazon (AMZN), online at Wal-Mart (WMT) and at Ascena Retail's (ASNA) Justice stores, a popular girl and tween clothing and accessory store.

By launching the doll line as an interactive kid entertainment brand, the hope is to carve a place out for the line as not just another doll stacked up in an already crowded toy aisle.

"The approach to this was all about creating characters who were real," said Sherry Gunther Shugeman, creator and president of Popstar Club, the doll line's parent company. "Just like creating a new show for TV, we created personalities that [are] dynamic and dimensional [and] very realistic."

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She enlisted the help of leading animators and doll developers to re-imagine the look of dolls. The result was a more appealing and edgy look -- large heads, big hair and stylish clothes.

Supporting the dolls' rock star personas, Gunther Shugeman looked to create music that would rival that of actual pop hits by luring a Platinum winning songwriter/producer that has worked with Kesha, One Direction and bands created by Simon Cowell (the mastermind behind hit shows like American Idol and X Factor) to do the job.

The songs are available for purchase from Apple (AAPL) iTunes and Amazon to music service apps Pandora (P) and Spotify to YouTube.

Gunther Shugeman has a bit of experience in the entertainment area. She has decades of experience in television animation and behind the scenes of cartoon hits such as The Simpsons, Rugrats and Family Guy. It is her content-oriented background that she's betting on to make the Beatrix brand successful.

"Kids do not just play with dolls, they do not just watch TV, they do all of the above. Really, this was about creating a doll that had a presence in all of these platforms and mediums," she said. "I think that's what different about this. It was everything at once."

The Beatrix Girls' quick popularity is also being helped by some of the hottest competition shows on prime-time TV right now -- The X Factor, The Voice and The Sing Off are all singing-based shows.

Equally important, the plan is to have a full line of merchandising covering every major category by spring 2014, including a full line of real size, fully playable guitars, drums and other instruments, for girls to learn to play, made by Peavey Electronics.

Gunther Shugeman emphasized the point made by Appell of the Toy Industry Association, that creating the backstory to the dolls was just as essential as creating the doll specs themselves.

"To me, a great character is ... so unique and so specific and so understandable by the audience that they're predictable as to how they would react in any given situation," Gunther Shugeman said. "What would Bart Simpson do in any given situation?"

But all this takes money to conceive, hire the right people and execute successfully. It also takes a lot of time and effort getting to the big retail players and convincing them to put the dolls on their shelves.

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