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Will Sesame Street's Elmo Toy Biz Bear Brunt of Puppeteer’s Legal Problems?

Posted by Mark J. Miller on November 21, 2012 09:19 AM

In 1985, Elmo pushed aside Grover, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and even Ernie and Bert to make his way to the front of the pack on Sesame Street. And he’s been leading the way ever since, pulling in viewers for the show and big bucks for anybody who finds a way to sell an Elmo-related product.

But now the man who brought Elmo to life, Kevin Clash, will no longer be pulling the puppet onto his arm, thanks to allegations that Clash had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 15-year-old and possibly other young men. This came on top of allegations from another young man that have since been recanted. Whether it is true or not, damage has been done to the Elmo brand and Sesame wanted to control that as quickly as possible. Clash resigned from the show Tuesday and in what Children’s Television Workshop called “a sad day for Sesame Street.”

Elmo products, of course, have been a big staple of holiday wish lists for children for close to 30 years now and this season is no different. This year’s include the $39.99 LOL Elmo, which is a direct descendant of the Tickle Me Elmo doll that set sales records years ago, and Let’s Rock! Elmo, which sings and comes with a drum set and microphone. Hasbro, which is the main toy licensee for Sesame Street, put out a statement Tuesday that expressed confidence that Elmo will still be an important part of the show for years to come, the New York Times reports

“People are making the separation that this is about Kevin Clash, this is not about Elmo,” said Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of Time to Play magazine, according to the Times. “The more people make the separation, the less effect on sales.” Silver says Sesame Street-related toys bring in about $75 million annually and Elmo accounts for 50 to 75 percent of that.Continue reading...

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Sesame Street Sees Elmo Puppeteer Accuser Recant [UDPATE]

Posted by Sheila Shayon on November 12, 2012 03:19 PM

Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who not only performs as Elmo on Sesame Street but created the character's persona and inimitable voice, is taking a leave of absence in the wake of allegations he had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy. The accuser, now 23, says the relationship happened seven years ago when Clash was 45; Clash maintains that their relationship was consensual and occurred when his accuser was the legal age of consent.

UPDATE: Clash's accuser today recanted, as reported by the New York Times, which ran this quote from Clash: "I am relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest. I will not discuss it further." The rest of our original post:

Clash issued a statement on Monday that was cited by CNN: "I am a gay man. I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter. I had a relationship with the accuser. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was. I am taking a break from Sesame Workshop to deal with this false and defamatory allegation."

The unidentified accuser is being represented by a legal firm retained by one of the victims in former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky's criminal trial. The accusation is an unfortunate turn of events, one that Sesame Workshop (formerly the Children's Television Workshop) no doubt hopes won't tarnish its standing as one of the world's leading creators of children's entertainment, and a brand that relies on the trust of parents, educators and legislators, as the recent U.S. presidential election's roping-in of Big Bird by Mitt Romney as the symbol of PBS makes clear.Continue reading...

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Cheetos Crunchy Flamin' Hot Chips Come Under Fire

Posted by Shirley Brady on October 19, 2012 05:25 PM

Frito-Lay's Cheetos brand Crunchy Flamin' Hot chips may be free of gluten-free and trans fats, but some school officials feel it's free of any redeeming value whatsover and are moving to ban it. The New York Times Well blog reports that "School districts in three states are waging a battle against (the) spicy snack that is so laden with artificial ingredients it leaves a trail of red fingerprints behind."

What has school administrators in Pasadena, Calif., Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Rockford, Illinois, up in arms?

...some school districts say the chips are too high in calories, salt and fat, and too spicy for most children. Teachers and parents have complained that the artificial coloring has children leaving behind bright red fingerprints in their classrooms and on their clothing. And emergency room doctors say they have seen patients complaining of stomach pain after eating hot Cheetos, and they warn that eating the chips in excess – because of the bright food dye they contain – may cause discolored stool that can lead to unnecessary hospital visits.

The PepsiCo-owned Frito-Lay brand "has said that it does not specifically market Hot Cheetos to small children, nor does it sell its snack products directly to schools." A current promotion with Ubisoft's Just Dance Game featuring its Chester Cheetah mascot, for instance, is aimed at kids 13 and older.

Below, watch a video tribute ("Hot Cheetos & Takis") by some kids, which has racked up more than 3.5 million views on YouTube since it was posted in August:Continue reading...

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Toys R Us Kids Tablet Tripped Up By Prior Toys R Us Kids Tablet

Posted by Mark J. Miller on September 25, 2012 02:38 PM

Toys R Us is really aiming for this holiday season to bring in some big bucks. As a result, the company is hiring 13% more seasonal help than it did last year, hiring 45,000 temporary employees across the U.S.

Why the need for all the extra folks? Well, the retailer is planning to have 50 more pop-up shops than it did last year across the country  and it is, of course, very excited about the revenue possibilities for its new made-for-kids-tablet called Tabeo, a featured item on its 2012 Hot Toys List.

Of course, it remains to be seen if the store's proprietary $150 Tabeo is going to hit its stores, as planned, in October. Fuhu, the Taiwanese manufacturer of the kid-friendly Nabi tablet that Toys R Us sold before Tabeo, is attempting to block its sale with a lawsuit claiming intellectual property infringement.Continue reading...

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Lego Brand Turns 80 With Animated Short Film

Posted by Shirley Brady on August 10, 2012 03:13 PM

Lego turns 80 as the world's third-largest manufacturer of play materials, with 10,000 employees worldwide. Check out its 80th anniversary animated short film  ("The Lego Story") below, and find out more on its storied history in its press release today.Continue reading...

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The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Salutes Anti-Smoking Advocates

Posted by Mark J. Miller on May 17, 2012 02:09 PM

The U.S. government's campaign to help smokers quit (and keep kids from starting the nasty habit) has led to calls to quit lines more than doubling. The main mind behind the campaign, Dr. Howard Koh, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health, has been a force on the anti-smoking front for 20 years. He was involved in everything from the proposal to put highly graphic images on cigarette packaging and the movement to expand health insurance coverage for tobacco cessation.

While he’s been doing that, Australia’s Attorney General Nicola Roxon has also been hard at work trying to end the world’s fascination with cigarettes. While she was Health Minister in Australia, she launched the idea that all cigarette packs in the country should be sold in plain brown paper, which of course sent the legal departments of tobacco companies into a tizzy. As Attorney General, she is requiring that graphic warnings cover the large majority of the packs.

For their efforts, Koh and Roxon are being recognized at event in Washington, D.C. held by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which works to counter tobacco brands' marketing and frowns on advertising such as characters and other kid-friendly touches, such as Camel's pinkalicious print campaign at right.Continue reading...

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Pearson Brand Gets Failing Grade in New York

Posted by Sheila Shayon on April 30, 2012 10:18 AM

Pearson Education, the educational publishing brand, is under fire following a botched series of standardized exam questions now roiling public schools across New York State — and it's only year one of a five-year, $32 million contract between the publisher and the state.

As Gail Collins opined in Sunday's New York Times, it wasn't just the weirdness of the questions — more on that in a moment — but the debate over the commercialization of education and the control of a single brand, in this case Pearson, over kids' futures. Collins wrote, "We have turned school testing into a huge corporate profit center, led by Pearson, for whom $32 million is actually pretty small potatoes. Pearson has a five-year testing contract with Texas that’s costing the state taxpayers nearly half-a-billion dollars."Continue reading...

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American Beverage Association Refutes Yale Sugary Drinks Report

Posted by Mark J. Miller on November 1, 2011 01:02 PM

The American Beverage Association is keeping busy these days as cities and states threaten to put extra taxes on sugary drinks and other entities try to reduce consumption of the organization members’ products.

The latest battle for ABA is to dispute a study that was released Monday by Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity that shows that “U.S. children and teenagers are seeing far more soda advertising than before, with blacks and Hispanics the major targets, as marketers have expanded online,” according to Reuters.

"This report is another attack by known critics in an ongoing attempt to single out one product as the cause of obesity when both common sense and widely accepted science have shown that the reality is far more complicated," said ABA CEO Susan Neely in a statement.

Neely’s main weapon in response to the Yale Rudd Center's Sugary Drink F.A.C.T.S. (short for Food Advertising to Children and Teens Score) report is opposing research by Georgetown Economic Services for the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Association of National Advertisers that “showed that between 2004 and 2010, advertisements for soft drinks decreased by 96 percent, while those for fruit and vegetable juices increased by 199 percent,” Reuters reports.Continue reading...

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