Highlights | Interviews


19 Sep - 2023

Tags from the story: Piñata Smashlings, Toikido.

Toikido is a London-based creative studio with a mission to put toys into the heart of games. In partnership with Supersocial, they recently launched Piñata Smashlings, a “blockbuster quality” Roblox game.

LM interviewed the founder and CEO Darran Garnham, to know more about current achievements and future plans.

Piñata Smashlings is Toikido’s first internally developed IP. Where did the idea for this property come from, and what are its current developments?

Darran Garnham – Founder and CEO of Toikido

The story behind the idea is quite a simple one. I was at kids party when I saw a child whack a piñata, which caused it to break, unleasing a deluge of sweets absolutely everywhere. The sheer joy on the kids faces as they scrambled for them got me thinking all that day about piñatas. I later contacted Jeff Hall, who’s Chief Product Officer at Toikido, and told him that a piñata themed brand might have legs. Jeff then sent me a logo and some characters that he’d thought up which I immediately fell in love with and the rest is history. From then on was plain sailing. After all, we knew we had the makings of a fantastic IP on our hands, it just needed to be built out. We got to work creating more characters together and then decided to invite some of the best creative artists and storytellers in the industry to join us. Three months later we were ready to showcase what we had created and were blown away with the reaction. Everyone we showed it to couldn’t get enough. It’s easy to understand why though. Piñata Smashlings has an easy concept, and it’s a colorful, bright, and fun IP.

PMI Toys were onboard from day one and we signed a Master Toy Deal with them, creating our first collectibles line, which has just been released in stores and has already made it into Walmart’s “Top Toys List” for 2023. We also agreed a publishing project with Ladybird Books, who will be releasing the first Piñata Smashlings book in November called the Piñata Smashlings Collector’s Guide.

There’s obviously a lot going on but Toikido’s first foray into gaming has taken up much of our time. The team all felt that the concept of the Piñataverse would make for a great Roblox game, because of the platform’s accessibility and audience. We’ve spent $1.4 million developing it so far and I’m delighted to report that more than 1.3 million people have played it since its release in July, which is great. Looking forward, 2024 promises to be just as exciting. The brilliant animation studio Nelvana will be releasing a Piñata Smashlings animation series, which will be followed by a feature film that will be presented at MipJunior/MipCom. Exciting times!

Besides gaming, what other categories would you like to explore for this IP?

Every brand we create at Toikido has to have a toy at the heart of it. The next step we take is to create engaging characters and a great story to bring it all together. This in turn creates a solid foundation to strengthen the brand further with a range of ancillary products. For us, the four most important categories are toys, publishing, trading cards & stickers (I must name drop Panini here, who we are delighted to be working with) and apparel. Once these four categories are well defined, all others can ideally be developed from there, such as confectionery, promotions, and many more!

To be honest, today’s kids want to be surrounded, immersed and permeated by the brands they love, whether by trying to collect all the themed toys, stickers and trading cards or just wearing logo covered PJs to bed. If you take my three children, for example, they love books about Bluey but they also want the posters, bedsheets and curtains because they want to show their allegiance as superfans.

Toikido also recently created the EURO 2024 mascot, Albärt. Could you tell us more?

It was an amazing experience! Outside of the World Cup, EURO 2024 is the biggest football tournament in the world. To be associated with it is really amazing for a small London studio like ours.

The opportunity came about because sports licensing experts Fanatics had seen our work and really liked it, so they asked us to submit some designs for what would later become Albärt. After some further meetings and presentations with Fanatics and UEFA, we were delighted when they chose our lovable teddy bear to inspire children and adults across the world to become fit and healthy.

UEFA also wanted to run with another idea we had of having a EURO 2024 game within the Piñataverse when the tournament kicks off. So our team has done so in the same style as our Piñata Smashlings characters, to ensure it sits naturally within the game. We can’t wait for our playerbase to try it out for themselves. They’re going to have a blast!

We’re also getting a lot of inbound interest now from all types of sports teams, clubs and large sporting associations from around the world, to know more about how we can work together, so you can say that Albärt has been a great advertisement for ourselves, as well as UEFA.

What projects does Toikido wish to focus on in the coming year?

Next year is looking really busy. Toikido will continue to build and develop the Piñata Smashlings IP, especially as we expect the animation series to boost its fanbase exponentially. We will also be announcing some huge partnerships that will be coming to the Piñata Smashlings game, which we are really excited about, so watch this space!

We have also been hard at work developing four other IPs and are looking forward to releasing the first of these soon. They are all very unique in their conception and design. For instance, one is action based and another is aimed at preschoolers. We’re also working with some YouTubers at the moment to release an older gaming brand as well, but that’s all very “hush hush” at the moment, so I can’t say anymore about that for now.

Otherwise, I think that the key thing is that we are growing and that’s because we are always looking to engage with likeminded people and companies. It’s the best way to seize or create opportunties.

For example we’re already working with five other gaming companies to turn their IPs into 360° brands, much like we’ve done with Piñata Smashlings. It’s never a one way interaction. We also learn a lot from our partners as well, which is important for us to stay fresh and relevant.

So if anyone reading this is keen to talk with us and share some great ideas we can work together on, or even if they just want to say “hello”, our team and representatives will be available at many upcoming events including the Los Angeles September Toy Previews, New York Toy Fair, BLE (IMG licensing booth) and MipJunior/MipCom. Hopefully we’ll see you at one of them!

Curated by Rossella Arena

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