MGA Acquires Pixel Zoo Animation for MGA Studios Initiative

Chatsworth, California-based toy company MGA Entertainment has launched MGA Studios to produce video games, online universes and other ancillary content. The privately held MGA is backing the new division with $500 million to drive production and acquisitions. MGA’s catalog of successful toys includes the L.O.L. Surprise!, Bratz, Little Tike and Rainbow High brands, some of which have spawned TV series and games. MGA Entertainment founder and CEO Isaac Larian’s son Jason Larian is president of the new unit, which has acquired Australia’s Pixel Zoo Animation and named Pixel Zoo founder and CEO Paul Gillett an MGA Studios partner.

“MGA Entertainment has demonstrated time and again our ability to create multiple blockbuster brands from the ground up,” Jason Larian said in an announcement. “The purpose of MGA Studios will be to facilitate the expansion of these brands beyond the toy aisle and turn them into true transmedia franchises, including entertainment, gaming, and online experiences.”

Variety estimates the Pixel Zoo acquisition to be “in the low eight figure range.”

“Pixel Zoo will remain in Australia and continue to handle some work for outside clients” while also focusing “significant resources on developing content to help enliven what Isaac Larian calls ‘safe mini universes’ online and through apps for kids to interact with company’s brands,” writes Variety, noting “MGA’s larger rival, Mattel, has also stepped up its efforts to deliver higher-caliber movies and TV shows in order to turn content into a new profit center for the company.”

The new attention on games is something of a return to MGA’s roots when Isaac Larian launched it as Micro Games of America in 1979. The name was changed to MGA Entertainment in 1996 to reflect the company’s diversified approach to children’s entertainment.

MGA leveraged its toy brands into various animated series and games over the years. A “Bratz” show aired for two seasons beginning in 2005 and also spawned movies released through Lionsgate. “L.O.L. Surprise!” earned a programming slot on Netflix and offers microgames and activities via a website.

MGA Studios represents a move to increase quality and output while having more control, the company says. “At present, MGA Entertainment, controlled by Larian and his family, does about $4 billion to $4.5 billion a year in retail sales and has nearly 1,700 full-time employees in multiple cities,” Variety reports, quoting Isaac Larian saying the company has “created 100 brands from zero. 25 of them have gone on to do $100 million in retail sales.”

Variety says MGA was “the first toy maker to cut a deal with the popular kid-focused gaming site Roblox to establish an online universe populated by toy brands.” Now, having paid close attention to the recent content boom resulting from the explosive growth of streaming platforms, online worlds and in-app purchases, the Larians decided the time was right to expand.