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LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc.
Company typeSubsidiary
Founded1994; 30 years ago (1994)
  • Michael Wood
  • Robert Lally
Area served
Key people
  • John Barbour (CEO)
  • William "Bill" Chiasson (chairman)
  • Raymond Arthur (CFO)
Number of employees
579 (2014)
ParentVTech (2016–present)

LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. (commonly known as LeapFrog) is an educational entertainment and electronics company based in Emeryville, California. LeapFrog designs, develops, and markets technology-based learning products and related content for the education of children from infancy through grade school. The company was founded by Michael Wood and Robert Lally in 1994. John Barbour is the chief executive officer of LeapFrog.[1]


1990–1997: Founding

The history of LeapFrog traces back to the late 1980s when LeapFrog founder Michael Wood, an attorney at Cooley LLP,[2] had difficulties teaching his son how to read.[3] He began researching phonics and marketing while continuing as a partner at Cooley.[3] By 1994, Wood had developed the first prototype of what would become Phonics Desk, LeapFrog's first product.[4] The prototype utilized a Texas Instruments chip that was previously used by one of Wood's clients to develop talking greeting cards.[4] Wood solicited feedback on his prototype from the late Robert Calfee, an expert on children's reading development and a professor of education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education.[4]

Wood began manufacturing the Phonics Desk in 1995.[5] That year, Wood resigned as a partner at Cooley LLP and founded LeapFrog Enterprises with Robert Lally.[2] The company received $800,000 in seed funding from friends, family, and former clients of Wood.[2][3] Toys "R" Us became the first major retailer to carry the Phonics Desk shortly before Christmas 1995.[6] Other retailers such as FAO Schwarz, Walmart and Target later began carrying the toy.[6]

1998–2002: Expansion and acquisition by Knowledge Universe

LeapFrog had distribution in over 10 countries and a number of major clients in the US by early 1997.[2] In March of that year, the company hired Brad Crawford, who formerly worked for Little Tikes, to oversee sales and manufacturing.[7] Knowledge Universe acquired a majority stake in LeapFrog in October 1997.[8] Knowledge Universe is an education company founded by brothers Lowell Milken and Michael Milken, Larry Ellison, and Tom Kalinske.[6] LeapFrog subsequently merged with Knowledge Universe's Knowledge Kids division.[8] Kalinske, a former executive at Mattel, became LeapFrog chief executive officer as a result of the merger.[9]

LeapFrog acquired Explore Technologies in August 1998.[10] Explore Technologies produced the Odyssey Globe, an interactive globe that could call out the names of countries when users touched the globe with a specially designed stylus.[8] Explore Technologies' stylus technology was later used in LeapFrog's LeapPad, a learning tablet that sounds out words when users drag a stylus across a word in LeapPad books.[11] The LeapPad launched in 1999 and became Leapfrog's flagship product.[11] It was the top-selling toy in the US for 2001 and 2002, and books and accessories for the device were the best-selling toy in the US in 2003.[11] LeapFrog opened its LeapFrog Schoolhouse division, which markets LeapFrog products directly to schools, in 1999.[2][11]

2003–present: Going public and acquisition by VTech

A girl with Leapster
A girl with LeapPad

LeapFrog co-founder Michael Wood became the company's chief executive officer in early 2002.[9] In July, LeapFrog went public on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol LF.[12] Knowledge Universe retained majority control of the company following the initial public offering.[12] Sega Toys and Benesse also began producing LeapFrog toys localized for the Japanese market in 2002.[13] The Leapster was released in October 2003.[14] LeapFrog products were sold in more than 25 countries by that year.[2] Tom Kalinske was appointed LeapFrog chief executive officer following Michael Wood's retirement in February 2004.[9] Kalinske had previously served as LeapFrog's chief executive officer from the company's acquisition by Knowledge Universe in 1997 until early 2002.[9] Wood was retained as the company's chief creative officer.[2] Jeffrey G. Katz replaced Kalinske as LeapFrog chief executive officer in 2006.[2] Katz was previously the founding chairman and chief executive officer of Orbitz and had served on the LeapFrog board for a year prior to becoming the chief executive officer of LeapFrog.[15] Kalinske remained vice chairman of LeapFrog.[15]

LeapFrog discontinued the LeapPad and released its Tag Reading System in June 2008.[16] Tag became LeapFrog's flagship product and was a successor to the 10-year-old LeapPad.[17] The company released its Leapster2 portable learning system and its Didj educational handheld game console in August 2008.[17]

William "Bill" Chiasson replaced Jeffrey Katz as LeapFrog president and chief executive officer in March 2010.[18] Chiasson had most recently served as LeapFrog chief financial officer.[18] Katz was appointed to the newly created position of executive chairman of the board.[18] LeapFrog also released the Leapster Explorer educational handheld game console in 2010.[19] The Leapster Explorer was the successor to the Leapster2 and was targeted toward older children.[19] The console supports online gameplay as well as learning apps, e-books, and videos.[19] John Barbour was named the chief executive officer of LeapFrog in March 2011.[20] Barbour previously served as an executive for Toys "R" Us and RealNetworks.[20]

LeapFrog released the LeapPad Explorer educational tablet computer in 2011.[21] The LeapPad Explorer was designed for children aged four to nine and contained a five-inch touchscreen, camera, microphone, and both downloadable apps and cartridge-based games.[22] In 2012, LeapFrog released its updated LeapPad2 and LeapsterGS.[23][24] The LeapPad Ultra tablet computer and LeapReader were launched in 2013.[25] The LeapReader is an electronic reading and writing system that succeeded the Tag Reading System which only taught reading skills.[25]

The company released LeapBand, its first wearable activity tracker for children, in 2014.[26] LeapFrog also released its LeapPad3 and LeapPad Ultra XDi tablet devices in 2014.[27] In July 2014, the company announced the release of LeapTV.[28] They also got net loss for $124 million and had net sales of $145 million.[29] In August 2015, the company announced LeapFrog Epic,[30] its new Android-based tablet for children, which was released in September 2015.[31]

On April 4, 2016, VTech completed its $72 million acquisition of LeapFrog.[32][33]


LeapFrog Epic

LeapFrog's product portfolio focuses on three main families of products: reading solutions, educational gaming, and grade school products and learning toys. Notable products include:

Smartphone applications

Leapfrog also develops educational applications for smartphones. These apps include:

Licensing and partnerships

In addition to producing their own toys, LeapFrog also licenses their characters (the Leapfrog Learning Friends) to third parties:

LeapFrog also has partnerships with various companies:

LeapFrog Learning Friends

The core set of Leapfrog Learning Friends as seen on the Learn to Read at the Storybook Factory DVD

LeapFrog has developed various characters for use in-house, and eventually licensed the characters for use in third party products. These characters are collectively known as the Leapfrog Learning Friends. LeapFrog continues to develop new characters and has expanded character placement across products and content. Characters include Leap, Lily, Tad, Della, Dan, Dot, Casey, Parker, Tim, Mr. Frog, Mrs. Frog, Mr. Websley, Professor Quigley, and Edison. Most of the characters have been discontinued since 2008, but continued to appear on the LeapFrog Tag Learning System, the LeapFrog eBooks, the Leapster Explorer, the LeapPad Explorer, and re-released DVDs. Scout the Puppy first appeared in The Amazing Alphabet Amusement Park and Numbers Ahoy in 2009, and later characters from his series include Violet the Puppy, Penny the Hamster and Eli the Cat, along with their sentient car Axle.

Animated videos

Distributed by
Release date
December 9, 2003 – September 8, 2015
CountryUnited States

In 2003, LeapFrog began releasing animated content based on the LeapFrog characters onto home video. Over the course of more than a decade, various interpretations of the LeapFrog franchise have been used, and sixteen videos total have been produced.[58] Similar to other preschool content from PBS Kids, Nick Jr., and Playhouse Disney, LeapFrog is an early educational program designed for children in the age group of 2–7 years. The videos and DVDs were originally distributed by Warner Home Video, then PorchLight Home Entertainment, and currently Lionsgate Home Entertainment. The original wave of videos starred the Frog family; consisting of siblings Tad, Leap, and Lily, and their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frog. Other major characters include Professor Quigley, an eccentric professor who usually helps the Frog children learn educational concepts, and Mr. Websley, the boss of Quigley and Mr. Frog who runs the factories. This wave of videos teach basic early learning skills that would become recurring features in future videos, including the alphabet, reading, spelling, numbers, and addition, and subtraction. The second wave phased out most of the "Learning Friends" characters, only leaving Tad, Leap, and Lily as the main characters. However, these videos would see the addition of two new major characters: Edison (a firefly previously seen in A Tad of Christmas Cheer) and Scout (a green dog introduced in 2007 as the company's mascot). Scout would be spun-off into his own series in 2011, which introduced a new cast of characters that included Violet, Penny, Eli, and Axle. The final wave of videos revived the Letter Factory, a location from the company's earliest videos, and were animated using CGI.


Original series (2003–2007)

Second series (2008–2011)

Scout and Friends (2011–2013)

Letter Factory Adventures (2014–2015)

See also


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