Entertainment Properties Energize Prospects for Toy Licensing
A report of the 29th Annual Licensing Expo and the first in a
series exploring the 4E’s of 2009 toy trends
Entertainment provides toy makers with a distinct competitive edge
and the 29th annual Licensing show was the perfect stage to view more
than 7,000 properties from 500 exhibitors under one roof. An
abundance of new characters and entertainment properties gave the
industry a virtual B-12 shot after the Licensing Industry
Merchandiser’s Association (LIMA) announced its estimates that
licensors collected $5.7 billion in royalties in 2008, a 5.6 percent
drop from 2007. Character licensing, which greatly impacts the
youth business, accounted for 46% of total annual royalties.
One of the most influential new exhibits was a an area dedicated to
interactive entertainment, a market segment with tremendous growth
potential as it relates to kids and young adults. According to the NPD
Group, video game hardware and software sales reached US $21.33 billion
The Entertainment Software Association and NPD reported that
family-friendly video games accounted for more than half of all game
sales in 2008, making it the most popular genre. Looking ahead, game
companies will design their marketing efforts using online and other
methods of promotion to mirror the excitement and anticipation of a
movie premier. “This approach to marketing is a template which toy
makers might look to emulate as a way of building community and brand
recognition,” Rice added.
Overall, the new Las Vegas location had its pros and cons.
Attendance seemed slightly down with both exhibitors and retailers
scaling back on staff, as well as less on-site media coverage. On
the plus side, however, exhibitors stated that the buyers who attended
were serious about doing business.
“The move to Las Vegas was a good one,” said Nicholas
Durbridge, Copyrights Group co-founder and chief executive, Chorion.
“People who are here are here for a reason, and they are ready to
Marie-Laure Marchand, Managing Director of European firm Big Bocca,
echoed this sentiment: “This Licensing Show had less traffic, but
the people who attended are the decision-makers, so I am pleased with
the results of the new location.”
Building on a Strong Foundation
The licensing world isn’t all about blockbuster
properties from the movie and entertainment studios. The major toy
companies also have evergreen brands that compete on the same scale as
In addition to being licensees, toy companies also play licensor for
properties with toy roots. For example, Hasbro’s Transformer
franchise started as toys but made the leap to the big screen; and a new
agreement with Electronic Arts will continue to support its properties
in the interactive area. Importantly, Hasbro’s landmark joint
venture with Discovery will include a TV channel and online
Mattel will raise the profile of its Hot Wheels brand with a complete
new roster of licensing, promotional and distribution partners for
apparel, role play, publishing and videogames, inspired by the
introduction of the much anticipated original animated TV series Hot
Wheels Battle Force 5 which will run domestically on Cartoon Network and
in Canada on Teletoon. The show features a team of teenage drivers with
five race cars who must work together to save the earth from
At Disney, global sales of merchandise inspired by High School
Musical and Hannah Montana grew more rapidly in 2008 than any other
Disney franchise, including its Princess line. The wildly successful
Cars franchise reached $2.5 billion in sales in 2008 and is expected to
retain its popularity in 2009 with a series of five-minute Cars Toons.
The whimsical short episodes, developed by Pixar, are being shown on the
Disney Channel, in movie theatres and on Disney DVDs to pave the way for
the next movie installment, slated for release in 2011.
Reyne Rice, TIA’s toy trend specialist, noted the marketing
influence of global brands: “When Disney celebrates and promotes
the tenth anniversary of Disney Princesses, awareness of the princess
mentality will drive more consumers to retail and more retailers to
stock up. This will improve sales for all related products that
incorporate glitz, glamour, fantasy lifestyle and role play.”
Exploring New Opportunities – Kids
A new crop of kid’s entertainment properties from around the globe
generated buzz at the show for their licensing potential.
“What’s interesting is the number of new entertainment
properties coming to the U.S. because of their initial success
abroad,” says Rice. “Many of these properties are already
global phenomena, with a dedicated fan base and should also resonate
with U.S. consumers.”
This new animated preschool TV series illuminates a girl’s
love of role play and dressing up for different careers. Set for a
2010 release from the MoonScoop Group, Bandai has acquired the worldwide
master toy license.
Dive Ollie Dive
The popular PBS preschool animated series from the MoonScoop Group
is the official mascot for Unesco as part of its new educational
campaign to teach children about the importance and beauty of the
world’s rich underwater cultural heritage.
This popular Scholastic book property with Italian origins is
scheduled to make its small screen debut in fall 2009. Moonscoop
manages the license worldwide, except in Italy, where Atlantyca
Go Go Crazy Bones
Originally launched a decade ago, these fun, miniature collectible
figures, with more than 160 characters, make this hot game ripe for a
2009 US market re-launch; iToys is the master toy licensee.
In domestic test markets since February, the property has been
tracking above expectations. The #1 Italian boys brand will have a 4th
quarter U.S. launch; Playmates has the master toy licensee.
Kamen Rider Dragon Knight
Developed in Japan, this series for boys ages 6-11 combines martial
arts, transformation and supernatural elements in boy’s action
figures and in a live action TV format. Bandai holds the master toy
Little Big Planet
The characters from the popular PlayStation game, the winner of
thirty Game of the Year awards worldwide, will be developed into a
toy line featuring SackBoy and SackGirl. Target Entertainment manages
the licensing in the USA.
Mike the Knight
The excitement and enchantment of medieval times comes alive in a
new series for the preschool set from HIT Entertainment, which recently
expanded with a new movie division to develop its intellectual property
into future theatrical releases.
This energetic new girls brand from Italy-based Rainbow Productions
named Bandai as European master toy licensee, which already pre-sold
related toys to more than 20 countries. The new property is an extension
of the popular Winx franchise, represented in 120 countries
This Korean-born girls character pop-culture lifestyle brand was
snapped up by Warner Bros. with related products set to launch in
These adorable sushi-themed anime-inspired characters, an American
Greetings property aimed at 4-8 year olds, is slated for a 2010 launch.
Big Time Toys nabbed the master toy license.
A just-introduced UK property from CBeeBees is already the #2
kid’s television show after just two weeks on air; these whimsical
characters are sure to capture the hearts of many with their
emotion-themed storyline. Fisher-Price has been named the master toy
licensee for Europe, with U.S. television rights still in
Exploring New Opportunities – Adults/Collectibles
In addition to new kid’s properties, there is exciting
news in the adult/collectibles market, specifically targeting women.
Mattel’s 50th anniversary program for its iconic Barbie brand
continues full steam ahead with a new suite at the Palms Hotel in Las
Vegas based on over-the-top Malibu Barbie style. For a mere $4,000 per
night, one can revel in the custom pink décor designed by Jonathan
Adler and experience the fun fantasy of Barbie’s vacation getaway
Audrey Hepburn’s classic style will be celebrated by Alexander
Doll as the company creates dolls based on the Breakfast at
Tiffany’s and Funny Face star.
Bringing even more girl power to center stage is the new
“Marvel for Her” property, which draws on Marvel’s
amazing cache of female superheroes including She-Hulk, The Black Widow,
Ms. Marvel, Shanna the She-Devil and others. Disguise holds the master
license. Eventually, select characters may filter down to the
With origins in publishing such as books, comics, kid’s
television or blockbuster movies, there was a broad spectrum of new
properties at Licensing Expo ‘09 to lure consumers back to
shopping once the economic recovery kicks in.