'Green Lantern,' 'Cars 2' Products Among Toy Fair's Hot Properties

3:45 PM PST 02/10/2011 by Georg Szalai

Hollywood franchises will once again have a big presence at the annual gathering in New York that kicks off this weekend.

NEW YORK -- The Green Lantern and Cars 2 are expected to be among the hot entertainment properties at the annual Toy Fair, which kicks off here Sunday.

As always, the event will feature a range of products tied to movies, TV shows and entertainment characters. In line with Hollywood's focus on tentpole releases in recent years, established franchises again will have a major presence.

"Toys for sequels or known properties often get a better reaction from retailers," because they already have experience with how well product tied to such franchises sells, said Reyne Rice, trend specialist at the Toy Industry Association, which organizes the fair that brings together toymakers, manufacturers, retailers and entertainment industry reps. Retailers tend to use the fair to get a latest look at properties and help decide whether to increase or fine-tune existing commitments to toy product or add lines that look promising.

"With recent retail consolidation, buyers have been very picky," said Brad Globe, president of Time Warner's Warner Bros. Consumer Products. "We really try to strive to have a property that lives for multiple years."

According to research firm NPD Group, U.S. retail sales of toys rose 2% in 2010 to $21.87 billion. And one of its representatives recently cited this year's movie slate as being promising for toy sales. While NPD doesn't break out sales for specific franchises, it listed Cars: The Movie, Disney Princess, Star Wars, Thomas and Friends and Toy Story -- in alphabetical order -- as the top licensed toy properties in terms of dollar sales in 2010.

Steven Ekstract, group publisher of License! Global magazine, predicted that "the big buzz on licensed toys at this year's Toy Fair will be Transformers 3 (Hasbro), Cars 2 (Disney) -- already a top performing license -- Captain America (Disney's Marvel), Green Lantern (DC Comics/Warner Bros.), Pirates of the Caribbean (Disney), Thor (Marvel) and Smurfs (Sony Pictures)." But he and Rice also predicted a possible hit coming from the online space. "Keep your eye on Moshi Monsters, a social networking property from the U.K. that is getting a lot of buzz," Ekstract said.

For entertainment companies, toys and other licensed merchandise are a key part of business. Licensors of entertainment properties generally get a guarantee from a master toy licensee, which can be worth $1 million or more for major theatrical releases or franchises. Then the studio typically gets an 8% to 15% cut of wholesale receipts.

Disney, whose Disney Consumer Products unit is the biggest licensing business among all entertainment giants, will use Toy Fair for a major push for Cars 2, which looks bigger than Toy Story 3 last year given that there are more than 300 new toys supporting the release of the sequel about animated cars. "Disney Consumer Products will be supporting Disney/Pixar's Cars 2 in a very big way by unveiling hundreds of new toys inspired by the film," said Vince Klaseus, senior vp of global toys at Disney Consumer Products.

Disney licensees, such as Jakks Pacific and Lego, will also showcase Pirates of the Caribbean 4 toys, such as film character-based action figures that turn into zombies under a black light. The Pirates franchise has brought in $1.6 billion in global merchandise retail sales, Jo Pascoe, director of toys at Disney Consumer Products, said recently. Among other key Disney characters, Mickey Mouse and the Disney Princess franchise also will be prominently featured at Toy Fair.

Warner Bros. Consumer Products will again have a major presence and big brand names at the event.

"This is really a big year for us with Green Lantern leading the charge and our relaunch of Thundercats," Globe said. While he didn't give specific projections, he said 2011 should be "one of our bigger years in the toy arena."

Thundercats is "launching with a core fan base [from the TV series of the 1980s], which helps," he said. "Many buyers [on the retail side] grew up with the franchise and love it." Meanwhile, "Green Lantern probably is a little broader and skews younger than Batman," he said.

Green Lantern product that will be showcased at Toy Fair include action figures, a toy version of the superhero's ring that projects the Green Lantern symbol more than 50 feet and a board game. Thundercats merchandise includes action and collector figures and a role-play sword.

Happy Feet 2 and Scooby-Doo also will be part of Warner's Toy Fair presence as will Harry Potter, with the final film of the franchise hitting theaters this year. Potter has grossed more than $7 billion in global retail sales, according to WBCP.

Meanwhile, DreamWorks Animation on Thursday unveiled an exclusive licensing relationship with Mattel's Fisher-Price unit on Thursday that covers, among other things, toys tied to upcoming film release Kung Fu Panda 2, including action figures and an oversized 15-inch Kung Fu Po Wrestler plush toy that kids can wrestle with and hear funny sound effects and witty phrases in the process, and TV series The Penguins of Madagascar, such as a Regurgitating Rico Launcher that spews popcorn balls.

Viacom's Nickelodeon, generally seen as the top TV-driven licensor in the industry, will present toys tied to evergreen franchises SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer, such as a Dora ballerina doll and a SpongeBob 3D sphere puzzle and Lego sets.

And Viacom's Paramount Pictures will represent The Adventures of Tintin, which opens in December, and classic properties including the Godfather, Breakfast at Tiffany's (whose 50th anniversary is approaching) and Footloose, whose remake will be released in October. It also will be involved in a joint event with Hasbro for toys tied to summer tentpole Transformers 3.

Also at Toy Fair, Sony Pictures' upcoming Smurfs will get the toy treatment with Spider-Man also having a presence; News Corp.'s Fox will make a push for its Wimpy Kid franchise with plush toys and action figures plus will show off fare tied to upcoming animated feature Rio; CBS Consumer Products will mainly focus on toy product tied to its evergreen Star Trek; and Lucasfilm, whose Star Wars franchise had its highest toy revenue ever for a non-movie year in 2010 with more than $510 million and maintained its position as the best-selling boys toy license in the U.S. for the third consecutive year, will see Hasbro present a new take on the lightsaber.

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