'Angry Birds' Swoop Into Hollywood Toy Territory

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Entertainment studios that are accustomed to dominating the licensed toy market have a formidable, feathered foe this holiday season. Angry Birds, the online app from Finnish company Rovio that has been downloaded more than 500 million times worldwide, is now a line of plush animals, balls, pillows, key chains and more that are expected to be hot sellers this holiday.

"It's phenomenal," says Alec Kessler of Commonwealth Toys & Novelties, the New York company that in 2010 licensed toy rights for Birds, its fastest-growing property. Synergy between the app and the toy is especially strong given how quickly the scowling characters have become a pop culture phenomenon. "It's the app that has turned into a toy," says Kessler. "The more downloads the app gets, the more recognizable the toys are."

As holiday shopping begins on Black Friday, Rovio is going head-to-head with Disney's venerable Princess line and Cars 2, which are expected to be the season's top sellers, as well as powerhouses Star Wars and Sesame Street. The revived Smurfs, riding high on the $500 million worldwide gross of Sony's summer movie, also are expected to sell big. Retail sales of licensed toys and games totaled $6.36 billion in 2010, down from $6.5 billion in 2009, according to The Licensing Letter. But with the economy somewhat improved, hopes are high for a strong holiday season. According to Kessler -- who says the demographic for Birds is "3 to 83" -- there's only one problem with the toys' soaring popularity: "Retailers are having a hard time keeping them in stock."