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October 2005 | Vol. IV - No. 10
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Hollywood Toyboy: Warners & Pixar & Marvel, Oh My!

One retailer is so excited, hes devoting a whole wall to Ghost Rider merchandise.
So, it?s October ? what the heck is going on out there? Hollywood Toyboy jumps on his hopped-up Vespa and hits the studios to see.

First things first: Warner Brothers is developing a new series called ?Big Bear and Nanook? about an odd twosome, Big Bear (a big Polar Bear) and Nanook (a little Inuit) who were raised by wolves, and are now secret agents for the Blizzard Justice Bureau. A bigwig at Warners Channel says it?s a cross between ?Ice Age? and James Bond, and they?re very excited about it. The characters are fun and the merchandizing should be lucrative, as it will be a crossover to both boys and girls. Who can resist a plush polar bear who wears disguises and lots of ice-related gadgets? Cool fun.

Pixar Predominant

So, Disney and Pixar divorced (for now). The last film the two are doing together is ?Cars,? John ?The Man? Lasseter directing, which comes out in 2006. It will be the usual Pixar/Disney juggernaut, with lots of car toys, etc.

But the more interesting news is about ?Ratatouille,? the first sans-Disney Pixar film, about a rat that lives in a Parisian restaurant (yummy). It?s in the midst of a game of distribution roulette. Who is going to team up with Pixar (who, as purely a production company, can?t do it alone), the plum of the CGI animation world? Here are the possibilities: Warner Brothers, Sony, Universal Studios or 20th Century Fox.

Warners has a good, strong animation department, but CGI? Pixar could fit right in. They also have the strong distribution and strong company name. But, Time Warner (owner of Warner Bro.?s) has been burnt by mergers and alliances in the past (can anyone say AOL?). Sooooo, probably not. Fox? They have a roaring CGI division of their own ? it would be a creative nightmare to pull Pixar in ? without ruffling feathers internally. Universal Studios? They would be a great fit ? but Universal has been glacially slow in the past. Insiders are guessing Sony.

?Sony and Pixar have already flirted with this dance last year,? said an insider at Pixar. (They?re referring to the February 2004 offer to buy.) ToyBoy vote: Sony. Unless, with Michael Eisner gone, Disney comes crawling back. It would be worth their while.

Marvel Mania

?Ghost Rider,? the live-action version of the comic book (stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze gives up his soul to become a hell-blazing vigilante, natch), has moved up its release date by three weeks to July 14, 2006. Can anyone say ?action figures?? This is making the collectibles market go wild. One retailer is so excited, he?s devoting a whole wall to Ghost Rider merchandise. There will be a big push on these toys to coincide with the release of the movie. Even if the movie doesn?t do that well, the toys should hold their own.

And now that Marvel Enterprises Inc. has changed its name to Marvel Entertainment Inc. and is going to make movies (hey, the lure of X-Men and Spider-Man was just too much), where go the toys? The licenses for these products are gold, and Marvel is picking and choosing with care. Since they will produce the movies themselves, they can really bargain from a position of power. Paramount is going to be the distributor of the movies, but with Captain America, the Avengers, Nick Fury, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Cloak & Dagger, Dr. Strange, Hawkeye, Power Pack and Shang-Chi, who will be the licensees? As a little executive bird told us: ?It?s the goose that laid the golden egg. Everyone has come knocking.? With that kind of brand recognition, and the success of previous superhero endeavors, it?s going to be a Merry Marvel Marching Society for years to come.

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