May 2006 | Vol. V - No. 5
Hollywood ToyBoy: Doom Equals Profit
The Passion of the Barbie
Let's look at the historical perspective of the entertainment industry and toy industry in parallel and see what's in the cards: End of the world, or natural order of things?
"Before every paradigm shift since Melie," a long-time producer cum film school professor waxed, "there was a hue and cry that the movies were at an end. The first silent shorts were gimmicks, which led to D. W. Griffith's critical and commercial masterpiece 'Birth of a Nation.' In the '20s, budgets ran rampant, and the movies were again & at an end. Along came the 'talkies' (which everyone thought were the 'end,' too) — an explosion of profit. The Depression seemed to curtail spending, but movies did even better, leading the greatest movie year of all time: 1939."
"Television was going to kill the movies. The '60s were going to kill the movies. Star Wars was going to kill the movies. After each dip in industry profits, a new and greater rise occurred, mostly due to independent thinking co-opted by major business. Monetary necessity is the mother of investment."
And the same is true of the toy industry. Many of the toys pioneered in the 1800s are still around. The form may have changed, electric motors replacing wind-up springs, computer chips instead of pull-strings, but the idea of toys, the "fun," is still there.
"In the '50s, toy profits took a big dip," explained a high-ranking toy insider with strong ties to the television industry, "But plastic heralded the 'new era' — you can thank Reuben B. Klamer for that one. Each fad came on the heels of a decline. Each defeat laid the seeds for resurrection. People forget that video games are games. If you include their profit as part of the toy industry, everyone's doing 'just fine.'"
Which leads us to Barbie. She's been "on the ropes" every other generation or so. The '70s were a bad decade for her. The new millennium has seen her taken down a peg by Bratz. But like the very industry she's the queen of, she'll make a comeback.
"Barbie is timeless and above fashion. Each generation reinvents her. Right now, the younger girls and collectors are in the fore," elucidated a VP in charge of marketing at a major studio. "But like polka dots — back in style again — she will evolve and come back strong. She's a classic."
So what does this mean to the toy retailer? Wherever there is a dip, the kernels of success are hidden. Don't follow the herd. Keep a close eye out for innovations.
"The darker the outlook," illustrated a top media consultant who shall remain nameless but has worked on everything from movie premiers to candy bar introductions, "the more silver is in the lining. I love it when people say 'the end is near' — I can hear the cash register going off. I just have to follow the sound."
When the industry is in a downturn, it means stagnation in the mainstream. And it means innovation at the edges. Look for the unlooked-for and you'll be "doomed" to succeed.
 Esoteric philosophy first formulated by Hugh Mann & later advocated by W. Zibaldo.
And, to Recap ...
Whelp. It’s been 12 months (in actor years, 26 episodes) that the ol’ Hollywood ToyBoy has been around TDmonthly Magazine. All sorts of predictions were made. Let’s take a walk down memory lane — peruse past columns — and do that eminently Hollywood thing: self-congratulatory backpatting.
June 2005: One of the biggest predictions to come true was the strong push for Warner Brothers cartoon related toys (Xiaolin Showdown, Loonatics, etc.). Lo and behold, many were seen at the 2006 Toy Fair in NYC. Score one for the ToyBoyster and TDmonthly.
July 2005: Biggest scoop? The new CGI “Winnie The Pooh” series from Disney. Yup, you heard it here first.
August 2005: Shhhh, “The Secret Show” from Britain is the next big thing to come over from the land of the Beatles.
September 2005: No predictions, just good leads on product placement (and a plug for Uglydolls — still going strong).
October 2005: Pixar bought by Disney? You heard it here first, waaaaay ahead of anyone else!!
November 2005: Digital theaters, the moneyization of iPod downloads, the future of life on earth, all predicted right here in this column.
December 2005: The push for Lucas Films/Arts to go gaming! Watch for Georgie as he shoots to the #1 video game maker in this or any other universe.
January 2006: The push for family friendly. Forget sex and violence, warm and cuddly is the new pink.
February 2006: Corgi boldly going where no man has gone before (think Star Trek).
March 2006: The Internet is becoming the new Hollywood, and Hollywood doesn’t like it.
April 2006: Music! Music! Music! The next big thing is going to be old bands making new music … for kids. Dinosaur rock becomes kidpop!
May 2006: Doomism, and how Barbie is going to kick some Bratz butt.
What a year! It's anyone's guess what next year will bring.
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