TDmonthly Magazine!
January 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 1


Hollywood ToyBoy: Specialty Toys Can Save Hollywood

How the Genius of Genre Keeps Play Alive

“Make toys based on groups of movies.” VP in charge of development
Hollywood’s in a rut. Just look at the trailers: action, action, explosions and screams... and those are for the comedies.

A PR flash from one of the studios explained: “Everything looks the same: No substance. Same cuts. Same explosions. Same narrators … And I should know; I help make the trailers.”

And because of that, the mass-market toy biz is the same.

The Reason?

We’ve killed the genres.

An old-time, been-through-the-blacklist-years writer with an immaculate Brentwood mansion and starched turtleneck recalled that “Back in the day, Hollywood knew that some movies were going to be big hits, but that others were going to be fodder. Both were part of the studio system. Both made money in the old model. So they had Westerns and Gangster movies, Mysteries, Science Fiction and Pirate flick. People went to see a type of movie, more than the movie half the time.”

But post-1976 (After Star Wars), things changed. Suddenly, every movie had to be a blockbuster.

People started going for the event. Genres died. And so did the open-ended-ness of the movies … and play. Kids were forced into the event role of the blockbuster. Imagination went bye-bye.

“Play patterns changed,” explained a noted child psychologist from a not-to-be-named university whose initials are UCLA. “Kids look to formulated plots for their inspiration ... which is very limiting.”

What should the toy companies do? “They should make toys based on groups of movies,” suggested a VP in charge of development. “Not just one superhero movie ... but a slew of them. Or a Star Wars movie coupled with a Battlestar Galactica show.”

In other words, go back to the older studio model: genres of toys.

And Hollywood?

A director buddy who’s switched from horror films to family films (the guy just had twins) thought that “What goes around, comes around. Hollywood is cyclic. One day there’ll be Westerns again....”

Following are some of the genre toys that work in specialty markets. Mass market, take heed!

MSRP: $4.50
Age Range: 4 and up
Category: Action Figures

These figures are part of the Knights and Dragons series and are sold separately. Both collectibles are hand-painted and accurately detailed.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7955      (added 5/23/2006)

MSRP: $7.50
Age Range: 3 and up
Category: Action Figures

Safari Ltd. proudly showcases its miniature collectibles in an acetate tube. There are 40 different themes to choose from. Each replica is hand painted and finely detailed for extra realism. Nontoxic and phthalate free.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9308      (added 9/8/2006)

MSRP: $4.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Launch Date: January 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Action Figures

Dressed in white and emblazoned with a cross, this knight is ready to defend his faith. His horse is also dramatically draped. Each is available separately. Launch date: 2006.
— "Papo... across the line. Our Knight Papo figures are our best-selling stand-alone figures," said Alex Witten of Sparks Toy & Hobby Shoppe in Smithfield, R.I. Eighteen of 34 retailers TDmonthly spoke with in spring 2007 cited Papo as best-selling action figures in their stores.
— Retailers reported sales of Papo Knights averaging 50 to 100 units a month.
— "Papo’s design, quality and play value continue to inspire children and even adults with the imaginary world of Papo," said Larry J. Hotaling of distributor Hotaling Imports.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7767      (added 5/2/2006)

Jousting knights and horses need a place to gather, rest and strategize. This modular castle has two 16.5” towers with crenellations so archers can let fly and then hide, a drawbridge and an authentically medieval look. Made of textured plastic, the castle comes as an easily assembled kit. Towers and other pieces are available separately so that kids can add to the castle as their collection of knights and horses grows.
— Karen Barwick, owner of Boomerang Toys in New York City, expected the Knight’s Castle to be a great Christmas seller.
— The knights and horses that fit in this castle have been cited by almost every retailer surveyed as the hottest collectible item among boys ages 4 to 12.
— “The Knight’s Castle is a winner for us,” said Sam Armstrong, CEO of Schleich North America. “It’s a product everyone is chasing right now. We’re getting containers in every week, so it’s just a question of keeping of up with the demand.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5255      (added 10/27/2005)

MSRP: $179.99
Age Range: 4 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Pretend Play

All the knights in all the kingdoms can duke it out at this magnificent castle … if they dare brave the treacherous moat. Residents of the castle can cross to the other side with the aid of a working drawbridge. The set also includes a king’s throne, a functional hoist and — for kids who are eager to impose their own “time-out” — a mini dungeon, too. Characters available separately.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4854      (added 9/29/2005)

MSRP: $7.95
Age Range: 8 to 12
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Novelties

The new Pirate Benders have dropped anchor and are shivering timbers everywhere. There are six different pirates: Hook, Patches, Bones, Peg, Swab and Red Beard. Each comes with a sword or accessory and is packed inside a treasure chest tin.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9577      (added 10/4/2006)

New as of May 2006, this green steed is adorned with a detailed green coat bearing a bull’s golden horns. The knight riding atop the grey beast is dressed in armor and wears a bull’s horns atop his helmet.
— Debbie Scholl, owner of Fundamentally Toys in Houston, said that Schleich makes animal figures that fly off the shelves at her store.
— “Let's see, we sell a lot of the German company Schleich Knights — horses and medieval times-like stuff. They're just very real looking and very detailed,” said Char Mcaulay, manager of Toy Town in Casper, Wyo.
— Retailers consistently tell TDmonthly that knights are one of the few non-licensed character-driven product lines that sell well at their stores.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8581      (added 7/18/2006)

MSRP: $8.95
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Action Figures

Casting gender stereotypes aside, Anne Bonny proves that you don’t have to be a man to be a pirate. Armed with two pistols, a cutlass and a boarding axe, this 5-1/4" tall, hard vinyl version of Anne Bonny is ready to rough up all of the boy action figures. She comes packaged on an illustrated blistercard. “We sell pirate toys well,” reported Linda Hill, owner of Emerald Isle Toys on Emerald Isle, N.C. “Our pirates are by Accoutrements.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8718      (added 7/25/2006)

MSRP: $29.00
Age Range: 2 and up
Launch Date: June 2007
Gender: Boys
Category: Pretend Play

Now baby can giddy up with this nifty cowboy costume just for little tykes. One size fits kids up to 25 lbs. Turtleneck and tights are not included. Cowboy outfits by Mullins Square are one of shoppers’ favorite things at Dear Friends & Children in Duncan, Okla., said owner Mary Ellen Cerney. Bob Mullins, owner of Mullins Square, said that they added "about a dozen new animal costumes, including lions and elephants" for 2007. "And they look good!" he enthused. Launch date: June 1, 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5788      (added 12/7/2005)

Launch Date: September 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Collectibles
Action Figures

There's a new category of collectible from Schleich — the American Frontier (Wild West). Like this Cowboy With Lasso, they're based on the United States' westward expansion of the 1800s. "Schleich figurines are meticulously crafted and hand-painted with attention to detail," said Katherine MacLean, sales and marketing coordinator for Schleich North America Inc. "They are realistic without a cartoon feel. The price points are reasonable. Schleich is becoming a brand." Launch date: September 2006.
— "We have a line of animals from Schleich that does extremely well. There are all types of animals from frogs to horses to elephants," said Holly Reay, owner of Kid’s Corner in Carmel, Ind.
— Bonnie Dodds, owner of Bonnie’s Toys and More in Iowa City, enthusiastically endorsed the brand in the miniature category by exclaiming, "Schleich everything!" sells well.
— Nine of 45 retailers we asked told TDmonthly that these figurines were popular with their customers.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8619      (added 7/19/2006)

Writer's Bio: Mark Zaslove is an entertainment industry veteran in developing content (writing, directing and producing television and feature films) for the major studios, including Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing and recipient of the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies), Mark is also Head of Content Development for Nice Entertainment. Read more articles by this author


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