A version of this story first appeared in the February 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Call it the toy world’s perfect storm.
After a strong year for film and TV licensing in 2014, expectations are sky high for 2015, led by several successful franchises all releasing new installments: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, jurassic world, Minions, The Fantastic Four and even Peanuts.
These are all films aimed at the target audience of young people and collectors. They are expected to drive sales of toys, video games, apparel and other merchandise to new record highs.
“It seems like everyone has their ducks in a row, and all the signs are positive,” says Marty Brochstein, senior vice president of industry relations and information for LIMA, the licensing association. “There are a lot of great properties out there that have proven to be very toyetic in the past – we’re talking about sequels – and a lot of things that promise to be pretty good.”
Retail sales of toys in the United States generated $18.08 billion in 2014, compared to $17.46 billion in 2013, an increase of 4%, according to the NPD Group.
Licensed toys, which include intellectual property created by Hollywood, accounted for 31% of total sales ($5.7 billion) and posted a 7% increase in 2014, thanks in part to Frozen mania. The surprise success also came as a surprise to toy stores, which rushed to meet demand, with sales eventually topping $531 million for last year.
Anticipation of a particularly big year for licensing of movie-related merchandise has studios, licensees and retailers excited on the eve of the annual New York Toy Fair, which runs from 14 to February 17.
“What we see out there in the trenches is that there are four titles dominating the conversation,” says Stephanie Sperberuniversal president of licenses and partnerships, “and therefore the storage space [in toy retailers].” (On Thursday, Sperber announced she would be leaving Universal after nearly two decades.)
The titles that Sperber predicts will dominate with star wars are avengersalso from Disney, Universal’s jurassic world reboot and, above all, Minionswhich receives an oversized global push.
In particular, the return of star wars in December is expected to increase the numbers significantly. “It’s the giant of the industry,” says Brochstein.
In 1999, when the original star wars films have been re-released and a new star wars trilogy was launched, sales of its licensed products soared 400% within months.
Disney, which for the first time manages worldwide star wars licenses, withholding many details until closer to publication. He recently revealed that along with Hasbro, global licensees include Lego, Mattel, Jakks Pacific and Rubies. “Our teams have designed product lines that will deliver incredible gaming experiences while preserving the surprises filmmakers have in store for audiences in December,” says Josh Argentierexecutive vice president of worldwide licensing at Disney Consumer Products.
Minionsby Universal Studios, spin-off of the two hits Despicable Me movies. Licensed toy sales really took off with the second movie, and surprisingly, according to Sperber, they’ve remained pretty strong over the past year, even without any new releases. “He defied the typical model,” Sperber says, “and played more broadly age-wise than expected – and the video game didn’t stop.”
This game, cute’s race, was expected to sell around 25 million downloads over two years. Instead, Sperber says, it sold more than 500 million in less than a year and a half. New games will be released related to the release of Minions July 10.
Despicable Me, produced by Illumination Entertainment, was also notable due to the cleverness and advantage of many licensed toys (remember the Fart Blaster?), led by those of Hong Kong’s main licensee Thinkway. For Minionstechnology is being used even more to create toys that do everything from playing a guitar to falling down laughing and then getting back up.
Minions is backed by a whopping 850 toy licensees worldwide, compared to 250 for Despicable Me 2. A big part of that is international growth, “and we’re not close to maxing out in terms of the number of licenses,” adds Sperber.
Sperber is also very high on the return of the dinosaurs in jurassic world, continuing a string of blockbuster movies dating back two decades.
Most jurassic world the toys target boys ages 4-11, then there are three digital games for older kids and adults.
Hasbro has the master license for jurassic world (and has held the rights for many years for Star Wars).
For jurassic worldSperber says Hasbro has “created what I think will open or re-open a game model for boys: the dinosaur game.”
Although it won’t fly in theaters until December 18, the most predicted film to be the year’s biggest licensing property is star wars.
star wars toys, merchandise, games and other bestselling stores around October 1st. For any other property, not having a movie in theaters until the end of the selling season would hurt sales, but that shouldn’t be the case for the high-profile property acquired by Disney from george lucas‘ Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4 billion.
“were talking star wars here,” says Brochstein. “It’s not like they have to build the product profile. Retailers are eager for it and there is a lot of pent-up demand among consumers. »
Disney’s Pixar is also counting on strong performances for Upside down, opening June 19, and The Good Dinosaur, opening November 25.
As the Minions toys, a lot of effort has gone into giving Pixar characters a self-expression meant to capture the humor, visual style, and whimsical elements of the movies.
Other films that will compete for family audiences and children’s attention include Sony pixelfeaturing Adam Sandler; Disney/Marvel’s The ant Man; live action Peter Pan from Warner Bros.; monster trucks from Paramount; and Hotel Transylvania 2 from Sony.
Sperber says the reality is that there won’t be a place in the market for licensed products from all of these titles. “It’s a game of feet and thumbs at retail,” says Sperber. “Are we going to have 2 feet, 4 feet, 6 feet [of prime shelf space in toy stores and from mass merchants like Walmart and Target]?
“There is a limited amount of space in brick-and-mortar stores,” adds Sperber. “It’s literally about securing inches on a shelf. If we get our foot of space, someone else’s goes down because you can’t keep putting more and more shelves because a store has a finite size. We are all fighting for the same storage space.
CORRECTION: 02/06 17:32 Hasbro has owned the licensing rights to Star Wars for many years.