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International Toy Fair Still a Hollywood Affair

19 Feb, 2004 By: Anne Sherber

NEW YORK — Hollywood was still the 800-pound gorilla at this week's 101st American International Toy Fair, with videos based on toys big in the mix.

Entertainment and character licensing accounted for $13.6 billion, or 19 percent of all licensed product retail sales — a figure that was not lost on Toy Fair's manufacturers, retailers, licensors and toy inventors.

The major studios were well represented. Fox unveiled a deal with MGA Entertainment, the licensor for the wildly popular Bratz line of fashion dolls, to produce a direct-to-video feature film based on the property and to be the distributor for the theatrical feature MGA has in production (VSM, Feb. 15-21).

Another doll that's beefing up his acting resume is G.I. Joe. Hasbro, the brand license holder, has announced that the action figure will star in G.I. Joe: Valor vs. Venom, a full-length DVD to be distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment in the fourth quarter. The company has developed a line of toys related to the film's release and has refreshed the soldier figure's image.

Mattel, which earlier this year announced the release of Barbie's fourth feature-length video, is working with a new business model for its Barbie video line, said a spokesperson. Rather than relying on the motion picture business to develop merchandising opportunities, the toy maker will develop content for its properties, then create products based on the content, the spokesperson said.

Mattel's My Scene dolls, which are aimed at a slightly younger demographic than the classic Barbie line and are designed to compete with the popular Bratz dolls, will star in two animated DVDs that come packaged with the toys. The first title, due this spring, is Jammin' in Jamaica. During fourth quarter, the dolls will star in Masquerade Madness. Both are 44-minute animated movies.

The company's Matchbox brand also will introduce DVD content. Playsets that are a part of Hero City, the brand's new play environment, will include a 22-minute DVD with Hero City's backstory.

Hasbro has introduced a new line of audio players aimed at tweens and teens. PlayNow enables children to digitally record up to 30 minutes of music, sounds or speech. Additionally, Hasbro has signed license agreements for popular episodes of “American Idol,” “Fear Factor” and “America's Funniest Home Videos” for its VideoNow line of kid-friendly personal video players that launched last year.The success of the “Lord of the Rings” licensing program continues. Action figures and collectibles from all three films have been refreshed. A spokesperson for New Line said that new figures based on material available only in the upcoming director's cut DVD will be available this summer.

Theatrical tie-ins abounded.

Universal Consumer Products demonstrated prototypes of toys and action figures based on Van Helsing, a new action adventure starring Hugh Jackman as a monster hunter going after not only Dracula, but Frankenstein and the Wolf Man as well. Universal also announced that it's actively seeking licensing partners for the 2005 release of King Kong, which will be produced and directed by Lord of the Rings helmer and Oscar nominee Peter Jackson.

Several animated properties were heavily represented in showrooms: The Incredibles, a Disney/Pixar production, due in theaters Nov. 5; DreamWorks' Shrek 2, due in theaters May 21; and Shark Tale, due in theaters Oct. 1.

Nickelodeon solicited partners for the film Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, based on the very popular, very dry line of novels for young adults. The film will star Jim Carrey, Jude Law and Meryl Streep.

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