How movies and TV shows have come to dominate the toy market
It’s impossible to ignore how today’s toy market has come to be ruled by films and television programs. From action figures to bicycles, soft toys to dressing-up clothes, the vast majority of kids’ toys and games these days are tied in with the likes of Darth Vader, Jack Sparrow, or Dora the Explorer. And if existing toy ranges want to compete, there’s only one thing for it – make their own movie! Transformers, Bratz, and Masters of the Universe are all lines of toys that have received the movie-star treatment, with more to come. But when did this relationship between toys and films begin, and how did it get so big?
A brief history of movie merchandising
The first notable production of a toy based on a film is still popular, and instantly recognizable around the world, today. In 1928, Walt Disney created the character of Mickey Mouse, who was an instant hit on the silver screen. Two years later, the first stuffed Mickey Mouse dolls were on sale, beginning a successful tie-in that has lasted more than eighty years. From Snow White onwards, successful toy ranges were produced to accompany Disney’s feature films. Other popular cartoon producers followed suit, licensing toys and other merchandise to cash in on the popularity of their characters.
In 1952, Mr Potato Head became the first toy to be advertised on television, netting over four million dollars in his first year on the market. Mr Potato Head would later experience a revival after his appearances in Disney’s Toy Story movies, which rejuvenated sales for several classic toy ranges. These days, Mr Potato Head continues to follow movie trends, and can be purchased with Darth Vader and Spiderman outfits, amongst others.
In the 1960s, a line of dolls were manufactured, based on US TV show The Lieutenant. Called GI Joe, this range of figures were instantly successful in the US, and are still popular there and in other parts of the world to this day. Other television and film series, including Batman and James Bond, had great success with merchandising spin-offs aimed at children. The explosion in toy and movie tie-ins
But the relationship between film and toy was taken to a whole new level in 1977, with the release of the movie Star Wars. The film’s creator and director, George Lucas, shrewdly realised that the heroes, villains, monsters and spaceships that populate the movie, lent themselves effortlessly to the toy market. Kenner’s range of Star Wars figure and toys came to dominate the toy industry for years to come, and original items of Star Wars merchandise are now highly sought after collectibles which can fetch a high price.
Toys start starring in their own movies
The massive success of Star Wars toys showed toy manufacturers just how important television and the cinema could be in marketing toys to children (and their parents). The 1980s saw an explosion in this style of toy merchandising, especially in the world of TV. In the early ’80s, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe became the first cartoon series to be based on a range of toys, rather than the other way around. This technique led to huge sales of the toys, and led to a spate of toy-related TV shows and movies based on toy ranges, including Care Bears, My Little Pony and Thundercats. In 1987, He-Man got his own movie, called Masters of the Universe, with Dolph Lundgren portraying the plastic action figure.
This was the start of a trend which would lead to the blockbuster movie Transformers in 2007, the biggest film so far to be entirely based on a range of toys. Another Masters of the Universe movie is in production, with a bigger budget than the original and the benefit of modern special effects techniques. The advent of CGI makes it much easier for filmmakers to recreate the world of toys on the big screen, and much loved toy ranges like Thundercats and GI Joe have films in the early stages of development.
Film and toy tie-ins are here to stay
Some may argue that such collaborations are cynically exploiting the “I want that” syndrome in the modern child. But it can also be said that the relationship between films and toys encourages imagination, story-telling, and creative development in children. After all, once the movie is over, children can continue the adventure at home, deciding for themselves how the story continues.
thetoyshop.com is the online toy store for The Entertainer, one of the UK’s biggest toy retailers. They offer a wide range of action figures, toys and games based on popular TV shows and movies, including Transformers, Bratz, Star Wars, Ben 10 and Doctor Who.
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Expand the description and view the text of the steps for this how-to video. Check out Howcast for other do-it-yourself videos from ijt0107 and more videos in the General Holiday & Seasonal Crafts category. You can contribute too! Create your own DIY guide at www.howcast.com or produce your own Howcast spots with the Howcast Filmmakers Program at www.howcast.com If you want to spice up a present but you’re low on supplies, check out this little trick to brighten up your gift. To complete this How-To you will need: Wrapping paper Scissors Ruler Tape Newspaper (optional) Step 1: Wrap your present Wrap your present with whatever paper you have before making the bow. Tip: Wrap the present in newspaper — the bow will make the gift look great no matter what it’s wrapped in. Step 2: Cut a long piece of paper Cut a piece of wrapping paper long enough to wrap around the present lengthwise. Fold the edges under to make them uniform. Tape the ends together on the back of the package to make the ribbon portion of the bow. Step 3: Cut strips for the bow Cut four strips, 8 ½ inches long and three-quarters of an inch thick. Then cut one more strip, 4 inches long and three-quarters of an inch thick. Step 4: Construct first part of bow Fold two of the long pieces into loops. Stack them on top of each other and arrange them at 90-degree angles, like a T. Staple them through the center to hold the T together, and then repeat with the other two long strips. Tip: Repeat as many times as you …
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