Toy time for movie industry

Fri Feb 15, 2008 1:33am EST
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By Gail Schiller

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Toys based on the upcoming movies "Speed Racer," "The Dark Knight," "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and "Hulk" are expected to be the biggest hits at Toy Fair, which kicks off Sunday in Manhattan.

Other film properties expected to make a solid showing at the four-day event -- where toy manufacturers display their 2008 lines to the media, Wall Street investors and retailers -- include "Iron Man," "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" and the animated "Kung Fu Panda" and "Wall-E."

With "Hannah Montana" hotter than ever and a live-action movie slated for 2009, Disney licensees will showcase product lines that also incorporate the trend toward music-themed toys, sparked not only by "Hannah" and Disney's other tween phenomenon "High School Musical" but also by such music-based video games as "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Star." There also will be toys for "HSM" ahead of the October theatrical release of "High School Musical 3: Senior Year."

This week's announcement that Lucasfilm will be releasing an animated "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" feature August 15, ahead of the anticipated TV series that will air on Cartoon Network and TNT, also sparked excitement.

Although the spate of toy recalls that rocked the industry occurred just a few months ago, toy company executives insist that the recalls are having no impact on the excitement level over Toy Fair or on their business with entertainment licensors and retailers.

"We're looking forward, not back, and we're committed to making sure everything we do is safe," said Doug Wadleigh, vp marketing entertainment brands at Mattel, which probably was hardest hit by the recalls.

Toy industry experts said the most buzz of all going into Toy Fair is around Warners' live-action movie "Speed Racer," which is based on the 1960s Japanese anime TV series and will be turned into an animated TV show on NickToons in May, just before the film's summer release.

"It seems like more toy companies have jumped on 'Speed Racer' than any other property out there," said Jonathan Samet, publisher of Toy Book and Toy Insider. "It's No. 1 from a toy standpoint just because it has the most product out there and because it's new and fresh, especially compared to 'Hulk,' 'Batman' and 'Indiana Jones."'   Continued...