NEW YORK — Wizards from Hogwarts mingled with intergalactic robots as the American International Toy Fair opened Sunday.
The annual trade event brought together thousands of companies — ranging from international conglomerates to mom-and-pop operations — as eager exhibitors hawked their wares to an assemblage of retailers, journalists and at least one man in a dragon costume.
The festivities kicked off in galactic fashion, as “Star Wars” creator George Lucas was inducted into the toy industry’s Hall of Fame, his peers paying homage to the man who launched a merchandising behemoth and put action figures on Hollywood’s radar (see “George Lucas Talks Retirement, Brand-New Film, ‘Indy 4,’ ‘Star Wars’ “ ). With movie studios now firmly in licensing mode, however, Lucas’ perennial space opera would be only one of many blockbuster films represented on the show floor as Tinseltown launched its opening salvo on Toytown.
Perhaps nowhere else was the buzz greater than in Hasbro’s two-story showroom, where the company unveiled a full slate of products tied to director Michael Bay’s heavily anticipated “Transformers.” While standard figures will be released for such principal characters as Optimus Prime, Megatron, Scorponok, Barricade, Jazz and Bumblebee (see “Did Your Favorite Make The Cut? ‘Transformers’ Writers Reveal Robot Roster” ), it’s the last name on the list that will receive extra-special treatment. Under the “Ultimate Bumblebee” moniker, Hasbro will release a massive 14-inch version of the fan-favorite Autobot that features working headlights, battle sounds and, most notably, a stable of songs including Devo’s “Whip It.” Rounding out the collection will be a hodgepodge of other merchandise, including a chess set, an Optimus Prime voice-changer helmet and surely the most fun of all, a custom-designed Mr. Potato Head doll named Optimash Prime.
Marvel’s billion-dollar web-slinger was also on full display as toy companies prepped for the summer release of “Spider-Man 3″ (see ” ‘Spider-Man 3′ Cast Confirms Love Triangle, Death, Soul-Sucking Costume” ). Come March 24, Hasbro’s line of action figures will hit shelves. The first wave will feature the title character in both red and black costumes, as well as Venom, New Goblin and Sandman, with each figure receiving an “action feature” such as Sandman’s spring-fired mallet. The company will also release yet another specialty Mr. Potato Head, this one being Spider-Spud. Pricier pieces were on display at the Sideshow Collectibles booth, with the outfit readying several busts and statues connected to the film, including a mammoth 16-inch-tall sculpture of Venom perched on a ledge. Art Asylum will release the full cast as part of its diminutive “Minimates” line. Also, Diamond Select will release additional statues and busts, as well as a replica pumpkin bomb.
Over at NECA (best known for its Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and “A Christmas Story” leg lamp), the company celebrated the acquisition of the “Harry Potter” toy license with figures related to the franchise’s fifth film, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (see ” ‘Phoenix’ Trailer Reveals A Harry Potter Who’s Ready To Fight — And Kiss” ). Four 7-inch figures will be released in the first series, including Harry, Ron, Hermione and Sirius Black, with the next wave adding Dumbledore, the Death Eaters and a new version of Harry. “Potter” madness also extended to LEGO, which will release a 1,000-piece Hogwarts Castle playset equipped with everything from a Thestral to a Dolores Umbridge figure. And Jelly Belly will release “Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans,” featuring varieties such as Earwax, Booger and Vomit.
Products for New Line Cinema’s blockbuster-to-be “His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass” were front and center at the Corgi booth, a company that recently arrived on American shores thanks to its merger with high-end collectible makers Master Replicas. A full line of highly detailed, 3 3/4-inch figures will be released of the film’s human characters packaged with their dæmon, the soul’s physical manifestation (see “Armored Polar Bears, Stolen Souls: A Guide To ‘His Dark Materials’ “ ). Additional pieces will include Mrs. Coulter’s chariot and zeppelin, Lee Scoresby’s airship and a huge playset for the armored bear’s palace. Additional merchandise will include the alethiometer, spy flies, battle bears and a series of six 12-inch statues, among other items.
Not to be outdone by landlubbers, “Pirates of the Caribbean” found itself parked back at NECA, which is preparing a line of 7-inch figures for the trilogy’s third film, “At World’s End.” New editions of Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swann will be released in June, along with Chow Yun Fat’s Mongolian pirate, Captain Sao Feng, and 12- and 18-inch versions of Jack Sparrow equipped with a voice chip.
NECA, which is quickly becoming a major player, also laid claim to Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s double feature, “Grindhouse” (see “Fergie Helping Tarantino, Rodriguez ‘Grind’ Out Horror Flick” ). Coinciding with the April theatrical premiere, the manufacturer will release figures from Rodriguez’s portion of the project, “Planet Terror,” with 7-inch figures of Rose McGowan’s Cherry, Quentin Tarantino’s Rapist and Marley Shelton’s Dakota. Following in the summer will be a 12-inch voice-chip-equipped figure of Stuntman Mike, Kurt Russell’s character from “Death Proof,” Tarantino’s side of “Grindhouse.” Additional figures will appear when the films arrive on DVD later in the year.
Never content to let other superheroes steal the thunder, DC Direct, the comic publisher’s toy arm, unveiled a line of action figures tied to the upcoming direct-to-DVD movie “Superman: Doomsday.” The film, which recaps the fabled death of Superman, will arrive in stores sometime this fall, with two additional video and toy releases planned behind it (“Justice League: The New Frontier” and “Teen Titans: The Judas Contract”). DC will also release a series of statues and busts related to the upcoming Neil Gaiman movie “Stardust.”
At Mattel, the company was busy hyping products tied to the upcoming Pixar production “Ratatouille,” which will see a line of figures, talking plush toys and various playsets. Also showcased were talking dolls and a sweat-inducing DVD trivia game for the Disney film “High School Musical” (see ” ‘High School Musical’ Stars Have Sequel, Solo Projects In The Works” ).
Lastly, McFarlane Toys announced it has been granted the licenses for “Simpsons: The Movie” and “Beowolf,” with details forthcoming.
Now if you’ll excuse us, we have a “Spider-Man 3″ robotic dog to play with.
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