"Star Wars" Minor Players Reflect on a Galaxy Not So Far Away in "Elstree 1976"
In the aftermath of the controversy about a pair of sexist shirts licensed by DC Comics, celebrated artist Bill Sienkiewicz has created a his own revised design for the “Superman Does It Again” tee.
His version includes a second image, on the back of the shirt, with the Man of Steel’s “Score!” answered with Wonder Woman’s “Fail!!” — and an Amazonian fist to the Kryptonian’s jaw. “Maybe a bit too on the nose,” the New Mutants and Elektra: Assassin artist wrote on his Facebook page, “but there you go …”
With Guardians of the Galaxy approaching $300 million at the domestic haul on its way to becoming the top-grossing film of the year, it appears no corner of the licensing universe will remain untouched by Marvel’s space adventure: T-shirts, backpacks, LEGO sets, a dancing Baby Groot bobblehead … Now add to the list musical instruments and accessories.
Audio equipment manufacturer Peavey Electronics, which already offers licensed products featuring such Marvel characters as Captain America, Spider-Man, Thor, Ghost Rider and the Avengers, is expanding its lineup with the Guardians.
Characters from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars appeared together on stage Monday for the first time ever as the entertainment giant touted its powerhouse brands ahead of the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas.
According to Variety, Disney is once again the world’s top licensor, with a record $40.9 billion in retail sales last year, up from $39.4 billion in 2012. With looming films like Guardians of the Galaxy, Big Hero 6 and The Avengers: Age of Ultron, based on Marvel comics, the live-action Cinderella and Star Wars: Episode VII, plus the Star Wars Rebels animated television series, that seems unlikely to change in the near future.
As Marvel prepares for the August premiere of its biggest movie gamble to date, Guardians of the Galaxy, we’ve seen its publishing division reposition what once was an oddball, third-tier concept as a first-rate, if still oddball, franchise, first with the flagship title written by Brian Michael Bendis and next with Rocket Raccoon by Skottie Young.
As interesting as that transformation may be, I’m utterly fascinated by how Marvel’s parent company Disney has gone all in on merchandising an adaptation of a comic that, this time last year, no one outside fan circles had ever heard of. Granted, with the production budget for Guardians of the Galaxy in the neighborhood of $150 million (and probably nearly that much for marketing), the studio can’t afford to be timid.
Still, Disney Consumer Products has lined up more than 50 licensees, from Hasbro and LEGO to Mad Engine and Freeze, for what it views as Marvel’s Next Big Thing, at least as far as merchandise is concerned.
“It is always exciting to launch something new in consumer products, as we did with Iron Man in 2008,” Paul Gitter, senior vice president of licensing for Marvel at Disney Consumer Products, said in a statement. “By showcasing what is unique about this amazing new film we are able to develop a third Marvel franchise that can be at retail alongside our powerhouse franchises of The Avengers and Spider-Man. Continuing to diversify the Marvel offerings for consumers is a key strategy of ours.”
With Halloween just around the corner, Forbes has released its weird (and probably a little morbid) annual list of the top-earning dead celebrities, led by Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. But at No. 3, for the second year in a row, is the late Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz.
The cartoonist, who passed away in 2000 at age 77, is estimated to have earned $37 million this year — or at least his creations did. They’re owned by Peanuts Worldwide, a joint venture formed by Iconix Brand Group has partnered with the heirs of Charles M. Schulz, which in 2010 bought the rights to Peanuts from E.W. Scripps Co. (it was part of a $175 million deal for the entire United Media Licensing division, which includes Dilbert and Fancy Nancy). The property’s 1,200 licensing agreements generate annual retail sales of more than $2 billion worldwide.
Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles products have grossed more than $475 million in retail sales since the latest animated series premiered in September 2012. The announcement, made this week at the Brand Licensing Europe show in London, comes just four years after the cable network’s parent company Viacom bought the property for a reported $60 million.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, about $250 million of those sales come from the United States, with the remainder coming from overseas markets, where the Turtles are just as huge. They’re the top action figures in Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and, yes, the United States (where Nickelodeon says they make up 15 percent of the action-figure market).
“Nothing’s bigger,” Pam Kauffman, the network’s president of consumer products, told the trade paper. “We are beating Iron Man, Batman, WWE.”
King Features Syndicate apparently has decided the best way to reinvigorate the 83-year-0ld Betty Boop is to kill her, and then resurrect her as a zombie.
At the Licensing Expo, held this week in Las Vegas, the company signaled it would like a little of that Walking Dead/Warm Bodies money by announcing it willtake the iconic cartoon and comic-strip character into “unexplored territory” with Betty Boop Zombie Love – which, as Topless Robot notes, does bring to mind necrophilia, which doesn’t seem like a recipe for merchandising bonanza.
“With a new style guide and art treatments, the wide-eyed beauty is clearly a victim of the zombie craze currently infecting the world,” the King Features press release states. So, yeah, expect the undead flapper to appear on clothing soon.
As we’re on an unintentional licensing and merchandising spree, it seems only fitting to cap off the day with perhaps one of the stranger, but certainly most delicious, tie-ins: Red Robin’s Wolverine-themed hamburgers.
Not that Red Robin, although that would be wonderfully bizarre. No, this is the Colorado-based restaurant chain whose name is usually followed by “Yummmmm!“ (seriously, you can’t think “Red Robin” without hearing that in your head). The company has partnered with 20th Century Fox’s The Wolverine to create two gourmet burgers inspired by the film.
As Licensing Expo 2013 gets under way today in Las Vegas, Variety reports that with first Marvel and now Lucasfilm beneath its umbrella, Disney is poised to expand its domination of the entertainment licensing market. Last year, the media conglomerate generated $39.4 billion in retail licensing, and claimed a staggering 80 percent market share.
Once again the world’s largest licensor, Disney now boasts six of the Top 10 franchises, according to the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association: Disney Princess (No. 1), Star Wars (No. 2), Winnie the Pooh (No. 3), Cars (No. 4), Mickey & Friends (No. 6) and Toy Story (No. 8). Disney Fairies comes in at No. 11, trailed at No. 16 by Spider-Man.
Target’s new partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products and DC Entertainment received a promotional boost this week with the debut of an animated TV commercial for the retail chain featuring the Justice League. In their New 52 costumes, no less.
Announced last month, the agreement includes an exclusive summer collection of Justice League merchandise — there are more than 50 products, ranging from a Wonder Woman kids’ camp chair to Batman snack cups to inflatable pool toys — as well as other items, such as temporary tattoos and even rocking chairs. Target has a shop on its website devoted to the Justice League products.
In the 30-second TV spot, a woman suddenly realizes she’d forgotten her child’s birthday party, and calls in the Justice League for help with a last-minute shopping spree at Target. Hey, they didn’t have anything more pressing to do. Unfortunately, Batman’s utility belt aside, those costumes don’t leave much room for cash or credit cards …
Fans who have been hoping to see Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk in a Disney theme park ever since the entertainment giant purchased Marvel in 2009 will finally get their wish — in Hong Kong.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang announced the seven-year-old Hong Kong Disneyland will add a Marvel superheroes area as part of its expansion program. Jointly owned by the government and Disney, the resort now has six themed areas: Main Street, U.S.A., Fantasyland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Grizzly Gulch and Toy Story Land.
Just as The Avengers arrives in U.S. theaters, a Los Angeles toy company has sued Marvel, accusing the company of committing fraud in a licensing agreement that went sour.
In the lawsuit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court and first reported by Deadline, Box-O-Mania claims owner Maxim Tselevich created a children’s playhouse in 2009 and approached Marvel about branding the product with its superheroes. Early the following year, the two parties allegedly worked out a deal for Box-O-Mania to manufacture Iron Man’s Lair Play Boxes, which would debut in stores in November 2010, coinciding with the release of Iron Man 2 on DVD.
As the licensing machine revs up for the May 4 premiere of The Avengers, fragrance company JADS International — the company behind such brands as Sulu Pour Homme, Slave Leia Perfume and Shirtless Kirk Cologne — has rolled out scents inspired by Captain America, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Nick Fury and even Loki. Sorry, Hawkeye, you’re out of luck.
The Avengers Cologne Set boasts “four unique fragrances”: PATRIOT, Mark VII, SMASH! and Worthy; you can probably piece together which name goes with which hero. Loki, meanwhile, gets Mischief Cologne (“Made to Rule”), and Fury has Initiative Cologne (“Activate the Initiative”).
Check out the details below, or on the JADS website.
According to a recent Radiolab Podcast, in order to get a 5.2-percent tax cut on Marvel’s imported action figures, the company’s lawyers successfully argued the toys represent “animals or other non-human creatures (for example, robots and monsters)” as defined by the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, a tome that determines tariff classifications for all goods imported into the United States.
Confused? There’s a lot of legalese involved, so here’s the way it breaks down: There’s a distinction between two categories of products imported into the U.S. “Dolls” are toys representing humans, whereas “toys” represent non-humans. While dolls are taxed at 12.8 percent, toys are taxed at just 6.8 percent. Two shrewd trade attorneys noticed the distinction and successfully argued to U.S. Customs officials that Marvel’s licensed products don’t represent human beings.
Toyota has teamed with Marvel for “The Incredible Drive,” a four-part stop-motion animated adventure promoting the car manufacturer’s Yaris model. Created by the crew behind “Marvel Super Heroes: What The–?!” — Ben Morse, Jesse Falcon, Alex Kropinak and others — the first short features a Yaris-driving Bruce Banner forced into therapy with Doctor Strange, who suggests all he needs for his anger-control issues is a road trip. With him.
Yes, the guy who transforms into a 7 1/2-foot-tall monster drives a subcompact car — but, hey, it’s no weirder than him rooming with the Red Hulk or seeking mental-health advice from a magic-wielding neurosurgeon (apparently Doc Samson isn’t covered by Banner’s HMO). Strange’s Monarch-esque voice is a little much, but it’s definitely worth sitting through for the Marvel Universe-themed destination billboards and the late addition to the unlikely road-trip crew.