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Toys based on the movie "Godzilla" are helping to boost profits

Toy story: Kids' favorite things have gone Hollywood

Web posted on: Thursday, July 02, 1998 4:46:35 PM EDT

From Correspondent Jim Moret

HOLLYWOOD, California (CNN) -- Remember when toys were made for Christmas? Now they are made for movies. This summer, a number of blockbuster wannabes -- from "Godzilla" to "Armageddon" -- are pushing their toys to the masses, hoping for some extra profit and a movie legacy that rests in the hands of Hollywood's youngest fans.

Where did this trend start? Some analysts point to a galaxy far, far away.

When "Star Wars" burst onto the scene more than two decades ago, the movie toy tie-in phenomenon was born with miniature versions of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and the rest of the cast.

Making toys from characters and space ships wasn't easy for "Star Wars."

"It was a film that was passed on by every major toy manufacturer until Kennar got a hold of it and said 'Well we'll do it, who knows,'" says Ryran Brookhart, Editor-in-Chief of "Go Figure" Magazine.

The gamble paid off. "Star Wars" merchandising has sold more than a billion dollars worldwide, and dozens of flicks have followed suit, profiting tens of millions of dollars on toy sales alone.

Disney didn't push "Mulan" toys before the movie to focus on the story

Not every toy sells

Some Hollywood studios will push the release of toys weeks before a movie opens. Those weeks of marketing can account for 40 percent of merchandising sales.

But with "Godzilla," Sony Pictures banked on keeping the reptile under wraps until after the movie hit the theaters.

Despite taking in more than $145 million worldwide, the monster in Manhattan is considered a dissappointment at the box office and in retail stores where more than 3,000 different items were up for grabs.

"Things were selling pretty well originally till the movie came out, then nobody seemed to want to advertise that they were fans," says AAHS store manager Alan Bissett.

The Zorro action figure doesn't look anything like the movie's star, Antonio Banderas

'Kids love them'

Disney held back on pushing "Mulan" merchandising before its release so the focus could remain on the story, a gamble that appears to be paying off, as both the movie and its toys are selling well.

Brookhart thinks the "Mulan" toys will do better in retail stores than "Godzilla."

"['Mulan' toys are] character specific, collectors love them, kids love them, [they have] good playability," he says.

But when "Zorro" makes his mark on the big screen the toy on the shelf will not look like Antonio Banderas, who plays the title character in the film. Brookhart says that some toys are being made without the likeness of the actual actor.

A sculptor worked hard on getting Bruce Willis' likeness for the Armageddon toy line

And now, 'Armageddon'

The toys in Disney's "Armageddon," however, will look like the stars in the movie.

"We actually went to great painstaking detail to get the likeness of Bruce Willis," says Mattel's Senior Product Manager, Douglas Wadleigh. "We had to actually sit in his trailer with a sculptor until about two o'clock in the morning to make sure that we got all of the details exact."

In the end, the fate of a successful movie toy tie-in still lies in the hands of children.

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