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Can Female Superheroes Rescue Warner Bros.?

Superhero toys aren’t just for boys anymore. Warner Bros. Entertainment is coming out with a product line based on female superheroes and villains from the studio’s DC Comics division, and has signed a licensing agreement with Mattel Inc. to manufacture the toys. The teenaged versions of Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Poison Ivy and others target girls ages 6 to 12 years old. The DC Super Hero Girls collection will debut in the fall. The move will bolster the merchandise operation of Burbank-based Warner Bros., which competes against other entertainment giants with larger lines, such as crosstown rival Walt Disney Co. DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson said the collection offers relatable role models for girls. “DC Super Hero Girls represents the embodiment of our long-term strategy to harness the power of our diverse female characters,” Nelson said in a prepared statement. The first product to reach consumers will be animated digital content on websites available this year. The videos will establish story lines for the characters and explore what teen life is like for a superhero. Next year would see TV specials, toys, apparel and books from publisher Random House LLC. The DC Super Hero Girls line is a first for El Segundo-based Mattel in that the company has not previously offered superhero action figures specifically for girls. The U.S. toy market was an $18.1 billion industry in 2014, with action figures and accessories bringing in about $1.3 billion of that, according to figures provided by market research firm NPD Group, in New York, to the Toy Industry Association Inc., a New York trade organization. Partnering with Warner Bros. comes amid a period of turmoil for Mattel as it lost the title of the world’s biggest toymaker by revenue to Danish rival Lego Group, fired its chief executive in January, has a continuing sales slump for its core brands such as the Barbie doll, and has cut more than 100 employees. Toy consultant Richard Gottlieb of Global Toy Experts in New York called the new toy line a good move for Mattel, but one that still poses some questions. For one, where will these new action figures be placed in stores – the boy aisle with all the other superhero action figures or alongside fashion dolls in the girls aisle? “If they put it in the girls aisle, there is a good chance they will cannibalize their own space,” he said. There is potential, though, for great appeal in the age range the companies are going after, and it may turn out they are just as appealing to the mothers of these girls. The DC Super Hero Girls collection with its muscular and risk-taking theme can be an antidote to fashion dolls such as Barbies that may be seen as overly girly. “(Mothers may look) for a counterpoint product and this might be it,” he said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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