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HERE COMES HERCULES; 7,000 PRODUCTS TO HIT STORES : A SAMPLER OF TOYS.

Byline: Janet Weeks Daily News Staff Writer

Guess how many items tied to the Disney movie ``Hercules'' have been licensed for sale. How many Hercules toys and T-shirts and toothbrushes and, well, things are hitting the stores in the wake of today's opening?

You're thinking - 150. Or maybe 1,000. Or 2,000.

You're not even close.

Disney has sanctioned the sale of more than 7,000 items bearing images from the animated feature film. And that figure doesn't include the stuff for sale in Disney Stores, the Disney catalog or Disney theme parks.

There's so much junk that even Disney makes fun of the onslaught in its ``Hercules,'' which opens today. As Hercules grows from bumbling youth to bona fide hero, the adoring people of ancient Greece slap his likeness on sandals, vases, dolls and sports bottles. They even open ``The Hercules Store'' in Thebes.

Hercules himself marvels at the merchandising machine while posing for promo shots for his ``Buns of Bronze'' video.

Ha-ha-ha.

Seriously though, in the aggressive new world of cross-merchandising, a few Mickey Mouse T-shirts just don't cut it anymore. Believe it or not, the 7,000 ``Hercules'' tie-in products are a fairly typical amount of merchandising for a Disney full-length feature film. Disney licensed even more stuff last year for the live-action version of ``101 Dalmatians,'' says Dan MacDonald, director of licensing events for the Burbank-based Mouse empire.

``That was the largest in terms of merchandising,'' MacDonald says.

You know, those black-and-white spots really do look good on anything.

But will a mythological demigod, a flying horse and the Lord of the Underworld have the same appeal?

Jim Silver, publisher of The Toy Book, a New York-based magazine that reports on the toy industry, says yes and no. Specifically, Silver says Hercules clothes probably will sell well. The toys, however, won't.

``The movie has received tremendous reviews and will probably be a huge hit,'' Silver says. ``But that doesn't always translate into product sales. Nobody expects it to be a hit in terms of the toy business. It'll do OK, but's not a toy home run.''

To smack it out of the ballpark in terms of toy sales, a product needs to attract 4- to 8-year-old boys. And they're attracted to scary, edgy heroes and villains with lots and lots of accessories - like Mr. Freeze and Batman. (``Batman and Robin,'' by the way, will generate more than $1 million in toy sales this year, Silver says.)

A similar problem plagued the plethora of products tied to last summer's ``The Hunchback of Notre Dame.'' Consumers today can find mounds of Quasimodo plush toys and Judge Frollo puppets filling Toys `R' Us bargain bins, Silver says.

Of course, some kids may prefer the low-tech Hercules to Batman. Sarah Garland of Encino says her 4-year-old son, Max, has been anxiously awaiting the film's release, a desire fueled by endless ``Hercules'' trailers on the cable network The Disney Channel.

``He knows all the characters already,'' says Garland.

And Max already has some ``Hercules'' related stuff - a plastic Zeus and Titan that came free in a McDonald's Happy Meal. He wanted other toys, so Garland took him to the Disney Store at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica to get them, but the store was closed at the time.

``He's way into the merchandising,'' says Garland. ``It makes me crazy because you can't escape it.''

But there is a way to escape spending a lot of money on merchandise that will end up at the bottom of the toy box after a few weeks, says Karen McNulty, managing editor of Zillions, a Consumer Reports' magazine for children.

She suggests that parents encourage children to evaluate whether they will still want the toy/sheets/shirt when the frenzy over the film dies down.

McNulty says the next issue of her magazine will take a critical look at the film and its winking references to the company's merchandising juggernaut.

``The movie is promoting its tie-in merchandise while spoofing itself,'' she says. ``But it all boils down to product placement.''

OK, maybe you can't afford to shower your offspring with all 7,000 official ``Hercules'' tie-in products. We understand. But here's a sample of the super-hero merchandise that your kid's best friend soon will be bringing to show and tell. Not that we'd want you to feel guilty, of course . . .

Muscle Grow Hercules Doll: Pull down Hercules' arms, and his chest swells up faster than an NFL linebacker on steroids

Price: $38.

``The Art of Hercules'' Book: Bound to be a collector's item if you wait long enough, this limited edition compilation of original sketches is hand-signed by producer Alice Dewey

Yours for a mere $250.

The ``Hercules'' Musical Snowglobe: Watch Hercules woo his beloved Meg under a cascade of water-borne flakes. Price: $55.

The Hades Watch and Figurine Set: Just the thing for keeping track of Underworld Standard Time. And it's imported

Price: $90.

The ``True Hero'' Limited Edition Silver Coin: Make no myth-stake: This coin contains .999 troy ounces of fine silver. Price: $50.

The ``Hercules'' Glow in the Dark Short Set: This handsome T-shirt and shorts outfit is inscribed with Herc battling the fearsome Hydra

Send your toddler off to nap with visions of monstrous purple snakes dancing on his chest

Price: $16-$18.

CAPTION(S):

Photo, box

PHOTO (color) Amanda Barthel, 7, and her brother Austin, 3, check out ``Hercules'' toys at an area Target store.

David Sprague/Daily News

Box: A sampler of toys (see text)
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Jun 25, 1997
Words:919
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