Disney's 'Brave' a Win for Hollywood Studios and Toymakers

If you left ‘Brave’ last weekend with your daughter begging for a Princess Merida doll, that’s good news for both Disney and Mattel.

Classic Brave Merida Doll
Source: Disneystore.com
Classic Brave Merida Doll

Brave, like pretty much every other summer blockbuster, promises to be a cash cow for both Hollywood studios and toymakers. Brave’s Merida joins Disney’s panoply of princesses, a brand which has generated over four billion dollars in global retail sales.

Mattel is licensing the Brave characters from Disney, and the stock — up 20 percent over the past 12 months — has benefited from a number of movie and TV tie-ins. This summer those movie toys give Mattel some very tough comparisons. For all of Brave’s princess figurines, it can’t live up to last year’s ‘Cars 2’, which drove a huge range of consumer products.

Toy industry analysts use the term “toyetic” to describe how much films will drive toy sales. (Pixar’s “Toy Story,” which is entirely about toys, is about as ‘toyetic’ as it gets.) The most “toyetic” film of the summer, is Avengers, which Hasbro is licensing, giving Hasbro higher expectations for summer toys than Mattel. A close second is “Spider Man,” which Sony is releasing ahead of July 4, and Hasbro also has those licensing rights.

Hasbro has its share of challenges — its stock down about 20 percent over the past 12 months. It faces incredibly tough comparisons to last year’s massive toy sales driven by the huge Transformers sequel and is struggling to stabilize its weak games and puzzles business. Plus, Paramount’s G.I. Joe movie, based on a Hasbro toy of course, which was scheduled for this summer, has been delayed until next March.

And then there’s the fact that Battleship, also based on a Hasbro toy, fell far short of expectations at the box office. (It cost a reported $209 million, plus tens of millions more for marketing and only grossed $298 million worldwide). Wells Fargoanalyst Tim Conder says that Battleship’s disappointing performance won’t impact Hasbro too much this summer because he wasn’t expecting it to have that much of a lift on toy sales. And even though the movie disappointed, the Battleship brand still works well for Hasbro’s Lego competitor, KRE-O blocks.

The bigger question for Hasbro, Conder says, is how well Spider Man toys sell, and how much they, along with Avengers toys, can offset the decline from last year’s massive Transformers sales. Toy sales tend to move in tandem with the box office so Hasbro will be watching the performance of Sony’s ‘The Amazing Spider Man’ very closely when it opens on July 3.

-BY CNBC's Julia Boorstin

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