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Turtles, Trolls and Other Movie Licenses That Will Challenge Star Wars This Year

By Marcy Magiera

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens closing in on $2 billion in global ticket sales and continuing to topple box-office records on an almost daily basis a month after its opening, it’s clear the latest installment in the sci-fi epic will continue to drive licensed merchandise sales throughout 2016—and beyond. Once The Force Awakens leaves theaters, there will be the home entertainment release to merchandise around, and then Star Wars: Rogue One, the first franchise spin-off movie, hitting theaters in December. In fact, there is a Star Wars movie due in theaters every year through at least 2019.

Disney made clear its intent to manage a long licensing campaign by strategically releasing new product to market last week, when it announced four-plus months after its unprecedented “Force Friday” merch launch that a fleet of new products are landing in stores, including Star Wars NERF Rey and Han Solo blasters, a Star Wars Bladebuilders Rey Electronic Lightsaber and new LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens construction sets.

While Disney positioned the new product wave as having been previously kept under wraps to preserve storyline surprises, more critical observers saw it as a late effort to give equal treatment to the film’s popular female heroine, Rey. Whatever the reason, refreshing Star Wars products will only help Disney keep the property at the top of the movie licensing heap this year.

That’s not to say it will be without competition.

Warner Bros. Consumer Products just named Disney veteran Pam Lifford as its new President, replacing Brad Globe. While Lifford most recently was EVP Global Licensing for Quicksilver, her 12-year tenure at Disney positions her to help WBCP close the significant licensing gap between Warner’s DC Entertainment superheroes and Disney’s Marvel stable—a priority of studio boss Kevin Tsujihara.

According to the announcement of Lifford’s new job, her marching orders include “optimizing” licensing revenues for DC Entertainment and J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, as well as the studio’s classic animation.

It’s a bit late for Lifford to have an effect on the studio’s initial licensing campaign for the March release Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but the two superhero characters are among the biggest perennial properties in entertainment/character licensing and the film—which made a big splash by unveiling the Batmobile at Licensing Expo last June—will give them extra oomph this year. The movie is just the beginning of a stream of DC superhero-driven movies lined up annually, including Wonder Woman (June 2017), Justice League: Part 1 (November 2017), Aquaman (July 2018) and Justice League: Part 2 (July 2019).

Others 2016 movies that we believe will successfully compete for retail shelf space this year include:

2016 Films to Lead Licensing
Film Licensor Release Date Notes
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 Nickelodeon 6/3/16 Movie distributor Paramount Pictures demonstrated its faith in this $1 billion-plus property by slating it for release at the height of the summer blockbuster season. (The 2014 film unspooled in a quieter August slot.) With a hit series on Nickelodeon and Carmelo Anthony in their corner, the Turtles look pretty unstoppable.
Finding Dory Disney 6/17/16 Is there a more universally loved celebrity on the planet than Ellen DeGeneres? Combine her popularity with the still high awareness of original Finding Nemo (the top-selling DVD of all time) and the Disney merchandising machine, and Dory looks to have all the elements for success.
Ghostbusters Sony 7/15/16 Sony will be putting much of its focus on Ghostbusters, with licensing for the Melissa McCarthy vehicle overlapping resurgent interest in the classic Ghostbusters property, which celebrated 30 years in 2014.
Trolls DreamWorks Animation 11/4/16 DWA acquired the Trolls IP in 2013 and is looking for the property to become one of its biggest, with licensing for the colorful mop-tops heavy in toys, fashion and publishing, among other categories. Collectability has been a key to the success of the studio’s How to Drain Your Dragon merchandising, and that strategy could also work for Trolls.


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