With product based on Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace already starting to hit the shelves, 1999 will be a tough year to compete in the action figure category. But Saban Enterprises International and master toy licensee Giochi Preziosi of Italy think they have a strong contender on their hands with super-sleek, super-sophisticated Diabolik. (Giochi Preziosi recently opened a U.S. division, GP Toys, in Lincolnshire, Illinois.)
Based on the popular Italian comic book character Diabolik, the animated series is a co-production between Saban, France’s M6, Italy’s Mediaset and Toho/Ashi Production Company of Japan. ‘We turned a character who was originally a bad guy [in the comic book series] into a hero who is a mix of James Bond and Batman,’ says Michel Welter, president of Saban Enterprises International.
Saban envisages a Princess Sissi-like launch for the Diabolik series and toy line. Princess Sissi, too, was a well-known and beloved European historical figure-Princess Elizabeth of Austria. To build on the familiarity with the property in Europe, Princess Sissi was launched there first in October 1997-with enormous success-paving the way for a successful worldwide series introduction and licensing campaign thereafter.
Dario Berte, managing director of Giochi Preziosi, says Diabolik is Giochi Preziosi’s most important new master toy license for 1999 and 2000. He explains, ‘One of the success factors for any action figure line is gadgets. Diabolik has all of these unbelievable gadgets, with different ones featured in each episode of the series.’ For example, Diabolik has a multifunction dagger equipped with climbing aids, oxygen supply and a gas gun, plus a car with assorted weaponry and a motorcycle that transforms into a jet-ski. All of these are represented in the introductory toy line. Berte adds that the transformation concept is another core element of the Diabolik line. ‘Transfor-mation is always successful [with children],’ he says.
Giochi Preziosi will be producing four or five TV commercials to air in the fall. Promotional plans with M6 and a potential food partner are also in discussion for the line’s launch in France. Overall, the advertising and promotional investment by Giochi Preziosi for Diabolik’s initial European launch is expected to be US$10 million.
Berte is encouraged by strong initial retailer response to the product. ‘Everybody we’ve shown it to really likes this toy line. It is considered very modern with an exciting concept.’
Property: Diabolik, Track of the Panther
* Diabolik is a sleek, cool character with an arsenal of high-tech, transforming weapons and accessories.
* The series’ sophisticated back story of a reformed former criminal mastermind will keep kids interested; it’s more than a simple case of good vs. evil.
* The series’ four co-production partners-Saban Enterprises International, France’s M6, Italy’s Mediaset, and Toho/Ashi Production Company of Japan-make for great creativity.
* Broadcaster M6 and Mediaset, a holding company for terrestrial channel Rete Italia, are co-production partners. This will ensure that the show is aired in key time slots in France and Italy.
* Launching the action figure line with a solid number of initial SKUs will help achieve a strong shelf presence.
Saban Enterprises International
Giochi Preziosi: master toy licensee; producing a line of 10 action figures (nine x five-inch figures and one 12-inch figure), plus various accessories, including a car and motorcycle equipped with gadgetry and transformational ability; also creating role-playing items, such as a pen that transforms into a vehicle, and a watch equipped with a flashlight, magnifying glass and voice recorder
Target Audience for the Toys:
Primary: Kids ages four to eight
Secondary: Collectors ages 25 to 45
France: Third quarter `99
Italy: Fall `99 or spring 2000
Other markets: To be determined
Suggested Retail Price:
Consistent with the price of other action figure toys.
Saban is looking to sign on other licensees across all major product categories.
* Position Diabolik as a positive role model who uses his brains, not superpowers, to overcome problems.
* Show Diabolik as more than a common hero-he is a cultural icon.
* Portray Diabolik with a mask to emphasize that he is believed by Saban to be the only masked hero in Europe.
* Use images that connote traveling, such as maps and directionals, to emphasize that Diabolik is always on the run.
* Recreate the gadgetry and vehicles (car and motorcycle) as the show’s key elements.
* Represent Diabolik as a master of disguise and technology.
* Use the panther as a symbol for Diabolik because he is sleek like a panther.
* Use black and dark blues, the main colors for the show.