Cartoon Net properties find their calling

Cartoon Network dials in to new kid craze
With more and more tots toting mobile phones on the playground, it was only a matter of time before the children's entertainment and cellular phone industries conspired to create a new toy category...
November 1, 2000

Cartoon Network dials in to new kid craze

With more and more tots toting mobile phones on the playground, it was only a matter of time before the children’s entertainment and cellular phone industries conspired to create a new toy category that targets the kid demo specifically.

Leading the charge on that front is Cartoon Network and Warner Bros., which have each licensed U.K.-based cell phone company Fone Range Partnerships to develop a variety of cell phone accessories featuring the likenesses of both companies’ well-known character properties, such as Bugs Bunny, Tasmanian Devil, Tweety, Batman, Powerpuff Girls, Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken and Scooby-Doo.

This month, Fone Range will bow with three products: a portable hands-free set (US$14.50) featuring molds of the characters’ faces on the ear-piece and microphone; universal pouch cases (US$14.50), rubber foam pouches sporting the characters’ likenesses that wrap around the phone; and facias (US$14.50), hard plastic covers featuring the Warner and Cartoon Net properties that consumers can fasten to the front and back of select Nokia-made phones.

Other products Fone Range is working on-hitting stores in Q1 next year-include ring reactor keychains that detect cell phone signals. The keychains will have a 3-D mold of a character’s face and will alert you when you have an incoming call by flashing, vibrating or playing the theme song from the character’s show. Fone Range is also developing a line of tiny plush figures that can hold a cell phone in their stomachs, but can still be used to talk through.

The final product line, which will no doubt become a hot item on the rave scene, is laser projection character antennae. Essentially, the antennae are tiny molds of the character’s faces that clip on to your cell phone aerial and emit a laser light. The entire Fone Range line-which FN is distributing in Europe, the Middle East and Africa-is suitable for kids ages six and up, though Simon George, director of Alternative Commerce at Cartoon Network Europe, expects the accessories to be more popular with early teens, which he says is when most kids start using cell phones.

For girls who may be in the market for a ring reactor sans licensed characters, they can always pick up the fashionable yet functional Illumi-Nail. Produced by Japanese company Denkosha, the Illumi-Nail is a pink clip-on nail that lights up when it senses an incoming call. Currently available in Japan, Illumi-Nail retails for US$18.

McFarlane tackles Satan and Sendak

Tempe, Arizona-based Todd McFarlane Toys, which recently drew the ire of victims’ rights groups for its Death Row Marv doll (modeled after the crazed serial killer from the Sin City comic book series), may be about to step in it again-literally. This month, TMT will release Little Beefy Deluxe. Based on the canine sidekick that appears in Adam Sandler’s new movie Little Nicky, Beefy is a bull dog figure that features a special urinating function. Simply pop off Beefy’s head, fill him up with water (or any other liquid), squeeze his body and he begins to spread the joy.

The dog is one of four SKUs McFarlane is creating for the New Line-produced CGI and live-action film. Other items in the line include dual-pack Little Nicky with Beefy, Little Nicky with Cassius and Gatekeeper with Gary. All of the toys, which McFarlane is marketing to teens ages 18 and up, have an SRP of US$9 to US$12 and come with fully articulated parts and sound chips, allowing them to recite snippets of dialogue from the movie. Little Nicky, which casts Sandler in the title role as the wayward son of Satan, is scheduled to hit theaters November 10.

McFarlane isn’t neglecting the kids market altogether, though. Last month, it began shipping figures based on the characters from Maurice Sendak’s classic kids book Where the Wild Things Are, about a young boy who embarks on an imaginary journey into a world of strange animals after he’s sent to his room for being mischievous. McFarlane has created six SKUs-Max and Goat Boy, Tzippy, Moishe, Bernard, Aaron and Emil. All of the figures come with moveable parts and have an SRP range of US$9 to US$12. The Wild Things toys notwithstanding, McFarlane isn’t planning to broaden the number of kids properties it creates toys for, says Dion Bozman, a staff writer at TMT. ‘Todd has been wanting to do these toys for a long time. Wild Things had a major influence on him, it was the first book he read that introduced him to the world of monsters,’ says Bozman.

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