While it’s not surprising that the original cast members from CBS’s Survivor have been quick off the mark to leverage their fleeting celebrity status since leaving the island (don’t tell me you didn’t hear about Richard’s gig as host of a new TV game show or Susan’s guest spots on TNN’s 18 Wheels of Justice?), their impulse to cash in before their 15 minutes of fame is up, however, has recently taken an unexpected, and arguably bizarre, turn into the toy world.
To wit: Blue Box Toys has decided to immortalize ex-Survivor and Machiavellian geezer Rudy Boesch as an action figure. The Hong Kong-based toyco is creating a 12-inch doll modeled on the crusty 72-year -old. But BBT’s doll (US$49.99) won’t resemble the scheming senior on the popular reality TV show, whom viewers came to revere and revile in equal measure. Instead, the doll will depict a younger, spryer Rudy and his real-life career as a decorated (and now retired) Navy SEAL, a profession that awarded him a Bronze Star for outstanding service.
BBT will market the Rudy doll-which comes attired in Navy SEAL fatigues, life jacket and armed with a mini die-cast rifle-to the collector market as part of its Elite Force Military Figures from History series. According to a spokesperson for the company, there are no plans to produce
additional Rudy figures, nor dolls based on any other Survivor castaways. BBT is debuting the Rudy doll (US$49.99) at Toy Fair, and will release it to specialty toy and hobby retailers later this month.
Jakks snares Josie, X-Games license
In keeping with its nostalgia kick, which last year saw it churn out dolls for Sony Pictures’ chop socky remake of `70s TV classic Charlie’s Angels, Jakks Pacific has recently signed on as master toy for Universal Studio’s latest theatrical trip down memory lane, Josie and The Pussycats, a live-action feature based on the `70s animated cartoon of the same name.
Jakks will create 11.5-inch fashion dolls for the film about an aspiring rock group comprised of ultra-hip, fashion-savvy girls. And as it did with its Angels product, Jakks will use its Real Scan technology to render the appearance of the dolls as close as possible to the actors who play the lead characters, including Rachel Leigh Cook (as Josie), Rosario Dawson (as Valerie) and Tara Reid (as Melody). Each doll (US$14.99) will come with a miniature microphone and instrument, and will feature 16 points of articulation, allowing consumers to manipulate them into their favorite rock-star poses. Jakks will market the dolls under the G.I.R.L. Force brand, with plans to begin shipping the merch to retailers March 1, roughly a month before Uni’s film hits theaters.
In an unrelated agreement, the Malibu-based company has also inked a licensing deal with ESPN, allowing it to create a variety of toys based on the sports net’s ESPN X-Games competition. As per the agreement, Jakks will create official X-Games vehicles, action figures, vehicle playsets and accessories based on various extreme sports, and will market the products under its Road Champs brand. Prices range from US$5.99 to US$29.99, and the line is scheduled to ship to retailers in June.
Nelvana’s Babar bolts for Asia
Japanese toy retailers will soon be hearing the roar of new Babar merchandise charging towards them. Canadian toonco Nelvana (which produces the animated show about a friendly elephant named Babar) and the Clifford Ross Company (co-licensor of the property with Nelvana) have signed off on a deal with Japanese game publisher and animation prodco Kodansha, granting it rights to develop, manufacture and distribute a range of licensed Babar product for the Japanese and Asian markets.
Kodansha, which also does double duty as Nelvana’s licensing agent for the property in the territories, has rights to create and distribute Babar books and magazines. The company will also be able to sublicense rights for toys, games, furniture, apparel, novelty items, baby care products, books and audio tapes to outside companies. Kodansha’s agreement bolsters its already cozy relationship with Nelvana, which serves as North American licensor to its anime property CardCaptors, says Sid Kaufman, executive VP of worldwide merchandising at Nelvana. The bulk of the Babar merch is slated to reach Japanese gift and toy stores starting in June. Babar currently airs in Japan on public broadcaster NHK.