Sometimes the best toy ideas are the simplest, though the path from concept to fruition is often long and complicated.
Toy Biz’s Spider-Man Dual-Action Web Blaster was easily one of the most talked-about toys of 2002. Touted as a truly imaginative interpretation of a license, the Web Blaster captured consumer imagination and proved sticky on U.S. toy charts throughout the year. In November 2002 – nearly a year since its December 2001 debut – the toy ranked seventh in terms of dollar sales and ninth in units sold, according to NPDFunworld figures.
While it’s certainly a success story of superhero proportions, it’s one that has been years in the making. Look behind the curtain at Toy Biz, and you’ll find a few Blasters from the past that laid the foundation for the 2002 top-seller.
‘When we develop toys around a character, we look at his abilities,’ says Tom McCormack, VP of research and development at Toy Biz. ‘Because of our direct link with Spider-Man [through parent company Marvel], we’ve always been trying to come up with the ultimate web-slinging action in a toy.’
Early attempts included a dart-shooter that strapped onto the child’s arm, but the toyco soon wanted to progress to a toy that could mimic Spidey’s wrist-action web-shooting more realistically. So Toy Biz introduced the Spider-Man Web Blaster in 1996. Marvel Entertainment president Avi Arad ‘suggested that we come up with a foam string in a canister as a more realistic interpretation of Spider-Man’s [abilities],’ McCormack recalls. ‘From there, we shopped around for foam in a horizontal can that could be put on the arm and shot from a trigger in the same way that Spider-Man slings his web.’
Toy Biz decided to trot the product out again with the theatrical release of Spider-Man, this time ensuring that kids didn’t have to stop mid-stream to pop in a refill cannister. McCormack claims the added water tank feature helped to up the toy’s play value: ‘When the foam cans ran out, it wasn’t a redundant toy because kids had the water-shooting action as well.’
While Sony’s marketing might helped to propel the Web Blaster to the lofty sales heights it has enjoyed, McCormack says it stands on its own merit as ‘the closest we can get to actually shooting a web.’ Get the scoop on Toy Biz’s next big roleplay push – Hulk Hands – on page 48.