The combination of LeBron James and Looney Tunes is a slam dunk, as far as Moose Toys is concerned. The Australian toymaker is launching a consumer products program inspired by the feature film Space Jam: A New Legacy globally this month, after its first SKUs hit shelves in the US in April.
The range includes action figures, playsets, plush and collectibles. While collectibles are a specialty for Moose, given the success of its Shopkins franchise, the focus for this line was on action figures and playsets in an effort to allow kids to recreate the storylines they’ll see on screen. The movie features NBA superstar James playing a version of himself who teams up with the likes of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck to win a basketball game and save his son. Because the film focuses so much on the world of basketball, it broadens the consumer base for the CP program and creates new opportunities to go heavier on sports, says Moose Toys’ chief marketing officer Ronnie Frankowski.
The original Space Jam movie, starring Michael Jordan, was released in 1996 and went on to become a pop-culture sensation. This sequel was first announced in 2014, production began in 2019, and Moose and Warner Bros. Consumer Products started working on merchandise shortly thereafter.
Developing a toy line for a family-friendly blockbuster in the middle of a pandemic was no small task, Frankowski says. But starting the process early meant the partners were able to monitor consumer trends as they developed during lockdown.
In particular, the new line will benefit greatly from the movie’s sports theme as more families are focused on getting outside and being active right now.
Outdoor and sports toys had a huge sales bump last year, with market research firm The NPD Group putting US sales for the category at US$5.7 billion between April 2020 and March 2021—a 35% increase compared to the previous year.
The long lead time also allowed the Moose team to plan for every possible outcome, including a delay in release. This was especially important after a number of tentpole premieres were pushed back due to lockdowns. While Moose was preparing a Plan B that would provide more flexibility, Frankowski says WB’s development of a dual release strategy— which saw movies launch in theaters where possible and on its streaming platform in other regions—meant the team was able to move forward with its initial retail rollout with support from e-commerce. Having that premiere date set in stone meant the company could begin shipping merchandise and preparing for in-store displays, rather than relying more heavily on digital sales in an effort to be as nimble as possible should calendars shift last-minute.
As Moose continues to expand its licensing business—2019 also saw the toyco sign on as global master toy partner for animated preschool series Bluey—Frankowski says long-term investments are increasingly important to the company. The toymaker’s agreement with WB not only included products in support of the Space Jam movie, but also the Looney Tunes franchise as a whole.
There may be more growth in these multi-property deals moving forward, says Frankowski, to ensure that the success of a partnership doesn’t solely rely on a single film or series—a crucial safety net in such uncertain times. Moose and WB initially settled on this long-term focus because the Looney Tunes universe offers up so many possibilities, he says. Now, more than a year into the pandemic, the decision could prove to be a blueprint for future deals.
“There’s a dynamic world within Looney Tunes that’s a rich environment for new toys, content and innovation,” says Frankowski. “This is a property that will be bigger than just one theatrical release.”
This means that even as it rolls out the initial consumer products program, Moose is currently working on offerings for the franchise beyond Space Jam: A New Legacy.
“Sometimes the ball just bounces your way,” adds Frankowski.