A Sneak Peek at 2011

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2010 is almost outta here! As the New Year gets closer, let’s steal a glimpse at the year to come. We’re looking at a massive amount of line revivals this year- the 80’s are coming home to roost with major remakes of almost every definitive toy line you remember, and a couple you might not. There’s even a re-envisioned Rubik’s Cube out there!

On the Disney/Pixar front, we have two potentially huge releases that are going to impact the market in 2011- the first is the release of Pixar’s Cars 2, currently slated for a summer release in June. It’s coming double-packed with a new Toy Story short feature that director Lee Unkrich says will be the beginning of a potential series of new shorts. That’ll keep everything Toy Story-related fresh and hot for 2011, and if the rumors about the first short being Barbie and Ken-centric is true, Mattel is going to get another shot in the arm as well.

In July, Disney is also relaunching Winnie the Pooh with a new theatrical film release and a major tie–in campaign. Disney plans to connect a new consumer line for infants with the film.

Cars, Pooh and Toy Story are three of the six major lines of Disney merchandise (Mickey Mouse, the Disney Princesses and the Disney Fairies being the other three). Cars alone is worth $2 billion in annual sales- and that’s before we factor in that Disney now owns the entirety of Marvel’s vast array of character licenses. Marvel characters began appearing in Disney retail and online stores when Iron Man 2 came out – so you can bet they’ll run support for Thor (May 2011) and Captain America (July 2011), too.

Mattel is jumping on the Cars 2 action as well, but a lot of their energies may be tied up for the beginning of 2011 with the ongoing battle with MGA Entertainment over the ginourmously popular Bratz line. A federal decision in July threw out the entire previous court case- a suit which had cost both sides a whopping combined figure of about two billion dollars – and called for a retrial. The Bratz empire of dolls, cartoons, and peripheral items, a line in direct competition with Mattel’s Barbie for the pre-and-tween girl market, is now back in dispute. The winner takes away a merchandising goldmine estimated at a worth of 500 million dollars during peak sales. New custody battle proceedings begin January 11, 2011.

While Mattel fights over the Bratz, it will also be hooking up with Warner Brothers to promote the upcoming Green Lantern film, and some discussion is on the table about providing support for Universal’s Monster High live action musical.

Two dark-horse contenders for your dollars are also coming: a massive Voltron relaunch, with Mattel putting toy power behind World Entertainment Production’s new “Voltron Force” animated series, currently aiming to launch on Nicktoons in the summer of 2011, and a new wave of four figures based on DIC/Saban’s classic The Real Ghostbusters, with MEGO-style packaging and sculpts based on the animated series designs rather than the live-action characters. Sorry, no Slimer or Janine, though.

Hasbro will continue its incredibly successful association with Star Wars. Some figures already announced for the first two waves of 2011 are Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, two droids, a classic Storm Trooper and Clone Trooper, Clone Wars Obi-Wan Kenobi and Cad Bane. They’ve also announced a new The Force Unleashed character pack for Spring 2011. Word is that Star Wars Episode 1 will hit sometime in 2011 in a new 3D IMAX version, so Hasbro is holding some figures back from their packs to support this release as well.

Hasbro has inked a ten-year deal with the Sesame Workshop to produce toys and games based on the iconic children’s education series Sesame Street. (We hope they will be as cool as sadly defunct Palisades Toys’ Muppet figures.) Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster and other classic favorite characters are set to begin appearing next year. The line is estimated to pop another $100-150 million dollars into Hasbro’s coffers. Who says it’s not easy (making) green?

Transformers is of course a perennial in the market and is currently in the midst of a massive reconstruction/unification effort as Hasbro is devoting itself for the next couple of years to operating the Transformers Prime “universe”. A new animated series launches on The Hub in February 2011, following the well-received Prime miniseries. Toys supporting both this series and the third live-action movie from Michael Bay, Dark of the Moon, are on the way and should keep the franchise white-hot throughout all of 2011.

G.I. Joe is undergoing a very similar revival/retooling, and figures are expected for the first three months of 2011 including Duke, Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow, Low-Light, Destro, Skydive, and Shadow Tracker. There will also be a line in support of the new animated series, “G.I. Joe: Renegades”, beginning its run now and airing in 2011. There will also be a sequel to G. I. Joe’s live action film, but it’s currently projected for 2012.

Bandai hopes to bring back some of that 90’s flavor with a new wave of Power Rangers merch February in support of their new series, Power Rangers Samurai (Nicktoons and Nickelodeon). The original line was massive, crushing all competition beneath its multicolored feet in 1994; can it get back some of its previous momentum with a new approach?

And still more 80’s retro action: Bandai is also acting as the master licensor of toys for Thundercats, which returns to US airwaves in 2011 in a new series on Cartoon Network.

Pokemon Black and White arrives in the US translated in Spring 2011. While hardcore devotees of the game have probably already pirated and played it through entirely (it’s been out in Japan since September) and toy versions exist as spendy imports, there’s a hungry kid market that’s ready and waiting- it’d be a surprise if Jakks Pacific, current holder of the US toy license, doesn’t take advantage of the official US release to unveil official toys around the same time. Jakks Pacific has also partnered with Microsoft to prepare interactive plush animals for Microsoft’s “Kinectimals” and will release a standard non-scannable plushie line for the same in fall.

There’s no way to know for sure, of course, what’s going to hit and miss – but even if our crystal ball might be a little cracked and chipped, it doesn’t take a gypsy genius to predict that 2011 will be a great year for toys.

Want more toy news? Check these articles out:

Easy Come, Easy Go: A Year in Review of Sony 2010

No Freaking Way: A Duke Nukem Forever Preview

Yet Another Pokemon Black & White Preview

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