In a pact expected to put hundreds of millions of dollars into the studio’s coffers, Warner Bros. has renewed Mattel’s deal to serve as the master toy licensee to produce playthings based on DC Entertainment’s stable of superheroes that include Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and the Flash.
Under the new five-year pact, brokered by Warner Bros. Consumer Products, Mattel will pay the studio a percentage of sales generated from toys tied to DC’s movies, TV shows, comicbooks and games, as well as the individual characters themselves.
Mattel’s relationship with WB goes back 10 years, when it landed the rights to make toys for the relaunch of the Batman and Superman pics, starting with 2005’s “Batman Begins” and “Superman Returns.” (More recently “Green Lantern” was included under their agreement.) The DC line has generated a “steady stream of business year-round” for both companies with hundreds of action figures introduced.
Deal comes with WB in the midst of overhauling how DC treats its franchises across all platforms.
Studio took back control of the company’s characters in 2009, when it tapped “Harry Potter” franchise shepherd Diane Nelson to head up a reorg of DC that’s expected to bring new films based on DC’s titles to the bigscreen faster and to lead to the launch of new TV shows and games. It’s already led to the recent reboot of DC’s comicbooks. DC’s characters also include Aquaman, Shazam!, Hawkman, Green Arrow and Wonder Woman as well as villains the Joker and the Riddler.
Of course, the studio earns more when Mattel sells more toys, meaning the success of each entertainment property is vital to the bottom line for both companies. Mattel produces popular toy lines like Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Barbie, Mattel Games and Fisher-Price, the last of which has turned DC’s characters into a successful line of toys for toddlers that mints more than $100 million a year. A new Little People product line that features DC Comics characters will expand its kids biz.
“We have developed an incredibly successful partnership with Mattel and are very excited about taking the relationship to new levels,” said Brad Globe, prexy of Warner Bros. Consumer Products. “At the studio, we’ve refocused in a big way because we know how important DC is.”
Mattel is already planning to produce toys based on next summer’s “The Dark Knight Rises” and Superman pic “Man of Steel,” out summer 2013, as well as to take advantage of Warner Bros. Animation’s upcoming TV series “Green Lantern: The Animated Series” and new episodes of “Young Justice,” which are part of Cartoon Network’s new hourlong “DC Nation” programming block.
“They’re bringing much more of a franchise mindset and are doing more to plan around it that amps up the exposure to our core audience and lets us plug our brands into what they’re doing,” said Tim Kilpin, exec VP of Mattel Brands. “The DC Comics characters are rich in story, and we look forward to bringing these popular characters to life through innovative product design.”
Mattel will help promote DC’s characters at retail through DC Super Heroes sections in the toy aisle designed to attract a new generation of kids and existing fans. Next year, Mattel will partner with Diamond Comic Distributors to extend its presence globally with exclusive European distribution rights for a DC Universe action-figure line.