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Inside Move: Warners superheroes suit up for toy wars

Caped commerce

Call it the power of the toy.

Warner Bros. announced a whopping deal, valued at $200 to $600 million, with Mattel last week for master toy licenses on five big properties, including Batman and Superman.

Not coincidentally, Warners signaled almost simultaneously that its long-dormant comicbook kings will be flying high onscreen again, signing Wolfgang Petersen to helm “Batman vs. Superman” for a 2004 release.

The moves reflect a shattering of the glacial development that kept both franchises on ice for years. Given the billion-dollar bonanza that Batman once was, Mattel and Warner have every incentive to merge movies and merchandise into major moolah.

And Mattel wouldn’t have ponied up without knowing Warners will come through with those movies and TV series to back its toys.

The biggest irony may be that the megadeal came together almost by happenstance, says Warner worldwide consumer products prexy Dan Romanelli.

Licenses on some of the properties had expired, but Batman doesn’t end its 13-year run with Hasbro until January. Nonetheless, Warner decided to package the five properties (Looney Tunes, Baby Looney Tunes and the Justice League are also included) to see what deal they might secure.

The price ended up too steep for No. 2 toymaker Hasbro, exactly Mattel’s plaint when it walked away from a long-term Disney deal two years ago. But if the two superheroes come through again, the price will be well worth Mattel’s super payout to Warners.

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