Children's toys make up an industry worth about $22 billion. When the toy industry and the movie industry meet, they seem to have a seamless and mutually expedient relationship. Whenever a hot new movie is preparing for release, the movie’s characters have already hit the shelves in the form of a toy, giving consumers a sneak peek at the adventures that await them on the silver screen. Manufacturing toys in tandem with the movie industry not only drives sales for the toys - the toys, too, act as a form of advertising for the movie. Movie merchandise has, on countless occasions, demonstrated its power to become a trend and fad: According to Bloomberg, if a movie hits one billion dollars in sales, it's a safe estimate that toy sales will average $250 to $300 million.
Playtime aside, toys linked to popular movies have also become hot collector’s items for the grown ups. Toy manufacturers like Mattel and The Lego Group will often create 'special edition' lines to go with the newest movie, marketed as adult collectors items with adult price tags to match.
Predictably, some of the world's hottest movies became the hottest toys. A combination of marketable characters, a strong fanbase and a universal appeal across generations contributed to these ten most successful movie merchandise machines of all time.
10 The Avengers - $150 million
Shocked? The reason why “The Avengers” - one of the highest grossing movies of all time - isn’t higher on this list is because Hasbro and retailers made quite an error in judgement. Joss Whedon’s movie wasn't anticipated to be quite as successful as it eventually was. Boasting so many of our favorite heroes and characters like Iron-Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk, and more, it's puzzling that Hasbro didn't better predict the explosion in popularity of the Avengers, but the fact remains that Hasbro didn’t push the toy line very hard, and retailers didn’t jump to order the products.
9 Spider-Man - $155 million
8 Despicable Me - $230 million
7 Batman - $245 million
6 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - $450 million
5 Toy Story – $2.4 billion
4 Transformers - $3 billion
3 Frozen - $5.3 billion
2 Cars - $10 billion
1 Star Wars - $12 billion
The Star Wars franchise, the longest-standing entry on our list, has garnered $12 billion in toy sales. Since the series has been around for decades, dating back to the release of the first movie in 1977, “Star Wars” continues to be one of the most popular franchises in the world. It shows no signs of stopping; in fact, it's set to accelerate. Since Disney bought the rights to “Star Wars”, there's plenty of anticipation over a new set of sequels with brand new actors - a departure from even the expanded universe fans know. The combined star selling power of Disney and Star Wars make it certain that the $12 billion figure will soar in coming years.
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