Getting the Harry Potter license was quite a coup for Cards Inc., a British company that started out as a distributor of US trading cards before taking some licenses and extending into gifts and collectables. It has a reputation for being innovative in design and has recently worked with top licenses including Pirates of the Caribbean, Superman Returns and Star Wars.
Mark Hillier has been impressed with the style direction Warner Bros. has taken for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. 'The material they've been able to supply us has been marvellous,' he says. 'The style guide is innovative and really hits the spot. It's a lot darker-Voldemort and the Death Eaters are pretty scary — and it appeals to a wider age range.'
This is the fifth Harry Potter film from Warner Bros. This time, its consumer products division has taken a closer look at the licensing programme and, more specifically, how it can better appeal to its diverse audience. The style guide has segments specifically targeted at different audience demographics. It also reflects the darker direction of the plot and the maturing of Harry Potter and his fans.
Warner Bros realised the brand was skewing older and Warner wanted to target older consumers with collectables, as well as with mass market toys, and this was one of the reasons Cards Inc. was chosen. Between toys, gifts and collectables, it will develop a broad selection of products, enabling it to draw inspiration from every aspect of the style guide. 'You can't sit still in the toy and gift market! You need a diverse range of products,' according to Mark.
Cards Inc. has invested heavily in the sculpture techniques to make the figures in particular as life-like as possible.'There are some stunning characters in the movie: other than the main trio, there's Snape and Voldemort and the Death Eaters, who look fantastic. The investment we've made in getting the detail right has paid off. We hand retail buyer's mock-ups of the products, and their jaws almost hit the floor because of the quality,' says Mark.
The complete range has been previewed in Hong Kong, so most major retailers and European distributors have seen it. The response, says Mark, has been positive. Retailers have been impressed by both the range and quality of products. 'We set out to produce a toy range around a series of action figures,' he told us. 'We've given them the ability to interact with the play sets, vehicles and animals etc, which is important.'
When Cards Inc. takes Harry Potter to Toy Fair in January, it hopes to have most of its deals in place. It will be showcasing finished product and packaging. Mark promises it will make quite an impact. 'The electronic items are stunning,' he says. 'The Death Eater mask and Lucius Malfoy's interactive wand game have really captured the imaginations of buyers.'
The first wave of product will launch in June in anticipation of the release of the film the following month, with further product launching around the DVD release and Christmas 2007. Cards Inc. is banking on having enough product to tempt retailers to stock it until the sixth Harry Potter film in 2008. This is consistent with Warner Bros' hopes to get retailers to support the franchise continuously rather than just around the release of the films.
'The exciting thing is that there are two more films to come,' says Mark. 'But Harry Potter will go on far beyond that.'