Fright Night in the Toy and Collectibles Aisle

Scary plush and plush-like characters from the worlds of video games and collectibles are currently having a moment in the licensing business. These properties do not represent a new phenomenon, but their number is currently ramping up, likely due in part to the popularity of the horror genre in general. Most are meant to appeal to an audience of teens and older, but they tend to attract younger fans as well.

Some examples supported by recent licensing activity:

  • Fuggler. This brand of “funny ugly monster,” consisting of plush with human-like teeth, was created in 2010 by an English artist named Louise McGettrick and acquired by Spin Master in 2018. The plush line, which has seen success globally in stores such as Walmart, Hot Topic, Kmart in Australia, and Tesco in the U.K., is supported by original social media content. The toy line has been produced by U.K.-based Addo Play since 2022 and distributed by Australia-based ToyMonster globally; Zuru will take over the worldwide toy rights starting this fall. More than 200 plush characters have come to market to date, including co-branded versions with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and SpongeBob SquarePants. Libertas Brands, which manages the IP globally, recently named Retail Monster as the sub-agent for North America, Haven Global for Australia and New Zealand, Creative Minds for Japan, FIR Ventures for Greater China, and Wildbrain CPLG for all other territories around the world, except the U.K. and Ireland, which Libertas handles. Libertas also forged a five-year deal with Blue Zoo to develop digital animated and live-action shorts, music videos, and feature-and series-length content. In addition, it signed PMI Kids for collectibles including figures, keychains, stampers, and advent calendars.
  • Poppy Playtime. Originating as a survival horror video game in the vein of the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise, Poppy Playtime was developed by Mob Entertainment. The first of several titles was released in 2021, and the property now has a presence on the PC, mobile, console (Playstation and Nintendo Switch), and Roblox platforms. The story takes place in an abandoned toy factory full of evil toys, including the main character, Huggy Wuggy. Scholastic recently signed on to publish novels, graphic novels, and reference and in-world books for young adults, joining a licensee list that includes Disguise for costumes and PhatMojo for toys. Reemsborko represents the property for licensing in Europe and Australia. Legendary Entertainment is developing a live-action feature film.
  • Deady Bears. Created by Innov8 Creative Academy in Dublin, Ireland, these are collectibles of dead teddy bears, each with its own identity. There are several different lines, with figures typically packaged in body bags or coffins and in some cases with a death certificate and autopsy report included. In addition to the core Deady Bears line, which ranges in size from keychains to 5.5-inch versions, extensions include Kreepy Katz, the upcoming Kreepy K9s, and Forbidden Fruits (“ripe and R.I.P.”). The franchise took off as soon as the first products were released in 2013, with 300,000 figures sold in the first four months of availability. Deady Bears collectibles are now sold in more than 15,000 stores around the world, including Hot Topic, GameStop, Entertainment Earth, Smiths Toy Superstores, Big W, HMV, Walmart, Giant Tiger, Books-a-Million, Tesco, and more. The products are distributed by PMS International in the U.K. and License2Play in the U.S. The brand was introducing itself to potential licensees at Licensing Expo last month.
  • Five Nights at Freddy’s. A decade-long success story, this Scottgames property, represented for licensing by Striker Entertainment, recently saw Jazwares come on board as the master toy licensee for the property, with the first products set to debut in 2025. Fanattik also is a new licensee, for gifts, home goods, and collectible toys for Europe. The first in an extensive series of FNAF video games was released in 2014, featuring evil animatronic figures that come to life in a pizza restaurant at night. The game gained popularity almost immediately, as did the licensed products that followed. Scholastic came on board in 2016 and has since published books including two chapter book series for grades seven and up, a graphic novel series, character guides, and movie tie-ins. Some of the other licensees over the property’s lifetime have include Sanshee for collectible plush and pins, Funko for collectible figures and other products, and McFarlane Toys for construction sets, as well as Rubie’s, NECA, Think Geek, Just Toys, Bioworld, and more. The property had a feature film adaptation in 2023, with a second in the works for late 2025.

Brands such as these can be controversial, since they often attract a younger audience than intended. Kids may discover the IPs through means such as fan-created YouTube videos, gaming-influencer content, or their older siblings, for example, to the chagrin of their parents and caregivers in some cases. But these qualms have not stopped the properties from gaining global popularity and ultimately stepping into the licensed consumer products arena.

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