A To Z Of TV & Toys – A Is For Animation

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The world of animation has long since been a great source of Toy brands.

Looking as far back as Steamboat Willie (created by Disney in 1928), we can see how animation lets us bring cartoon characters to life. Animation literally turned flat still images into moving, talking characters. This is really powerful when we look at the ‘Toyetic’ potential of TV content, because children don’t necessarily differentiate between what’s on TV (& tablets etc) versus what’s real in the same way as adults. (Mentally healthy) adults tend to deploy ‘suspension of disbelief’ when watching TV, so that they can be lost in the plot and characters, but not be unduly influenced when they stop watching. For children, the distinction between fictional content and reality is not so clear cut, and the younger the child the more this is the case. This means that animating characters into a moving sequence makes them much more ‘real’ to children, versus reading a cartoon or book etc. when they are more actively using their imaginations to fill in the blanks.

So if a child watches their favourite animated TV program, and play with a toy of one of the characters at the same time, they are effectively extending the world of the content into their own surrounding world. When we conduct qualitative research with kids, they tell us about playing with the toys and then swapping the character out and swapping themselves in so that they themselves become part of the story. Such role playing has a positive impact in the development of the child – such role playing aids development of communication skills, self management of behaviour, propensity for creativity and many other factors. Don’t just take our word for it, here’s an article in Psychology Today outlining the benefits as proven by numerous formal studies: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beautiful-minds/201203/the-need-pretend-play-in-child-development

There is a long standing contention that Toys based on content/entertainment brands are exploitative in the sense that children don’t have the same analytical facilities to filter out advertising messages or to understand the commercial world. I’m not about to argue with that, because in essence it holds a degree of truth, however, such Toys offer significant developmental benefits to children, and are often therefore a good thing even if they need to be paid for.

Animation creates a powerful compunction for derivative toys, and as such the animation industry is a positive sales driver for the toy industry and therefore a significant revenue generator for animation producers. That doesn’t mean that any old animation will sell toys…far from it, there are many success factors in this regard which we’ll cover in later instalments in this article series, but the Toy industry is undoubtedly heavily reliant on animated content.

by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight www.KidsBrandInsight.com,  a leading Consultancy to toy companies and entertainment brands around the world. We offer Consultancy to entertainment companies looking to maximise their Toy licensing potential and conduct qualitative consumer research testing content, Toys and interactive content with kids and parents.

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