Rock-Star Toys Are Holiday Bright Spot

Posted November 20, 2007 12:30 p.m. EST
Updated November 22, 2007 6:01 p.m. EST

— Being a rock star has been the closet dream of many a teen. But this holiday season, that dream has been embraced by a younger set, and "rock star"-themed toys inspired by TV hits "Hannah Montana" and "High School Musical 2" have been extremely popular.

As analysts predict a sluggish holiday season overshadowed by toy recalls and an uncertain retail economy, pop-music inspired toys are one bright spot.

"Hannah Montana singing dolls are one of the hottest items on the market," said Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of Toy Wishes, a trade publication. "Fifteen or 20 years ago, kids would have been listening to kids songs. Now kids after the age of five are listening to pop."

Walt Disney Co. owns two of the hottest franchises related to the phenomenon, the Disney Channel TV show "Hannah Montana," which stars Miley Cyrus as a secret pop singer, and "High School Musical" and "High School Musical 2" - with plots revolving around teens putting on a musical.

"What Disney has done so brilliantly is leveraged teenage fascination with music and put it into properties that really appeal to a younger age demographic," said Chris Byrne, a New York-based toy analyst.

Jakks Pacific Inc. licenses a wide variety of Hannah Montana products, and president Stephen Berman said best-sellers include a Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus singing doll, along with a microphone that plays songs through a stereo.

Marc Rosenberg, chief marketing officer of Zizzle LLC., which licenses many High School Musical toys, said a best-seller is the High School Musical Dance Mat, which challenges users to dance along to its songs.

The rock-star trend transcends the gender barrier as well, Rosenberg said, noting the popularity of Zizzle's High School Musical Basketball Jam box, a basketball children plug an iPod into.

And related products extend all the way to babies, via Fisher-Price's Little Superstar Sing-Along Stage, said Bob Giampietro, senior vice president at Toys "R" Us. Teens are targeted with the recently released video game "Guitar Hero III."

Jakks' Berman said the phenomenon hit home when he attended a Hannah Montana concert with his 5-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter earlier this month and was surprised by the energy.

"Adults, kids, no one sat down the whole concert," he said. "I've seen the Rolling Stones and U2 and I've never seen a show like it."