Health Team

Halloween Costumes Going Hollywood

Posted October 2, 2007 3:52 p.m. EDT
Updated October 13, 2007 1:20 p.m. EDT

— Pretty soon, we might be calling October 31 Hollyween instead of Halloween.

Manufacturers and retailers predict that this year's top costumes will be inspired by the same Hollywood characters that dominated the big and small screens.

The National Retail Federation picks princesses and pirates, often of the Disney variety, and Spider-Man to be the top children's costumes of the year, while Yahoo! Shopping adds "Star Wars," "Hannah Montana" and "High School Musical" as favorites with trick-or-treaters.

"Sometimes I feel I'm either on Wall Street or a movie mogul, I pay such attention to the box office," says Mary Ellen Turner, Party City's divisional vice president of seasonal departments - a k a the company's "queen of Halloween."

At Party City, "Transformers" and "Hannah Montana" costumes are on top, while's Halloween store suggests "Harry Potter," "Shrek" and "High School Musical."

And it's not just movies - the big names in toys are another source of costume inspiration. Barbie-themed costumes are consistent performers and Transformers were in toy chests before they stormed the movie industry, notes Mark Randall, vice president of toys and baby for Randall will be looking at the fall '08 toys next week for inspiration for next year's costumes.

"A licensed character is a powerful engine, whether it starts with a DVD, a Saturday morning cartoon, a network or a book like `Narnia' or `Harry Potter,'" agrees Turner. "They're such powerful influencers for children and, quite frankly, adults, too."


The adult-costume business gets bigger each year at Party City, according to Turner, and even adults aren't immune from the lure of Hollywood.

Costumes mimicking "Reno 911" rank as one of their top sellers with men this year, and even longtime favorites "Freddy" and "Jason" first showed up in horror films "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Friday the 13th."

The gory movie "300" wasn't really on the radar as a hot movie this past spring, Turner recalls, but she saw the marketing barometer begin to move and Party City called its costume supplier long before it became a sleeper hit grossing more than $200 million. The same thing happened last year for "V for Vendetta," she recalls.

Does Brangelina count as a character costume? A survey by finds that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are the most anticipated celebrity couple costume, followed by Bill and Hillary Clinton, David and Victoria Beckham, and Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

"Our generation of parenting is about including the kids and getting included in their lives," Turner says. "The Halloween holiday accentuates family fun."


Babies don't always toe the Tinseltown line. Parents go for the cute factor, says Cari Shapiro, the vice president of merchandising for Babies "R" Us.

Shapiro is dressing her 19-month-old twins as Elmo - the preschool set's celebrity icon.

"They're so cute. They put it on, looked at each other and laughed at their mirror image," she explains. "I picked it because it's something they understand."

Last year, they were chickens.

"The things that make you smile rise to the top, like the chicken for my twins last year. I have no affinity for a chicken but the costume is so cute on," Shapiro says.

Since most babies aren't trick or treating, the costume is mostly for the photos and parents want to create an adorable memory. A generic monkey is on track to be No. 1 this year, followed by Tigger from Winnie the Pooh and then a generic giraffe. A pirate costume likely will land in the top 10.

Shapiro says that could be a bit of a runoff from "Pirates of the Caribbean," but it's the parents who are fans of the films, not the kid.


The pirate theme - also a huge success last year - appeals to the family that wants to dress as a unit, says Amy Hauk, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of Disney Store, which happens to have versions of Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swann for all ages. Disney Store also has a family-sized group of costumes linked to "The Nightmare Before Christmas," including a dog costume for the Zero character.

But Disney's target is 3- to 6-year-olds because they have direct association with a character. Their favorites include Buzz Lightyear from "Toy Story" and Cinderella. The older kids who are more into "Hannah Montana" and "High School Musical" aren't so much dressing up as a character as expressing their affinity for the whole property.

"With `High School Musical,' the most popular costume is more like a full-cast concert T-shirt," observes Hauk, while the Hannah wannabes are more in the market for a costume that is hip and fashionable - something that Miley Cyrus might wear - but not necessarily an exact replica of something they've seen on the show.

Party City's Turner notes, though, that its "Hannah" customers are also eager to add a long blonde wig and accessories to their stylish outfit.

Yes, many people have already bought their costumes, several weeks before Halloween.

"We've already seen costumes picking up," says Amazon's Randall. "Parents have to be a little cautious. If they've heard, `Hey mom, I want to be Spider-Man,' parents want to avoid disappointment. Mid-October is the peak but even right now is the sweet spot."