Toyetic is a term referring to the suitability of a media property, such as a cartoon or movie, for merchandising tie-in lines of licensed toys, games and novelties. The term is attributed to Bernard Loomis, a toy development executive for Kenner Toys, in discussing the opportunities for marketing the film ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ telling its producer Steven Spielberg that the movie wasn’t ‘toyetic’ enough, leading Loomis towards acquiring the lucrative license for the upcoming ‘Star Wars’ properties.
Although George Lucas wrote the ‘Star Wars’ saga without considering the toyetic potentials of the film, he insisted that he would keep the merchandising rights before the first film was released. 20th Century-Fox underestimated the potential of the film and allowed Lucas to do so, and the film turned out to be a toyetic phenomenon. The seven films have spawned a massive merchandising empire, with everything from toys, action figures, and video games to non-toy merchandise, such as beer steins, spoons, and replicas of the lightsaber hilts.
Loomis developed the concept in 1969 while working at Mattel. With the introduction of the ‘Hot Wheels’ line of toy cars, he proposed that they also developed a 30-minute show of the same name as a means to promote the toys. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC), in reviewing the program, determined that it needed to be treated as advertising, which affected the records of the network, forcing it off the air within two years. Loomis later moved on to the Kenner division of General Mills. It was there that he first proposed acquiring the toy merchandising rights to ‘Star Wars.’ The move was considered highly successful, with over $100 million in annual toy sales following the release of the film.
In the early 1980s, the FCC revised its rules on children’s programming, specifically allowing for the use of ‘character marketing’ where shows could employ fictional characters based on toys and other real-world objects without counting towards advertising. Loomis saw the potential in the ‘Strawberry Shortcake’ line of toys for girls, and was able to successfully produce a line of specials for the property under the less-restrictive FCC guidelines. his formula was highly copied in the 1980s, thanks to the introduction of cable television, which allowed for more airtime.
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,’ the animated TV show based on the 1984 comic series by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird was considered ‘extremely toyetic,’ as the toys were ‘visually appealing—tough yet huggable—and there are enough characters to drive collecting over time,’ according to Playmates Toys senior vice president Karl Aaronian. The original 1980s ‘Transformers’ cartoon series was also highly toyetic. The number of such shows waned after 1990 when Congress passed the ‘Children’s Television Act’ which required content to include educational and instructional material for children, and targeted the type of commercial advertising that could accompany these shows.