Jonathan Takiff | Spidey spin-offs

Cool stuff in the merchandizing pipeline from 'Spider-Man 3'

Posted: May 02, 2007

THE GIZMO: Spidey stuff.

WEB FEATS: Spider-Man isn't just one of the biggest sellers of comic books (he's moved a Marvel-ous 350 million books - and counting!) and the king of action movie superheroes, scoring worldwide box office grosses of $1.6 billion for Sony Pictures' first two "Spider-Man" films.

The web-slinging, skyscraper-scaling alter-ego of mild-mannered Peter Parker also has been a huge payday for Spider-Man Merchandising LP, the Marvel-Sony joint venture that licenses everything from collectible action figures to computers bearing the likenesses of Spidey and his many evil nemeses.

Master toy licensee Toy Biz alone did $100 million in wholesale business with movie-related playthings for the 2002 first Spider-Man flick, then $175 million with toy tie-ins to 2004's "Spider-Man 2."

Even bigger things are expected with the merchandise for "Spider-Man 3" to match the film's lavish production (rumored cost: almost $300 million) and pumped-up drama.

This time, our superhero is almost overmatched by arch rivals Venom and the shape-shifting Sandman. And Peter/Spidey also suffers internal ego struggles between his traditional red-suited self and a new, cockier, black-garbed persona.

Let's turn our bug-eyed glare on some of the coolest new Spidey-themed gizmos - the webs gadget-makers have spun to entangle us in the action and let us grab a bite of the Spider-Man.

THIS SPUD'S FOR YOU: Hasbro has taken over as master toy licensee for the Spider-Man franchise (a contract that cost them $205 million). So you better believe the toy maker will be working the franchise every way but loose - from a "Spider-Man 3"-themed Nerf football (at least the webbing adds grip) to a "Spider-Man 3" edition of Monopoly.

Even Hasbro/Playskool's iconic Mr. Potato Head has been made over in webbed garb as Spider-Man & Friends Spider Spud ($9.99), with the usual mix-'n'-match fun of ears, eyes, nose and glasses that turn him from super spud to mild-mannered Peter Parker Potato.

I'll bet half the people who buy this goofy toy never take it out of the package - it's cuter and lots more collectible that way.

Ditto for Spi-Dog, $34.99 from Hasbro-brand Tiger Electronics, a version of the i-Dog Interactive music companion that was such a big hit last holiday season, now in a red-webbed plastic skin.

The dog still moves and grooves, lighting up and barking music (through a small, built-in speaker) when he's connected to an iPod or any other music player. Spi-Dog will surely dress up your desk, but be sure to keep him on a short leash.

PUMPED UP: I wasn't able to soar from building to building, but this product tester did have fun decorating the neighborhood with arachnid-like constructions using the "Spider-Man 3" Deluxe Spinning Web Blaster ($24.99).

Intended to be strapped to the wrists of those age 5 and up, the motorized, battery-operated toy spits out spirals of water or quick-hardening web fluid that looks suspiciously like Silly String.

Hasbro will clean up (and so will you) if this plaything catches on big, as refills cost $5.99 a cannister.

SNOOZE PATROL: Even tiny tots can get bitten by the bug. Cuddly Super Pal Spider-Man ($29.99, for ages 18 months to 3 years) has a dual nature, controlled by mom or dad. During the daytime, he'll say fun phrases when you press his chest and make web slinging sounds when his hand is squeezed. When it's bedtime, switch him to nighttime mode, pull out his web blankie (!) and the little guy will quiet down and "fall asleep" within a minute as he cuddles with your kid.

YOUR FACE IN THE PLACE: For those who dream of being in a "Spider-Man" movie, now you can - in a 25-minute, action-packed cartoon feature called "I Am the Amazing Spider-Man." Just send a photo of the lucky star (by mail or e-mail) to product maker PixFusion.

Make sure it's a good, straight-on headshot. 'Cause when the DVD comes back, and Spider-Man rips off his mask, that's the face that will be atop his cartoon body. This authorized spin-off movie costs just $39.95 (eat your heart out, Sony Pics). Get a preview and place an order at www.youarespiderman.com.

VIDEO GAMES: To really live the adventure, nothing will top Activision's authorized "Spider-Man 3" video games, which have been in development for as long as the movie and in close cooperation with the filmmakers.

Most of the cast, except Kirsten Dunst, lent their voices to the soundtrack. Anticipation is so high that the title has dominated the "most popular" list at Web sites like GameFly.Com for a month, even though the various platform versions won't be let out of their traps until Friday when the movie's released.

The T-rated (Teen: animated blood, mild language, violence) treatments for Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, PS2 and PSP let you roam through and under New York City to take on villains from the movie as well as legendary comic-book foes.

Suit up in Spider-Man's alternative black skin to gain extra, fearsome powers. But be warned: The suit becomes harder and harder to control.

The rendering for Nintendo's Wii takes full advantage of the Wii remote and Nunchuk controllers to create a new way to Web shoot and swing through the city.

No surprise, given the family connections to the movie maker, Sony's PlayStation 3 system will be treated to a PS3 Collector's Edition, adding an exclusive playable character - New Goblin - who offers a unique locomotion system, 10 exclusive race challenges and special pumpkin bombs.

For younger players, Activision is offering E10+ (Everyone 10 and older: cartoon violence) versions for Nintendo's DS and GBA systems.

Far more basic is TechnoSource's line of inexpensive, ($5.99-$24.99) "Spider-Man 3" LCD-based handheld games. Most elaborate of the bunch is the Spider-Man 3-D Color V.I.E.W. System, which is held up to your eyes like a Viewmaster to offer a modestly rendered, three-dimensional battlefield.

LEARNING SOMETHING: If Spider-Man can help your little one (ages 4 and up) master letters, numbers, word recognition and games like Hang-Man, his mission will be complete with the Spider-Smart Learning Laptop ($39.99 from KIDdesign).

With that handsome Spider-Man face embossed on its plastic cover, I wouldn't be surprised if grown-up comic-book freaks buy this device just for its collectibility.

Also coming, at the end of May, is the desktop Spider-Man Knows You Learning PC (KIDdesign for ages 5 and up, $59.99). It can be customized with the child's name, birthday, favorites and a custom spelling list. And it threads learning tasks in with a story line that offers feedback from Spider-Man and an ultimate showdown with the Sandman. Both are available at retail or from www.kiddirect.com.

LAST, NOT LEAST: Curious about spiders, ladybugs and other little insects but afraid to put your hands on them? Suck them into the Spider-Man 3 Backyard Bug Vacuum from Summit Products.

Of course it features those distinctive, blue-and-red web decorations, plus a clear nozzle compartment (with a stopper attachment) and an LED light to help you study your captures.

For long-range examination, shake the bug loose into the "Spider-Man 3" Backyard Bug Habitat, offering a clear view window into a cityscape holding pen. Both products are $14.99 and available at www.amazon.com. *

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