Panda Mony Toys’ plans to shake up the global toy industry with the introduction of its Alter Nation action figure toy line has taken another step towards reality, with the appointment of the pop culture brand and licensing specialist, FanGirl Consulting.
Founded by the former Hasbro executive, Anita Castellar, FanGirl has already started laying foundations for the retro-inspired toy brand, as the industry expert begins to ‘spot the opportunities in the chaos,’ of the world’s pandemic measures. Castellar began her career in the toy space in product development for toys with Disney Theme Parks, before taking on the role of global brand manager for the Star Wars master toy line for Hasbro.
Deeply rooted within the merchandising and toy business, Castellar has turned her attention towards uncovering, promoting, and developing properties and companies that tick boxes in the pop culture or more underground fanbase spaces. She has already been working closely with the US unit, Boss Fight Studios who has developed toy lines for the retro animation Bucky O’Hare, Legends of Lucha Libre, and The Little Prince.
Attention has now been turned to Panda Mony Toys and its Alter Nation toy line, a line of retro-inspired action figures – a cast of characters that feature in their own webisode series on YouTube – that aims to ‘subvert the traditions of the toy industry’ in its own, unique way.
Alter Nation follows the clandestine operations of GK Delta, a secret Government entity dedicated to protecting humanity from forces that no typical human can defeat – and no one is allowed to know. The group of teenage human-animal hybrids is given extraordinary powers and abilities to create the ultimate soldier.
Each Alter Nation figure includes an original mini comic introducing audiences to the character’s unique powers and abilities, plus custom accessories to augment the play value. The toy line is beginning to pick up traction in the US where Dark Horse Comics has detailed its own plans to launch an original graphic novel, Alter Nation: They Hide Hybrids this October.
In addition to the comics, Panda Mony is in talks with several top content platforms to develop an animated series for kids aged six to 11.
“They want to have their own voice, so we are trying to curate that in the framework of a traditional toy industry,” Castellar told ToyNews. “We have to balance off being the rebels. We can’t make everyone angry then expect them to be our friends and buy our products, so we’re trying to balance that off.”
The move arrives at an interesting time for the pop culture scene. While the world’s lockdown over the past few months will go down in history as a period of inertia for businesses worldwide, the pop culture merchandising space could be about to experience a further boom.
It’s true that the scene has found itself hitting the pause button along with the rest of the world over the course of the spring, with the temporary closure of retailers in the space hampering sales, however, a rising demand in pop culture merchandise could now be expected as a knock-on effect of audiences finding new properties to engage with via SVOD platforms during the season of staying home to stave off the spread of the coronavirus.
It’s according to Castellar that ‘opportunities are now starting to present themselves from within the chaos’ of the world’s reaction to the pandemic.
Streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ have played a major role in facilitating new engagement in content and fuelling the pop culture scene, while the demand for retro properties and the popularity of pockets of the pop culture space such as anime – both areas that were experience growth before the appearance of Covid-19 – has only gained momentum over recent months.
“A lot of the retro properties are coming back, there were a lot of these reunions that were happening during the lockdown with virtual reunions for Friends, The Office and so on, but then there’s also – in the vein that anime is becoming more and more mainstream in general – a ton of anime that is being watched and rediscovered nowadays,” said Castellar.
“As far as pop culture and content, whether it’s older or newer – and Disney+ has helped a lot with Mandalorian which is on fire for them – there’s a lot of content being delivered which is really helping the cause. The Trolls movie debut on VOD was a great idea and I think it shows that people are willing to experiment now a little bit, they’ve seen that if you’re willing to toss something in to the fire, it might actually work.”