Disney screened the first 30 minutes of its new Pixar movie “Lightyear” at CinemaCon in Las Vegas on Wednesday, but the biggest buzz among attendees wasn’t for the title character at the center of “Toy’s” origin story. Story”.
It’s for a little robot cat named Sox.
The ginger and white mechanical feline is a personal companion given to Buzz Lightyear after a mission goes wrong. A therapy device, of sorts, Sox is designed to do everything Buzz needs, including monitoring his sanity and providing nighttime sleep sounds.
The general public got a feel for the Sox in early trailers for “Lightyear,” which hits theaters on June 17. But the extended stare CinemaCon attendees received reinforced the consensus that this little robotic cat is destined to be the next hot toy.
Like many of Disney and Pixar’s animal and robotic companions, Sox has a distinct personality and adds moments of levity in times of peril. At the premiere, her moments were the ones that elicited the loudest and hoarseest laughter from the crowd.
“Sox the cat is going to steal the whole movie,” Fandango editor Erik Davis wrote on Twitter after the preview. “Disney is going to sell so many Sox the Cat toys.”
Voiced by Pixar veteran Peter Sohn, Sox has a dry sense of humor and an outspoken voice reminiscent of K2-SO from “Rogue One” and an innocent, caring nature like Baymax from “Big Hero 6”. He also has a data probe in his tail a la R2-D2 which comes in handy when Buzz gets into a pickle.
Audiences leaving the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace after Disney’s presentation could be heard gushing over the new character. In meetings later that week, exhibitors and box office analysts told CNBC that Sox clearly stood out from the highly anticipated animated feature, with many mimicking the cat or reciting its lines seen in the footage.
“No spoilers. Just know that everyone will want a [Sox] toy as soon as this movie comes out,” tweeted John Rocha, film critic and owner of The Outlaw Nation. “So start buying these now or as soon as they become available.”
Disney has managed to turn its sidekicks into big toy sellers. In recent years, Grogu from “The Mandalorian” and Olaf from “Frozen” have dominated toy shelves, clothing lines and homewares. Legacy characters like R2-D2 from “Star Wars” and Mushu from “Mulan” continue to inspire consumers to make purchases.
“I went through a list of the top 50 movie characters; and 17 of them were animals, 24 were human or human-like, and nine were an assortment of monsters and robots,” Richard said. Gottlieb, CEO of Global Toy Experts. “I was interested that being cute and fuzzy alone didn’t guarantee success. The character, whether animal or monster, should be likened to a human.”
Mattel, which holds the master toy license for the Toy Story franchise, has created several plush and action figure versions of the Sox, but its hero item for the toy line is an $80 interactive animatronic version of the character.
“Sox was a priority from the moment we saw the movie ‘Lightyear,'” said PJ Lewis, executive director of Mattel’s Figures and Plush Division. “We knew he was more than a sidekick and offered multiple ways to drive product innovation for the ‘Lightyear line’. Plus, we have a few cats on the team who were won over.”
In addition to Mattel’s product, Sox can be found in the toy aisle as a Funko Pop and Lego figure as well as in the candy aisle as a Pez dispenser.
Studios and toy companies are acutely aware of how quickly consumers of different ages can adopt characters from movies and TV. When these characters succeed in the toy and clothing market, they are often made into household items like dish towels, spatulas, and plates, as well as other products like jewelry, bandages, greeting cards, and toys. and pet accessories.
It’s a lucrative business. Global revenue from licensed merchandise reached nearly $300 billion in 2019, according to data from Licensing International’s annual industry overview, produced by Brandar Consulting. The Entertainment and Characters business accounts for $128.4 billion, or approximately 44%, of global sales.
And Sox is poised to become the next revenue-generating hot toy for Disney, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.
“A star was born at CinemaCon this week,” he said.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Fandango.