Trolls World Tour was set to be one of 2020’s biggest box office hits.
The animated sequel to the 2016 Trolls film was due for theatrical release on 10 April, but following the outbreak of Covid-19, and the subsequent widespread cinema closures, Universal made a landmark decision – to forgo a traditional theatrical release and make the film available for digital rental at the same time.
The decision came as many studios, including Disney and Sony, were opting to delay their potential blockbusters until cinemas reopened.
But Universal was keen to bring its feel-good, sing-along movie to the masses who were stuck inside amid the outbreak. And it seems that that decision paid off for Universal, who has claimed that the sequel landed the biggest digital debut in history, taking 10 times the digital revenue of Universal’s previous record holder, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, on its VOD debut.
Deadline has estimated that the film pulled in between $40m – $50m million over the opening weekend; though Universal has so far declined to disclose any official figures.
For comparison, the first Trolls movie was released in November 2016, had a $46.5m opening weekend in theatres and went on to gross $346.8m worldwide. At its retail price of $19.99, World Tour would have had to sell just over 2.3m rentals to match the earnings made by its predecessor’s theatrical opening weekend.
But as we know, with great success at box office, often comes great opportunity in the licensing world. So, how has the Trolls World Tour toy launch fared – both off the back of a VOD debut and amid the outbreak of Covid-19?
There are of course additional concerns for retail during these challenging times. There is not only uncertainty over the availability of stock, but also challenges with retail distribution – as many brick and mortar shops have had to cease trading in ‘unessential goods’ and postal and courier services are operating a slower service, prioritising essential goods – plus, many consumers are facing times of financial hardship.
However, to look at the other side of the coin: most stock was available prior to the outbreak; online retail is encouraged by the UK government, with most online retailers reporting a surge in demand; the film enjoyed a fantastic reception in spite of its unusual debut; and families are looking for ways of keeping children entertained at home.
Surely, one of the best ways to learn how Trolls licensed goods are currently faring is to ask the licensees.
Posh Paws launched its official movie plush line, inspired by DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls, at the beginning of March. Featuring fan-favourite Trolls characters including Poppy, Branch and Tiny Diamond the glitter hip-hop troll, as well as new faces such as Queen Barb, the leader of the Rock Trolls.
Speaking of the release in these unique times, Lauren Shipman, group brand and marketing director at Posh Paws, says: “Naturally numbers are down in comparison to a theatrical release under normal circumstances, when most retailers are open. However, despite that, we have seen a huge uplift in online sales for our Trolls World Tour toys – particularly on Amazon and Argos – as well as steady sales from the supermarket chains that remain open.
“In an effort to drive these sales, we have tailored both our social media, influencer and digital marketing campaigns to drive sales with our online retailers and supermarkets that remain open. We are now focusing our attentions on driving the DVD launch home when hopefully all retailers will be open to trade in some capacity.”
Topps UK also took a reactive approach to its launch campaign for its Trolls: World Tour Trading Card and Sticker Collections. Given the UK lockdown and the record-breaking performance of the film’s digital release, Topps UK implemented an online influencer plan, gifting the film to various influencers across the country.
In a similar vein to Lauren Shipman’s review of the Posh Paws’ Trolls launch, Louise Ramplin, senior marketing manager at Topps UK, acknowledged the difficult environment that retail is currently facing, but in spite of this said that online sales had been strong. She says: “Despite a difficult trading environment, the Trolls World Tour sticker collection from Topps has been proving popular with families since its release in March. However, the launch of the movie across VOD platforms saw sales double across many EPOS (electronic point of sale) accounts with one retail chain reporting a 90 per cent increase – a great performance in these challenging times. Pocket money collectables are becoming a very popular reward during home-schooling and Topps are thrilled to have received so many positive messages about the Trolls collection from parents and children.”
For Charlotte Rodgers, marketing manager at Flair Just Play, the popularity of the Trolls franchise is consistently strong. The Flair Just Play Trolls World Tour product comprises huggable and interactive plush, as well as role-play toys. Charlotte says: “The Trolls franchise has always been a strong family favourite that kids everywhere love and will dance and play along with all year round irrespective of whether a movie has just been released. We saw this with the first Trolls movie and how the licence and our range continued to resonate with our target audience well after the movie and DVD release, as Poppy remained a firm favourite for little ones. This year sees some wonderful new product innovation from Just Play to coincide with Universal’s Digital Release on Sky in April and the much-anticipated DVD release in Summer.
“We have further new product launching as part of the Just Play range for AW20 with Tiny Diamond adding to the exciting Just Play toy line alongside our innovative Colour Poppin Poppy with lights and sounds where you can play light games in Poppy’s hair! Of course, also not forgetting, we have high hopes for our Trolls World Tour Poppy Styling Head, where we have a history of strong performance in this space and we know Poppy is so well loved!
“The range is completed with a range of lower price point impulse purchases which are sure will make great stocking fillers in Q4 to make sure that Santa sack is as full as every other year!”
Given the circumstances, it would seem that Trolls is still enjoying a strong performance, both in terms of viewing numbers and licensed goods now sitting largely on the virtual shelf. Hopefully this will bode well for other launches coming straight to VOD, such as Scoob!.
Trolls World Tour is available to rent now for £16 from Prime Video, iTunes, Microsoft Store, Sky Store, Google Play and other UK streaming platforms.