N2 Toys, the company that was largely staffed with ex-employees of the Cincinnati-based Kenner (after Hasbro acquired Kenner and eliminated 'redundancies'), is no longer in the business of manufacturing toys. N2 scored a major hit with its Matrix toy line, but hasn't really had one since. Obviously the company was hurt by the huge 4-year gap between the first Matrix film and the sequel Matrix Reloaded, which is due next year, but the untimely cancellation of The Tick TV series on Fox really hurt since the company was counting on The Tick to carry its 2001-2002 toy line. N2 will remain as a sales and marketing organization, but a new company, Mirage, has taken over the remaining N2 licenses and the N2 toy designers. Backed by the Japanese company Yamato Co. Ltd., Mirage may well emerge as a solid performer on the U.S. toy scene. Certainly the first license the company has acquired has definite potential.
As ICv2 previously reported Mirage has acquired the rights to the hit ABC TV series, Alias (see 'Alias Heats Up San Diego'). Since Alias is just going into its second season, it represents a little more of gamble than does King of the Hill, but the upside on Alias is considerable given its attractive cast and the excitement it has generated among fans. No Alias prototypes were on display at the Mirage booth in San Diego, and the company released few details about the new toy line, but a company spokesman told ICv2 that Mirage was moving as fast as possible to get its Alias line of toys out in order to take advantage of the heat the property has already generated.
King of the Hill
Mirage toys will be distributed by Toycom, Yamato's American subsidiary, which had its own major new acquistion on display in San Diego. Toycom has acquired the rights to create action figures based on the cast of the hit Fox animated series King of the Hill. Created by Mike Judge (Beavis & Butthead), King of the Hill is an engaging animated series about an American family that is a far cry from the Simpsons. Unlike the Simpsons' home city of 'Springfield,' which has no definite location in the U.S., the Hills are clearly from Texas -- and while their attitudes and phobias are satirized, its done in a much gentler and more realistic way than the 'take-no-prisoners Swiftian satire of the Simpsons. The comedy of King of the Hill is built on characterization -- and the series has done very well in syndication, where it pulls in over 3.5 million viewers per week.
Prototypes of Toycom's King of the Hill action figures were on display in San Diego and the company hopes to have them out in the fourth quarter of this year. Unlike The Tick, King of the Hill is here to stay and should continue to run in syndication for years, even after its tenure on Fox (which appears very secure now) runs out.