Bandai America Corp., after a long and profitable partnership with Saban Entertainment of Los Angeles, is deepening its tie-ins with children's TV shows.
The U.S. arm of the Tokyo-based toy maker has grabbed a large share of the action-figure market by linking its products to popular shows for children such as Saban's "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers."
"We concentrate on entertainment-driven properties," said Shin Ueno, vice president of marketing for Bandai America. "It's one way to create innovative products that connect with kids."
"Power Rangers" has been a homerun for Bandai in the past decade. With help from the TV show, the toy company has been able to take one-fifth of the U.S. action-figure market, Ueno said.
And now Bandai has a new hit with figures and merchandise based on "Digimon," a Saban-produced Japanese cartoon show that, like rival Nintendo Co.'s "Pokemon," has struck a chord with American kids.
"Digimon" just finished its first year and was picked up for a second season on the Fox Kids Network.
Other shows with toy-licensing agreements with Bandai include "Xyber 9," "Big Guy" and "Rusty." A new show, "Escaflowne," is due in October, while a show based on Bandai's Heavy Gear products is in the works. Last year, the company signed up with Sony Pictures Family Entertainment Group to help develop the Heavy Gear series.
Bandai also has seen growth in model kit sales of its Gundam Wing toy line thanks to the "Gundam Wing" TV show.
The company also has partnered with Microsoft Corp. to develop electronic toys that interact with the "Power Rangers" broadcasts. It also is working with Saban and Microsoft to develop a toy that incorporates an interactive compact disc.
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