Everett, Washington-based vinyl toy standout Funko is designing stylized figures for Sugar’s protagonist, Steven — who is based on her younger brother of the same name — as well as his three alien Gem companions, Amethyst, Pearl, and Garnet. In addition, Just Toys International is creating an array of novelties like 3D backpack hangers, dog tags, and fun packs. Both companies will release their Steven Universe consumer products this holiday season, with Funko’s Pop! vinyls retailing exclusively at Hot Topic stores, and Just Toys’ novelties selling at undisclosed specialty retailers.
Further, PhatMojo is creating a series of Steven Universe plush and foam toys for a spring 2016 rollout at specialty retailers. So too is Toy Factory, which is also working on assorted novelties, due in 2017. Finally, Zag Toys is creating a line of mini-figures, bobble-heads, and more.
Cartoon Network’s new toy partners aren’t necessarily major companies. In fact, Just Toys International’s official site is still under construction. But the deal nevertheless represents a commitment to treat funny and smart shows such as Steven Universe, Cartoon Network’s first series to be created by a solo woman creator, like the valuable cultural assets that they are.
Although the toy industry is arguably unsustainable — indeed, toy titan Lego is spending millions to ditch oil-based plastic, and the holidays, according to the Wall Street Journal, are probably better known as peak trash season — licensing deals are nevertheless an important dimension for creators of animated shows for the major networks. If a show doesn’t get a toy deal, it’s usually a sign that its network lacks faith in it.
Cartoon Network’s consumer products rollout for Steven Universe, whose deserving third season was announced in July, illustrates that the network is committed to further building up the program’s substantial fan base.