Playful Perspectives is a new feature wherein your intrepid Toy Box Mommy (that’s me) and The Toy Guy jointly tackle a topic to give you twice the insight and perhaps slightly different takes on an issue.
Cartoon Network Enterprises (CNE), the global branding and merchandising arm of Cartoon Network, has signed with Huffy and Bell Sports to bring Ben 10 branded bicycles and safety equipment to store aisles in time for the summer rush.
Huffy will produce a line of Ben 10 inspired bicycles for the United States and Canada. The bikes have a special handlebar “disk changer” that comes with several changeable character discs, allowing kids to personalize their bikes with their favorite Ben 10 alien heroes.
Bell Sports will develop a full line of helmets and protective gear including knee and elbow pads as well as wrist guards.
On the one hand, I wonder if this is character-branding gone a bit too far. Does Ben 10 have something to do with bicycles? On the other hand, when kids have a special favorite they want it on everything, and I do applaud the application of appealing characters to something inherently active instead of, say, another video game. If this gets a reluctant cyclist out there to play with the disk-changer (and then, hopefully, take a spin around the neighborhood), I’m all for it.
Long ago and far away, when I was but a small girl and dinosaurs roamed the earth, I received my first big-kid bike during the bicentennial celebration year. It was—of course—red, white and blue with stars. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. And as for imaginative play to go with it… well, my brother and I were especially fond of playing Evel Knievel on our bikes, so my patriotic wheels were perfect. (We needn’t discuss the fact that the most I ever managed to jump was perhaps a stone or the end of a two-by-four; we were imagining, darn it.)
I guess that’s why this part of the announcement bothers me so much:
“Sports and sporting goods are an important part of a boy’s life, and thus a critical category in the marketplace,” said Christina Miller, vice president of consumer products for CNE.
Um, Ms. Miller? Is there a special reason you’re planning to cut your target market in half? The last time I checked, girls were Ben 10 fans, too. In fact, my daughter is a pretty die-hard Gwen fan. (What’s not to like? She’s a quintessential tween with a sassy mouth, quick brain, and a healthy disdain for icky boys.)
For a cartoon that’s been so awesome about sparking the imaginations of our kids, I’m disappointed at this apparent lack of imagination on the part of this marketing team. The last time I checked, it was 2007. Equality now, CNE. Girls want to fight the aliens, too.
What do you think? And don’t forget to go check out The Toy Guy’s take!