This might be the strangest family-friendly party in New England.
Hasbro opened the doors Friday to its first convention, a three-day extravaganza in Providence showcasing the franchises in the Pawtucket-based company’s fun factory: My Little Pony, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Dungeons & Dragons, Monopoly. The list goes on. Mark Wahlberg is on the guest list. So is Stan Lee. Not to mention David Ortiz and Jackie Bradley Jr.
Look beyond the costumed characters wandering the convention center halls. There’s something much bigger happening here.
Back in the ’80s, Hasbro used TV to help boost sales of its toys. Now, the reverse is true: Hasbro is becoming a major media player — it came close to acquiring Lionsgate several weeks ago — and sees the toys as just one way of getting consumers of all ages to connect with the stories Hasbro wants to tell with its brands.
President John Frascotti says he views HASCON as the culmination of the company’s decade-long “Brand Blueprint” effort to broaden beyond toys to include TV, films, digital games, and other “immersive entertainment experiences.”
It may be tough to replicate the box-office mojo of the Transformers movies. But not everything has to be a big-budget film. Think My Little Pony stage shows and a Monopoly musical (though a “Pony” movie is coming soon).
Toys are still important. Hasbro’s win over Mattel to take over the Disney princess line has proven crucial to Hasbro’s recent financial successes. But Frascotti and his team also want to see just how far they can take their home-grown brands. They know there’s power in good storytelling — and profits, too.Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @jonchesto.