News Column

Hollywood characters always big at Halloween, but you'll have to DIY Miley Cyrus [Pasadena Star - News (CA)]

October 28, 2013

YellowBrix

The good news for this Halloween is that not everybody is going to dress up as Miley Cyrus.

The bad news is that most of the women, girls and odd guys who do will be sporting frighteningly DIY twerking attire.

Most manufacturers and retailers in the $8 billion Halloween industry - who are selling scads of Superman suits, "Duck Dynasty" beards and "Breaking Bad" meth-making masks this year - don't market much in the way of costumes and masks based on people that make the news for a variety of reasons.

One is that new product lines for each Halloween are usually locked-in by January or February of any given year - long before Paula Deen's empire implodes or Miley makes a spectacle at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Another is that, while certain accessories related to Snooki, Justin Bieber or a Kardashian have done well in years when those types were at the peak of their celebrity cycles, it's all but impossible to get mask-making rights from such people.

"We haven't gotten involved with the Miley Cyruses and Paula Deens because, unlike politicians, they own their likenesses," said Bernice Nesbit, director of marketing for San Diego-based costume manufacturer Disguise, which licenses rights from Disney, Marvel Comics and others. "You have licensing issues if you try to create product based on the likeness of those personalities."

Then there's the fact that, even with the former Disney Channel tween queen being pretty much in the news every day for the past two months, most parents aren't going to want their daughters Mileying about on what is still a very big family holiday.

"I can't imagine too many parents are going to want their children to be that," Ryan Goldman, vice president of the Canoga Park-based chain of Halloween Adventure stores, said while wearing one of this season's more popular, licensed pop culture costumes: Marvel Comics' Thor. "It's probably like Lady Gaga two years ago: a very polarizing figure who wants to be in the limelight.

"However, a short wig and some short shorts will probably do the trick for Miley," Goldman advised. "Flesh-colored underwear, that kind of thing."

While Goldman felt the Miley look would mainly appeal to young teens who want to alarm their elders, at least one major costume manufacturer expects it to dominate sorority parties this year.

"Adults are not only influenced by what they see on TV and in the movies, but they're also heavily influenced by what is happening in current events and what their friends are talking about," noted Howard Beige, executive vice president of the New York-based Rubie's Costume Co., which makes licensed getups from DC Comics, most Hollywood studios and other intellectual property owners.

"I think you'll find college-age students doing Miley; it's topical, the news really blew it up and made it a big thing, and people find that funny and they're going to try to elicit a reaction," Beige added. He noted that his company's black-and-white striped "Beetlejuice" suit, which can sub for the outfit that singer Robin Thicke wore in his VMA duet with Cyrus, has been selling like hotcakes since September.

The big money, of course, is in fictional pop culture characters. Generally, the more recent the better.

So, Iron Man, Superman and the Minions from "Despicable Me" all appearing in movies last summer mean their newly packaged and designed costumes are tops this Halloween. There's a "Thor" sequel coming out in November to drive that one. Talked-about shows like "Breaking Bad," "Duck Dynasty" and "The Walking Dead" have a similar effect; zombies are the new vampires, now that "Twilight" and "True Blood" have trended down.

This affects a perennial pop culture costume line like Disney Princesses as well.

"Princesses are always our top sellers, and they do tend to be popular based on the newest content," said Elissa Margolis, vice president of marketing for Disney Store North America, which sells its own line of children's costumes. "We do always have the typical Cinderellas and such, but last year, Merida was very popular with the release of the 'Brave' movie. This year, Ariel has been another one of our number-one costumes, and that was driven by the Diamond release of her 'Little Mermaid' DVD."

Beige estimates that nearly 60 percent of children's costumes sold are based on either TV shows or movies from the current season. And adult costumes are catching up.

The National Retail Federation's 2013 Top Consumer Survey found that traditional costumes such as pumpkins, princesses and monsters were still what most respondents said they and their kids were dressing as this Halloween,

On the NRF's adult costume list, witch was the most popular followed by miscellaneous Batman characters (including the likes of The Joker and Catwoman) at number two; after that came vampire, zombie and pirate. For children, princess was tops, while an animal was second, followed by Batman character, superheroes and Spider- Man. And yes, the survey also looked at pet costumes, with the most popular listed as pumpkin, followed by hot dog.

Still, Pam Goodfellow, consumer insights director with Prospect Insights, which conducted the survey for the federation, said costumes with pop culture references from TV or celebrities could easily be surprisingly popular.

"These things trend up and down depending on what's popular out there, whether it's pop culture or the media," Goodfellow said. "Zombies moved up on the adult list one space to number four this year. And pop star was number 12, and it did not make the top 20 last year. When the younger generation see something like Miley's VMA performance, it's provocative, it's now, it's something they will really get into for Halloween."

T-shirts with Miley VMA and "Wrecking Ball" video images are all over the Internet, and that's where you'll probably have to go to track down Twerk Bear onesies. You'll have to hit lingerie outlets for flesh-colored bikinis. Tongue extension and giant foam fingers - you're on your own.

"We're actually shooting a last-minute twerking costume video upstairs," said Tom Fallenstein, CEO of online retailer Halloweencostumes.com, which also maintains a costume-making blog for the DIY-minded. "We're getting a few hundred produced of that teddy bear outfit in here next week."

But think outside the box, ladies. The Halloweencostumes.com blog also has tutorials for making your own, sexy "Breaking Bad" and "Duck Dynasty" variations.

"Hollywood is definitely what drives Halloween," Halloween Adventure's Goldman concluded. "Anytime you have a big blockbuster, or even a cult favorite, it really helps drive Halloween because people want to act like those characters and want to dress up like those characters. And why wouldn't they?"

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