An unexpected crisis in Hollywood

Tinseltown is hurting, and that spells chaos for the weird world of movie-themed toys.
July 21, 2020
The Hustle

Our Trends team has the answer for all your infographic needs. Here’s the last chart you could ever want, courtesy of our Julia Janks:

The Big Idea

Hollywood is in crisis. That spells trouble for movie-themed toys.

The summer movie season is officially canceled — and there’s one industry besides Hollywood having a tough time stomaching that news: the toy biz.

Hollywood and the toy industry are pretty simpatico. Back in 2015, one analyst estimated that movie tie-in toys made up 21% of $20.4B in toy sales.

Toy companies had already planned dozens of tie-ins for the big blockbusters of 2020 — Minions: The Rise of Gru, Fast & Furious 9, Mulan, Black Widow, Wonder Woman 1984, and Top Gun: Maverick.

But when Hollywood scrapped those original movie release dates, it left the toys in retail purgatory.

Welcome to the great movie toy surplus

By the time COVID-19 hit, tie-in toys for summer blockbusters were already reaching retailers, The Toy Insider’s James Zahn tells us. 

Big chains like Target could either store the toys until next year, which can get expensive — or they could try to sell them. 

But it’s tough to get kids to buy toys for a film they haven’t seen. And toys for some big releases — like Mulan — have already hit the clearance bin.

‘Minions’ has a despicable problem 

NBCUniversal pushed back the newest film in the Minions franchise a full year, and now they have buckets of yellow toys to unload onto kids. 

So they’re getting creative. Maybe you caught the recent Minions reruns on NBC? According to Zahn, those are ads for the toys in all but name. 

Zahn says that he’s noticed a new trend on Instagram lately: “The past couple weeks, quite a few influencers seem to have received Minions toy packages.”

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Feed me

Dumpling wants to turn gig workers into self-made entrepreneurs

The grocery delivery revolution is here… and its name is Dumpling. 

The startup aims to help personal shoppers sidestep 3rd parties and become their own business operators. 

Delivery shoppers are essential…

… but many companies — think Instacart, Postmates, and the like — classify them as contractors. 

That means they’re not entitled to benefits like health insurance or sick leave. Additionally, some companies have come under fire for snaking tips and wages.

Here’s how Dumpling is different

It’s not just a platform linking shoppers to customers. It’s a credit union and business advisor for burgeoning entrepreneurs:

  • Dumpling charges shoppers a one-time fee of $10, which gets them a credit card to fulfill customers’ orders and a listing on Dumpling’s website.
  • The company charges shoppers either $5/transaction or $39/month. Customers pay 5% on top of their grocery totals for processing payments. 
  • Shoppers can set tip minimums, and they keep 100% of their tips.

So far, Dumpling has 2k+ shoppers in all 50 states. It may just be getting started, but the company says it has a leg up on the competition.

Dumpling says its shoppers average $33/order. Instacart shoppers make, on average, $7 to $10 per full-service order.

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5 stories to catch you up quick

1️⃣  It’s the biggest deal in US energy this year: Chevron is buying Noble Energy in an all-stock transaction valued at $5B.

2️⃣  Jack Ma is makin’ moves. Ant Group, Ma’s fintech firm, is planning to go public in Shanghai and Hong Kong. It’s seeking a $200B valuation.

3️⃣  eBay is closing in on a deal to sell its classified-ad business to Adevinta, a Norwegian firm with a significant footprint in Europe, for ~$8B.

4️⃣  Snapchat’s Snap Minis have arrived. Among the first ones: An in-app meditation experience, with Headspace.

5️⃣  A startup called ScaleFactor promised to ease the burden on small businesses by using AI to tackle accounting tasks. It turns out humans actually did most of the work — and not very well, some customers say.

And 5 more to delight you 

1️⃣  Instagram’s newest meme? “What cow are you” or “What food are you” accounts that The Guardian calls “anti-BuzzFeed quizzes.” 

2️⃣  Planning your next birthday bash? Roblox is testing a new feature called Party Place for all of your virtual celebration needs. 

3️⃣  No matter the state of the world, at least we can always count on Zuckerberg memes. Here’s a roundup of reactions to that ghostly sunscreen photo.

4️⃣  High score? A collector is trying to stockpile 380 copies of the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt cartridge for the OG Nintendo.

5️⃣  Coin hoarders, it’s your lucky day: One bank is so eager to get people to deposit change that it’s willing to pay you for it


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Time Machine

‘Telephone teaching’ was the remote learning of the 1950s

Part of a new series where we spotlight a trend from way back when that still feels relevant today.

Think Zoom schooling sounds novel? Seven decades ago, America was experimenting with a different sort of remote classroom.

In the 1940s, an intercom manufacturer called Executone Inc. began testing a new concept known as “telephone teaching.”

The target audience: Kids with polio or other long-term illnesses. 

Telephone teaching was never supposed to replace the classroom. But it kept kids in school even if they were battling an illness — all they had to do was call in.

So how did it work? 

Executone sent out 2 portable intercoms, one to the school and one to the student’s home. Then it gave the student a talk switch and a volume controller.

In 1958, South Dakota’s Rapid City Journal wrote about Karen Cavner, a high school student who broke both her legs in a car accident. 

Karen’s friend Mary Ellen Seiler — who shared her schedule — carried her intercom to and from classes, leaving it on an empty desk during lectures.  

Mostly, Karen just listened in. But “when called upon to recite or participate in group or class discussion,” the Journal reported, “the shut-in student can snap a switch and talk to the class.”

The project was a hit

By 1960, Executone had telephone learning systems in 46+ states and territories, with thousands of kids using them. 

The only hitch? Visuals. As the Journal noted, “The teacher must merely remember the shut-in child is there but cannot see.” 

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There’s nothing like quarantine to make ants seem relatable.

1.9m+ people have joined a private Facebook group where they pretend to be ants in a colony. 

One member posted a photo of a family eating lunch outside, with the caption, “HUMAN HAVING A PICNIC WHAT DO WE DO.” Among the responses? “INVADE” and “BRING TO THE QUEEN.”

(Source: The Washington Post)

The Twitch Niche

The military is using esports to recruit gamers

The US military has a new recruiting weapon — Twitch streams. 

The Army, Navy, and Air Force all have their own official Twitch channels, where service personnel stream Call of Duty and chat about enlisting with the platform’s young, predominantly male user base.

The military needs recruits 

It fell 6.5k short of its recruiting target in 2018. Of Twitch’s 15m+ daily users, 81.5% are male, and more than half are between the ages of 18 and 34. 

Twitch is only one front in the military’s social media recruiting push. The Army sponsors Call of Duty, and the Department of Defense is expected to spend $14.9m advertising on Snapchat this year. 

The push may be working — the military exceeded its 2019 goal and is on pace to meet this year’s target as well. 

Unsurprisingly, not everyone loves this strategy

A report by The Nation revealed the Army was using fake giveaways of gaming consoles to direct users to recruiting websites, sparking criticism from popular streamers. Twitch removed the giveaway for violating its guidelines.

The Army has also banned users who flooded its streams with comments about US war crimes — legal experts told The Washington Post that the bans are unconstitutional.

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How do you future-proof your business in times like these?

Look, there’s a “new normal” — and we all know it. 

But you don’t need to feel so overwhelmed.

Tune in to Operation Future-proof this Thursday at 2:30pm ET. The Hustle’s President Adam Ryan is talking to Salesforce VP of Sales Laura Dieden and Brideside Co-Founder Sonali Lamba to walk you through every tactic you’ll need to communicate, plan for, and execute a re-opening.

Get the most useful tools and resources to help future-proof your biz right now. 100% free, no strings attached.

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Why Patrick Mahomes is the megastar the NFL needs

GQ’s recent profile of Patrick Mahomes is a must-read. 

The 24-year-old Kansas City Chiefs’ QB is already a league MVP and Super Bowl champ. 

But the NFL needs more visible stars…

Its teams have a significantly higher average value than NBA squads ($2.9B vs. $2.1B). But basketball has more global buzz and star power. 

Top players like LeBron James (~68m Instagram followers) and Steph Curry (~31m) are literally more visible (no helmets) and have much bigger audiences (the Chiefs’ QB has ~3.5m followers).

…and Mahomes is ready 

The GQ piece includes 2 incredible nuggets:

  • Beer Pong: At a post-Super Bowl party, Post Malone lost to Mahomes in beer pong and — as a result — had to get a tattoo of the QB’s signature.
  • Peloton: Mahomes races on Peloton under the screen name 2PM and doesn’t like to lose. (“I see the leaderboard, and I see that, like, Brian from North Carolina is catching me, and I’m like: ‘There’s no way.’”)

Someone get the Mahomes in touch with us 

Back in December, I bought the domain name for Patrick’s brother Jackson, who’s also a TikTok star.

I didn’t want someone else squatting on the URL (irony alert). I tried to give Jackson the domain for free, but after exchanging some messages on Twitter, we lost touch 😔:


Hustle fam, help us get this domain name back to its rightful owner.

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Stocks Section Header Hustle Horoscope

A super-serious look at what’s coming your way, if stars align.

It’s a tiny dose of holiday cheer in July: Hallmark is dropping 40 new holiday movies this year. The October 23rd rollout seems awfully early. But by then, we’ll definitely need an extra hour and a half of mindless bliss.

Prediction: Come fall, our collective serotonin levels will get a much-needed boost.

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