The 2021 Hot Toy Lists and Licensing: An Analysis of the Walmart, Amazon, and Target Lists

What are the “hot toys?” That is a question that I get each year starting in October. Various hot toy lists come out each year from a host of experts. The problem with these lists is that “hot” is never really defined. It can mean that it is a good toy, an in-demand toy, or both (the two, as we all know only too well, don’t always align).

For those who work in the business of play, a “hot” toy can make the difference between a bonus, a raise, and even keeping a job. It is serious stuff. To this group, a hot toy is that small percentage of products that will generate tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars. But how do we know which ones they will be?

One way to find out is to study the hot toy lists released by America’s three largest retailers: Walmart, Target, and Amazon. In my line of work as a toy industry consultant, I need to know which toys will be the hot sellers. So, each year, I do a meta-analysis of the Hot Toy Lists from the country’s three largest retailers.

These retailer hot toy lists are, of course, a self-fulfilling prophecy. They reflect carefully determined investment decisions by Walmart, Target, and Amazon buyers and their management. These retailers look for toys with the elusive “Wow” factor, the right price, and extensive advertising support from the toy companies.

Because they have invested heavily in these products, the three retailers must make them sell-through. Hence, you can bet they will be hot. There is too much money at stake for them not to be. They will promote them on television, online, influencers, and other available advertising conduits.

Some of the questions I wanted to answer were: Which toys did all three retailers or two of the three agree were hot? What brands, products, and licenses did retailers deem the best investments. Which toy companies secured the most listings? What are the competing price points and much, much, more? (You can see my complete analysis by visiting “The Toy Intelligencer.

One area of my research, and apropos to The Licensing Letter, was which licensed products were chosen by the three retailers and which ones dominated. Here is some of what I learned: (Please refer to the two lists at the bottom of this article as a reference point.)

Together, the three lists consisted of 231 toys, of which 73 (31%) carried licenses. And who was the big winner? Not surprisingly, it was The Walt Disney Company.  Between Marvel, Star Wars, Disney Classics, and Disney Princesses, The Walt Disney Company listed a total of 36 items out of 73. 50% of all licensed Hot Toy products were Walt Disney Company products.

Interestingly, after The Walt Disney Company, the biggest winner was National Geographic with six listings. When you add those six to one each for John Deere, Jeep, UPS, and Black & Decker, you find that those ten items make up 12% of all listed Hot Toy licensed products. It raises the question: Why aren’t more adult-oriented brands licensing to toy companies?

This percentage of licensed products seems low to me. One reason is the absence of new movie release toy tie-ins. For example, Shang Chi, Venom, Black Widow, Encanto, Jungle Cruise, and Eternals were not included in any of the three lists.

Even evergreen movie brands were spottily represented. For example, there is only one Harry Potter item, two from Jurassic Park, four from Spider-Man, and six from Star Wars. When I counted all the movie properties, they represented only 33 items out of 231 items listed.

It is easy to understand why movie-based properties were seen as questionable investments. The toy industry was bearish on the movie industry. There was simply too much risk in investing in properties whose movies might show in empty theaters. Even streaming movies at home raised questions. Does streaming video move products? That’s still an open question.

Below are two lists for your review. The first indicates the license holders who made it to the aggregate list of 231 items. The second identifies the licensed products that were included.

Please share with me your thoughts upon reviewing the lists. You can reach me at

License Holders


Disney Classics–10

Disney Princesses–9

National Geographic–6

Star Wars–6

Monster Jam–4




Animal Planet—1

Baby Shark—1

Black & Decker—1

Blues Clues—1


Doc McStuffins—1

Fast & Furious—1

Ghost Busters—1

Harry Potter—1

Hello Kitty—1


John Deere—1

Paw Patrol—1

Peppa Pig—1

PJ Masks—1


Ryan’s World—1

Space Jam—1

Super Friends—1



Animal Planet Deep Sea Shark Rescue Submarine Set
Pinkfong Baby Shark Baby Shark House Playset
All Terrain Batmobile RC
Batman RC All-Terrain Vehicle 
Black & Decker Kids Power Tooks Workshop
Blues Clues Cooking Set
Bluey Ultimate Caravan
Bluey 4WD Campervan Playset 
Bluey & Jean Luc’s Caravan Adventures Playset
Spark Create Imagine Cocomelon Bus 
BYJU’s Magic Workbooks Disney
Treasures from the Disney Vault
Disney Villains Black and Brights Collection Fashion Dolls
Disney Treasures from the Vault Limited Edition
Disney Wooden Toys Toy Story Balance Blocks
Disney Princesses Royal Collection
Disney Princess Style Collection
Disney Princess Dress Up Trunk
Disney Princesses Dance & Dream Dollhouse
Disney Princesses Ultimate Celebration Castle
Disney Doc McStuffins Doctor’s Bag
Fast & Furious Brian’s 2002 Nissan
Ghostbusters Firehouse
Harry Potter Hogwarts Wizard’s Chess
1:24 Die-Cast Nissan with Hello Kitty
12V Jeep Gladiator Children’s Ride On in a variety of colors
John Deere Monster Tractor
Jurassic World Legacy Collection – Tyrannosaurus Rex
Jurassic World Stomp N’ Escape Tyrannosaurus Rex 
Marvel The Guardians Ship
LEGO Marvel Avengers: Endgame Final Battle 
Marvel Avengers: Endgame Final Battle
Marvel Iron Man Monger Mayhem
Pop Marvel Year of the Shield
Marvel Tony Star’s Sakaarian Iron Man
Marvel Hot Wheels Spider-Man Web Car
Black Panther Drago Flyer
Marvel Spider-Man Super Web Slinger 
Marvel Spidey and his Amazing Friends
Yahtzee Jr.  Marvel Spidey
Marvel Captain America Building Kit
Mickey and Friends Farm
Disney Baby Mickey Mouse Seaplane
Mickey and the Beanstalk Game
Disney Junior Minnie Mouse Dress Up Trunk Set
Monster Jam 24V Grave Digger Ride On in a variety of colors  
Monster Jam Freestyle Force Grave Digger
Monster Jam Grave Digger
Monster Jam Truck Wash Set
National Geographic Pottery Wheel Kit
National Geographic Hobby Rock Tumbler
National Geographic Kids Chimpanzee Care & Nurture Vet Set
National Geographic Earth Science Kit
National Geographic Construction Model Kit
National Geographic Mega Fossil Dig
Paw Patrol Cruiser Roller Coaster
Playskool Peppa Pig Sit ‘n Spin
PJ Masks Launching Submarine
Disney’s Raya and the Last Drago Color Toy
Disney Raya and the Last Dragon Land of Kumandra Set
Disney’s Raya and The Last Dragon Color Splash Raya and Sisu 
Raya’s Journey Board Game
Roblox Action Collection – Ninja Legends Deluxe Playset
Ryan’s World Lost City Adventures – Mega Adventure Chest
Funko Pop Space Jam
Star Wars Galactic Snackin’ Grogu
Star Wars Galactic Snacking Grogu
Star Wars Galactic Snackin’ Grogu 
Star Wars the Armorer’s Mandalorain Forge Building Kit
Pop! Star Wars
Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures Mandalorian 5″ Figure
Imaginext DC Super Friends Transforming Bat-Tech Batbox
UPS Pullback Truck

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