There appears to be a trend here that might disturb studios that released family films with the expectation of seeing a windfall from licensed merchandise sales. The new pre-holiday recommendations from Toys ‘R Us (it lists its “Fabulous 15″) and Walmart (it has 23 items it says were “Chosen by Kids”) feature TV characters including Disney Junior’s Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins, Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Sesame Street’s Elmo. But when it comes to films, Toys ‘R Us suggests one from Universal’s Despicable Me 2, and Walmart has something from Disney’s Planes — but there’s nothing from DreamWorks Animation’s Turbo, Fox’s Epic, Pixar’s Monsters University, or Sony’s Smurfs 2. It’s a sign of a larger trend says International Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association SVP Marty Brochstein. “TV seems to be grabbing more of the attention and shelf space,” he says. Some film properties were hurt by the summer’s animation glut.

“In licensing it’s all about share of mind, and if you have several films vying with each other, it’s hard to focus.” It’s especially hard for a new property to break through the competition from familiar characters in sequels. Meanwhile, TV characters drill themselves into kids’ minds with repeat viewing. Ratings also have ticked up for Disney Junior and Nickelodeon — and both companies pushed to extend their success to retail. Elmo reappears on this year’s lists tied to a new product, Big Hugs Elmo, that retailers hope will become as big a hit as Tickle Me Elmo.

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