Studios, Toy Manufacturers Take Turns Shaking Down Families This SummerThis summer's prolonged barrage of blockbusters with extensive toy tie-ins—Spider-Man 3, Pirates 3, Transformers, etc—provides parents with an unprecedented opportunity to divert an unhealthy chunk of their discretionary income to Hollywood, as any trip to the multiplex must be immediately followed by one to the WalMart toy aisle, lest this generation of savvy youngsters report their miserly guardians to Child Protective Services for their neglect. Today's LAT looks at the competition to see which studio/manufacturer combination can extort the most money from families with their pirate-themed televisions, robot-concealing trucks, or splooge-launching Spider-guns (now with spiral-squirting action!), offering up a brief encounter with a local dad who's losing his battle with the wallet-plundering, merchandising menace:

Hasbro hopes it can count on people like Juan Reynoso to make that profit a reality.

Wearing a "First National Bank of Dad" T-shirt, Reynoso ran into a Target store recently on an "emergency diaper run" only to get stuck in the toy aisle.

Reynoso's 4-year-old, Matthew, scored Chick Hicks, the only missing piece in his collection of dozens of car toys from last summer's hit, "Cars."


Reynoso said his younger boy was crazy about "Cars." He owns the DVD and has seen the movie over and over. An unemployed truck driver, Reynoso ended up buying his 7-year-old son, Gabriel, a "Spider-Man 3" Venom action figure for $15.

His older boy has seen "Spider-Man 3" and Reynoso said he was looking forward to taking Gabriel to "Transformers" after seeing the promotional trailer on the Internet.

Before leaving Target, Reynoso had promised Gabriel the Spider-Man Versus Venom figure — also $15. "We'll come back later for that," he said as he walked down the aisle with his cart full.

Don't despair, true believers, for there is a happy, Hollywood ending for this story: After a disapproving shake of the head from a Target employee wearing a Spider-Man 3 vest, the loving father not only picked up that second action figure, but realized that he had mistakenly chosen a pack of diapers with no movie co-branding. He quickly returned to the baby section to fill his shopping cart with product from Huggies' Baby Spidey line, a choice that would ensure that his youngest child wouldn't miss out on the promotional fun the rest of his family would soon enjoy.