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Toys and Movies: A Happy Hollywood Union

It's one of the more solid Hollywood marriages: Blockbuster movies and merchandise tie-ins like action figures and games.

This summer, expect box-office hits like "Shrek 2" and "Harry Potter" to lure parents, kids and the young at heart into toy stores hoping to bring home a piece of their favorite movie. In fact, licensing deals generate more than $7.6 billion a year for film studios and their partners, according to the trade publication the Licensing Letter.

The most in-demand merchandise around comes from "Harry Potter and the Prisoner and Azkaban," which has already cast a wicked spell with trading cards, video, games, Legos and your own personal boy wizard.

Toy expert Chris Byrne said the "Potter" franchise has done well by providing kids with toys that let them be part of the magical universe — instead of just offering plastic figures of Harry and friends.

"Kids didn’t want to play with the Harry Potter action figure. The fantasy is becoming part of Potter’s world," said Byrne who is known as "The Toy Guy." "The products that have done well for Potter are the ones that immerse kids in the world: the candy, the potions lab, the card game which lets them cast spells and the video game from Electronic Arts that lets them play Quidditch."

"Shrek 2," which has been out since mid-May, has surpassed the original in box office tickets sales, making the animated sequel a success with almost everything it touches.

Byrne said that while "Shrek 2" is a major hit at the box office and at toy stores, the actual story is harder for kids to use as a vehicle for play.

"'Spider-Man' has an alter-ego who fights bad guys. 'Shrek' is an ugly ogre who has problems with his in-laws. It's not something kids can really relate to," he said.

Michael Meyers, who voices the green ogre, said he's overwhelmed by all the marketing that accompanies movies these days, but hopes the toys and games are fun for kids.

"There's a certain force that's larger than yourself," said Meyers. "You just hope that everything that sort of comes out that's gonna happen anyway has some sort of entertainment to it."

Another film targeting little tykes is "Garfield," and Fox has put together a $20 million kitty for the litter of parents expected to hit stores, including plush toys, books and goldfish crackers.

The children's film "Thunderbirds" won't come out until late July, but expect an array of futuristic rescue toys to be on toy story shelves.

And for trinkets that skew older, "Van Helsing" may make monsters fashionable again. Similarly Vin Diesel turned his dark "The Chronicles of Riddick" characters into action figures, trading cars and an X-Box video game.

Byrne said these movie-based items appeal to adult male collectors more than to kids.

"These are the fans who are building dioramas in their basement" he said. "They go to collector events and have been buzzing about 'Van Helsing' and 'Riddick' since the movies were announced. It’s not mainstream toy industry. It’s the collector part of the industry."

Vin Diesel himself said the games can even help further the movie.

"When you play the video game 'Escape from Butcher Bay' you're actually learning additional information about this universe," said Diesel.

And spinning its web to 65 domestic and 260 international licensees, "Spider-Man 2" is expected to have another blockbuster run in theaters and in stores.

According to the Licensing Letter, "Spider-Man" — the movie and the classic character — generated nearly $1.2 billion in retail sales when the first film came out.

But Byrne said the Spidey merchandise sells well even when there's no film playing in theaters.

"The best movie licenses are like 'Spider-Man,' which has a movie coming out soon and the movie is sort of a event in the life of a brand. Spider-Man toys do well even when there’s not a movie."

Alfred Molina, who plays "Spider-Man 2" bad guy Dr. Octopus said he's tickled with his action figure — but his wife is particularly enchanted by it. 

"It's a very flattering action figure, I mean, they've given me cheekbones, which I've never had, and they've given me a very well-developed cut chest which I've never had," he said.

Molina added joking: "Now [my wife's] sleeping with the action figure and I'm on the couch"

Fox News' Mike Waco and Marla Lehner contributed to this report.