"Hunger Games" inspires tough-girl toys

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"Hunger Games" has become a $1.6 billion-grossing franchise, and its studio, Lionsgate, is projecting that its newest sequel, "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1," will bring in $130 million to $150 million when it opens Friday. Now even the toy companies are cashing in on the Katniss tough-girl trend, reports CBS News contributor Lee Woodruff.

Jill Calderon, 12, and her friends have a "Hunger Games" club. They get together and act out the intense battle scenes from their favorite book and movie series.

"I love Katniss's flare, and how she's always been kind of the -- not the one to mess with," Calderon said.

Heroines like Hunger Games' Katniss and Tris from the sci-fi hit "Divergent" are redefining what it means to play and fight like a girl.

"I love the excitement of them going through and living that game," Calderon said. "I enjoy how it's her story and how she breaks through from that kind of society."

The movies' box office successes and emphasis on fearless female warriors have convinced toy companies like Hasbro to adapt to their evolving target audience.

"When you look at the typical toy aisle for boys you see a lot of play variety options from action figures to construction," Hasbro chief marketing officer John A. Frascotti said. "No one seemed to be offering this opportunity for girls to play actively.

After two years of research, including the help and insight of 1,200 girls, Hasbro launched their Nerf Rebelle line of pink and purple bows and blasters last fall, sending their profits soaring.

Sales of the company's girl-geared toys grew by 26 percent and reached a billion dollars in revenue for the first time in the company's history.

"I think girls today see no barriers to what's available to them, whether it's in toys like these, or sports, or really across all aspects of our culture," Frascotti said.

One mom told CBS News that toys like these can help teach her daughter life-lessons.

"I think women don't take as many risks because they're not used to playing games where they fail as a kid," Amy Baxter said. "It's a really good way for a girl to realize you can have challenges, you can compete and you don't win all the time and that's fine."

Shannon Eis, a toy and play expert, said that girls are ditching the patient princess of role playing

"We're seeing a fundamental cultural shift in the way girls want to be perceived and how they're going to act that out through play," Eis said. "They're ready to be the hero."

Despite the girl-power evolution, many point out that there's still a divide, as the new toys and products for girls continue to wind up in the pink aisle.

"If it is pink, sometimes it feels more customized for them and whether society has created that or retailers have created that, it feels like it's a more welcoming experience for them," Eis said.

But like her role model Katniss, Calderon knows it's not really about the weapon, it's about the spark the game creates.

"I think that most of the girls who will want a bow, won't be drawn to a pink one," she said. "Most kids want to be someone who's strong and powerful and can be anything they want."

The debate over girls' toys is obviously often a heated one. Barbie makers Mattel faced scrutiny for a recently released book, "Barbie: I can be a Computer Engineer," which was seen by many to be sexist. Mattel has since pulled the book from Amazon.