This Iron Man toy soars 200 feet

How the miniature Iron Man flies
How the miniature Iron Man flies

As the search for this year's "must-have" holiday toys heats up, a remote-controlled flying Iron Man is almost guaranteed to make the list.

"There have been plenty of remote-control toys before this. But no one has created a flying superhero in this category," said Chris Wilson, executive vice president with EB Brands, the company behind the toy.

Remote-control toys are typically hot holiday sellers because of the "'wow' factor attached to them," said toy industry expert Chris Byrne. "They do cost more, but consumers are willing to spend more on these toys as gifts."

The Iron Man Extreme Hero, which costs $70, clocks in at 19 inches and weighs just two ounces -- which lets it fly as high as 200 feet, according to Wilson.

But the idea for a flying remote-controlled super hero didn't originate at New York-based EB Brands. It was the brainchild of Greg Tanous, 49, a CNC machinist and aspiring inventor who lives just outside of Portland, Ore.

For the last 15 years, Tanous, who's had a passion for planes and remote-controlled toys since he was 10, has worked diligently on a side project in his garage. "I've wanted to invent a life-size flying fictional super hero," he said.

His finished prototype was a 6-foot-3 flying man sculpture that weighed just four pounds and could take off vertically from the ground. In 2009, Tanous posted a video on YouTube showing his flying super hero in action.

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The video quickly started racking up views -- it's received over a million hits so far -- and Tanous realized he could market his invention. He set up a website where people could pay $20 for the PDF instructions to make their own flying super hero, or pay $400 for a kit and assemble it themselves.

Over the next three years, sales took off and Tanous sold more than 50 kits and hundreds of the plans. At one point, he was making more than $25,000 a month from his side business.

Wilson contacted Tanous in early 2012 after hearing about the invention from a colleague. "My immediate thought was that this was incredible, especially if we could scale it down and make a toy version of it," said Wilson.

EB Brands collaborated with Tanous to create the current version and inked a licensing agreement with Marvel Entertainment to use the Iron Man character and other Avenger superheroes for future iterations of the toy.

Byrne is betting that EB Brands' flying Iron Man, which launched in Wal-Mart (WMT), Target (TGT) and Toys R Us stores this month, could become a game changer for remote-controlled toys.

"Not only does it look and move remarkably like the Iron Man character in the movies, it's also very easy to use," said Byrne. "This appeals both to kids and adults."

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