An underground comic-based property, making its TV debut this fall, will be in the ring at Licensing Show. Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, a 26 x 30-minute animated series by Columbia TriStar Television Children’s Programming, will kick off on Fox Kids Network in September.
The path towards making a relatively unknown property successful begins with a multimillion-dollar price tag for a marketing campaign. Columbia TriStar Television is betting that its innovative advertising and promotional strategy, developed in conjunction with Fox Kids, teamed with a long-term licensing plan by Sony Signatures, will catapult Big Guy and Rusty into the realm of the ‘known property.’
The comic book characters, a pair of crime-fighting robots born in the pages of Dark Horse Comics in July 1995, were created by Frank Miller (creator of the Dark Horse Comics series Sin City) and Geof Darrow (who created Dark Horse Comics’ Hard Boiled with Miller). The comic book series has a loyal following of underground comic enthusiasts.
According to Peter Dang, executive VP of worldwide licensing, merchandising and consumer products at Sony Signatures, the time is right to bring the robotic pair into the mainstream. ‘I think robots are becoming very `in’ right now as a trend,’ he says, adding that Sony Signatures focus groups with boys have found this to be true, and the continuing popularity of Power Rangers is further evidence.
Bandai America has signed on as Big Guy and Rusty’s master toy licensee, with toys being the first in Dang’s ‘four legs’ approach to licensing. Bandai plans to produce six-inch Big Guy and Rusty figures, figures of the duo’s opponents, and a 12-inch transforming Big Guy for holiday `99. Sony Signatures is now seeking out licensees in apparel, publishing and interactive (legs two, three and four).
‘Once you get those components, you start building your subsidiary licensing around those particular legs, and you determine how big a table you want for something like Big Guy and Rusty,’ says Dang.
Big Guy and Rusty licensed product is being marketed primarily to boys ages four to 11, with the potential for a secondary audience of comic collectors ages 12 to 30.
Taking advantage of the series launch, Rubie’s Costume Co. will release Big Guy and Rusty Halloween costumes. Beyond the Bandai toys, the rest of the products will arrive on shelves around spring 2000. Sony Signatures is looking into a back-to-school product launch for 2000.
To provide a boost to the property and the planned licensed product push, David Palmer, VP of marketing at Columbia TriStar Television Children’s Programming, and his team, working with Fox Kids, have devised a marketing plan that will blanket the entire U.S., giving Big Guy and Rusty national and local exposure for their first season on Fox.
The program includes print advertising in popular children’s magazines (including Fox Kids Magazine), a national radio campaign during sweeps periods and TV coverage on Fox Kids and Fox Family Channel (Fox Kids aired a teaser clip during the May `99 sweeps). A Web site (www.bigguyandrusty.com) by Columbia TriStar Interactive will provide weekly updates to involve children in the storylines of the show, says Palmer. Columbia TriStar Television has also enlisted two partners that were yet to be announced at press time for QSR deals, the earliest scheduled to begin its efforts in January.
On a more regional level, there are plans to put Big Guy and Rusty posters in 6,000 comic book stores in the fall. In addition to putting likenesses of the robots in the two-year-long Fox Kids World Tour, which will hit various markets this fall, Columbia TriStar Television is set to take Big Guy and Rusty, as well as Godzilla and Jumangi, to school cafeterias throughout the U.S., beginning in September to coincide with the show’s launch. Hitting roughly 3,500 schools over a month-long period, the sweepstakes promotion with Cincinnati, Ohio-based Pierre Foods will make more than 200 million impressions on potential viewers.
‘Kids need to find [Big Guy and Rusty],’ says Dang. ‘As the show finds an audience, you start metering your introduction of product based on awareness of the [property]. In the case of Godzilla, [also handled by Sony Signatures], everyone knows who Godzilla is, so you go wide and you go deep for the launch of the film. That’s the o deep for the launch of the film. That’s the same way we’ll probably approach Spider-Man.’
Details on the constantly developing plans for Spider-Man feature films and TV series from Sony Pictures Entertainment and Marvel Enterprises were to be determined as of press time, and, therefore, the licensing plan for the well-known superhero is still in embryonic stages.
Charlie’s Angels will take the lead with Big Guy and Rusty for Sony Signatures at Licensing Show.