As the June 23 debut of Aardman Animations/DreamWorks co-pro Chicken Run draws nearer, DreamWorks is looking to a merchandising strategy that takes licensee integration to new levels and captures the essence of the film right down to the texture of the toys.
Key elements in the integration include not only asking licensees to agree to on-pack promos pushing product from fellow licensees, but asking them to produce toys designed to work with other such products. For instance, Playmates will produce Chicken Run figures sporting on-pack promos for the Art Caddy (being produced by Flying Colors), and Flying Colors will, in turn, push the figures on its Art Caddy packaging. As well, ‘the figures are built in scale with the Art Caddy, which doubles as the Flying Machine vehicle, so a child can play with both items together,’ says Travis Rutherford, head of licensing at DreamWorks.
Chicken Run’s inventory of licensees already counts out at over 50 and covers off all major categories. The flick, a comedy/adventure about a group of chickens making a desperate bid for freedom, looks to target the broad family demo with licensed product targeting kids and older family members of both genders.
Achieving an authentic 3-D look for merchandise, reflective of the clay-animated characters in the movie, is a big priority. Licensees such as Toronto-based Spin Master Toys plan to accomplish this by making figures and other toys out of a flexible, silicone-based material. ‘We’re looking to catch the feel of the clay characters by not using basic, hard plastic,’ says Rutherford. All product hits retail around the end of May, and toys will focus largely on the play patterns of flight and escape.
Rutherford says that in an effort to maintain product consistency globally, DreamWorks Consumer Products has restructured its toy distribution outlets: ‘Instead of having two different licensees in two different territories making the same product, we will have one manufacturing resource and two distribution outlets. It’s bringing the price point down, and it’s going to bring product to the U.S. market that’s never been seen before.’
Chicken Run is the first of five clay-animation movies that DreamWorks will create with U.K.-based Aardman in the hopes of building an ongoing, long-term franchise. The Tortoise and the Hare, based on the Aesop fable, will be the next feature released as part of the deal.