When the licensing world’s heavy-hitters get together for an annual show, you’d expect a flurry of major property-related announcements to be made. Licensing 2000, however, seemed strangely bereft of show-stopping dispatches, with most companies offering promises of news in the weeks to come. What did abound was plenty of hype for all the expected suspects.
Warner Bros. definitely took the ‘biggest buzz’ prize with a fortress-like Harry Potter exhibit that showcased rough style guide art and a five-minute screen show in which HP movie director Chris Columbus and a barrage of WB execs expounded on the property’s grade-A licensing potential.
The itsy bitsy Entertainment Company was also highly visible at this year’s show, putting a big push behind Eloise-in the form of a 50-foot Eloise blow-up doll that loomed over passersby in the lobby of New York’s Jacob Javits Center. Itsy also splashed the property on tabletops in the venue’s café area and sponsored shuttle buses for showgoers. At press time, itsy was days away from announcing the film studio that will bring Eloise to the big screen.
Another noticeable presence at Licensing 2000 was a veritable army of fledgling Internet companies offering on-line transactional marketplaces for licensing industry players. Four-year-old WhatsHotNow.com used the show to launch the WHN Exchange, an e-market that offers services for licensors, licensees and retailers. Users of the free site can buy and sell product on-line, offer and acquire licensing rights, and showcase their brands. The Webco, which will take a 2% to 6% cut of all transactions that take place on the site, raised US$40 million for the launch, as well as signing up over 100 members including MTV, Saban and Coca-Cola. In addition to the on-line market, WhatsHotNow.com operates a pop culture meter called The Hot List, which provides feedback to WHN members on how hot their brands are with consumers.
Looking to heat up the tween-targeted Powerpuff Girls franchise, Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. announced their collaboration on a full-length animated feature slated for a summer 2002 release. George Jones, president of worldwide licensing and Warner Bros. Studios Stores, says the movie won’t have a separate licensed line, but some of the unique storyline elements should spawn a few new products to beef up the existing merchandise portfolio.
Nickelodeon finally unveiled its integrated launch strategy for new multimedia property Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius. Steve Oedekirk (whose writing credits include Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Nutty Professor) will serve as screenwriter and director for the CGI project, which will debut as a one-minute trailer in front of Rugrats In Paris: The Movie this November. More shorts will be added to make up an interstitial series that will air in prime time on Nick starting in January 2001. Jimmy Neutron will also present with Rosie O’Donnell and Will Smith at Nickelodeon’s Kids Choice Awards in May 2001. A comic book by Nickelodeon Magazine will hit the streets in June, and a Jimmy Neutron Web site featuring a kick-ass multiplayer on-line game will launch that month as well. After more than a year of teaser activities has built a groundswell of kid interest, Jimmy Neutron: The Movie is slated to premiere November 2001. Nick will build on the flick’s fan base by following up with a TV series in September 2000.