‘Mr. Family Toy Guy’ is not what many would call Spawn comic and toy creator Todd McFarlane, but Rick Rekedal, head of DreamWorks Toy Group, seems to think the label fits. The film studio has awarded McFarlane Toys the master toy license for its upcoming 3-D animated feature Shrek!, marking a first for the one-time Marvel/Epic Comics artist and Canadian (not necessarily in that order) who created the company in 1994.
The story of an ogre named Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) and his attempts to save his home from Lord Farquaad (by John Lithgow) provided McFarlane with a subject not nearly so dark as his Spawn- and Sleepy Hollow-based characters. The movie ‘reinvents Mother Goose by ignoring fairytale cliches without being malicious or violent,’ Rekedal explains, giving McFarlane six or seven core characters and a whole subculture of fairytale creatures to mold into an action figure line targeting five- to 11-year-old kids.
The main focus of the program will be the mass-market toy line, but Rekedal says there’s also room for specialty products or an entirely separate specialty program. In addition to action figures, McFarlane Toys will be creating all plush, interactive toys, vehicles, playsets and accessories.
The computer-animated feature’s release and the retail rollout will coincide early next summer, with plans to release a special version of the feature to Imax’s 150 digital 3-D theaters in December 2001. The Imax film will boast a different ending from the original Shrek!, and DreamWorks is hoping the initiative will continue to fan consumer interest in the merch line into the holiday season.
In other McFarlane news, the toyco has signed on with New Line Cinema to produce Little Nicky action figures, based on the character from Adam Sandler’s upcoming same-name movie due November 17. In addition, New Line has inked a deal with Ubi Soft for a Little Nicky Color Game Boy title. McFarlane Toys will also be creating a line of action figures for Artisan’s Blair Witch sequel, which hits theaters in October. To beef up the spooky line, Parachute Publishing is working on a series of at least eight books called The Blair Witch Files targeting readers in the 12 to 18 range (see page 40 in this issue’s Retail section). Other Blair Witch sequel licensees include Biodomes and Giant for apparel, toy and model vehicles by ERTL and Playing Mantis, comic books by ON1 Press, PC games by Gathering of Developers, and posters from Import Images.