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What goes around, comes around

Sequels! Sequels! Sequels! A 'presold' property is one thing, but how many times will the customer buy? Intellectual properties are being ping-ponged back and forth from TV to movies, then back to TV as never before. Everything old is new again,...
January 1, 2001

Sequels! Sequels! Sequels! A ‘presold’ property is one thing, but how many times will the customer buy? Intellectual properties are being ping-ponged back and forth from TV to movies, then back to TV as never before. Everything old is new again, and again and again!

There seems to be no end to how far a company will continue a successful brand, no matter how bad the stretch marks appear. For example, Nickelodeon’s popular Rugrats TV series has spawned two successful theatrical features, with a third planned, introducing Nick’s Wild Thornberrys’ characters to the big screen. The Rugrats have become a tentpole attraction for Paramount, same as the Star Trek movies have been for the last two decades. But like feature film Star Trek Generations, which combined the classic Trek (Kirk) and the next Trek (Picard) casts, Paramount has already decided the Rugrats franchise needs a tune-up (or toon-up?) to profitably continue.

But hey, if Rugrats, Beavis & Butthead, South Park (all Paramount) and Pokémon (WB) can make a successful jump to movie theaters, why can’t everyone else join in?

Don’t worry, they are! Coming in February is Disney’s Recess: School’s Out, a quickie theatrical based on the TV series co-created by Rugrats co-creator Paul Germain. Then there is Warner Bros.’ Powerpuff Girls Movie due in 2002.

I can just see the executive boardroom meetings at the other studios. ‘If this formula works for cartoons, why not do a spin-off from a live-action family hit?’ Yes sir! Coming right up, sir! Twentieth Century Fox has a Malcolm in the Middle theatrical in production for release later this year.

Then there is the reverse trend. Seventies TV hit Charlie’s Angels was revamped for the big screen this past fall, and before you can say Bosley, Columbia TriStar has an animated series in active development. And Buffy the Vampire Slayer (a favorite here at KidScreen), which started as a 1987 Fox theatrical and grew into a hit series for The WB, is on the drawing boards for animated series treatment as well. I’m not even going to mention the live-action Scooby-Doo movie currently in production.

Then there are the superheroes. For instance, the X-Men. Based first on Stan Lee’s Marvel comic, X-Men was a huge Saturday morning cartoon for Saban and Fox Kids, then became a theatrical live-action smash, and is back in a revamped Saturday morning cartoon. And that pales in comparison to Warner Bros.’ Batman, a franchise that never dies, no matter live action, animated series or DTV.

Of course if the quality is there, as in the case of Batman, you can keep the property going forever. So how does that explain Pokémon 3 and The Land Before Time part nine? It doesn’t, but as long as a title has less risk, presold properties will continue on-and on and on and on. . .

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