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VeggieTales nibbles its way to mass market with an upcoming feature film

A mile-long roster of licensing partners and a glut of product can make for a tough sell-in in the current feature film-wary retail market. Thus, Big Idea Productions is charting a tightly focused course for fall 2002 high-seas adventure pic Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie.
May 1, 2002

A mile-long roster of licensing partners and a glut of product can make for a tough sell-in in the current feature film-wary retail market. Thus, Big Idea Productions is charting a tightly focused course for fall 2002 high-seas adventure pic Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie.

Rather than trolling for new ‘big fish’ partners, Big Ideas has culled potential licensees from its existing roster, finally settling on a total of just six partners–a conservative draw by feature film standards. ‘We didn’t treat this as a movie license, and we were very up-front with all of our licensees on that point,’ says Shari Martin, executive director of licensing at Big Idea. ‘We specifically limited consumer products to those that would have the greatest impact and help kids remember the film’s message, which is that everyone deserves a second chance.’

Since the program’s goal is to get kids role playing and recreating favorite lines and songs from the movie, licensee Talicor’s Overboard Adventure Game takes kids through Jonah’s journey and gives each player a second chance, lending the program thematic continuity. Talicor is also producing a version of the card game the film’s pirate characters play on-board their ship, encouraging role play. Master toy licensee Blue Box, General Sportswear (apparel), Haddad (mass-market apparel), ValuSoft (interactive) and HarperCollins imprint Zonderkidz (publishing) round out the licensee roster.

Beyond thematic product translation, Big Idea’s ultra-conservative strategy has a market-driven side to it as well. While VeggieTales characters such as Bob and Larry have awareness ratings above 80%, the brand itself doesn’t yet have enough mass-market penetration. ‘What we’ve been up against is that retailers are looking for the kind of licensed product numbers that you’d get from a Blue’s Clues, and we just can’t deliver that at mass yet,’ says Martin.

As evidence that VeggieTales is beginning to gain ground at mass, Wal-Mart has chosen Jonah as its September 2002 promo, backed by a yet-to-be-determined retailtainment event, in-store signage and ads on radio and TV. Tying in with Wal-Mart on the promo is interactive licensee ValuSoft, which will conduct a giveaway during the retail event.

Other partners currently on-board Jonah’s promo ship are Chik-Fil-A (kids meal promotion featuring Jonah bath toys) and Curad (Bob and Larry band-aids on-pack promo). At press time, Big Idea was in talks with other food and beverage partners, including a major juice company and a manufacturer that produces veggie snack packs. According to Big Idea’s retail and consumer promotions manager Leslie Ferrell, the promo field is still wide open on Jonah. With Artisan’s FHE Pictures recently signing on as a distribution partner for the film and subsequent video/DVD release, the promo pool deepens as Big Idea may have the opportunity to draw from FHE’s existing promotional partnerships. As added incentive for potential partners, Ferrell points to a 2004 feature film called Bob & Larry that’s in the works, as well as future TV plans for the VeggieTales brand.

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