Disney has grandiose expectations for its upcoming flick about one of the most infamously tiny characters of all time. A lot is riding on Chicken Little, Disney’s first CGI theatrical film created entirely in-house. There’s been tons of speculation over how Disney will fare when its lucrative relationship with Pixar comes to an end after Cars is released next summer – and CL might just be the benchmark that determines whether or not the studio’s animation arm can go it alone.
But judging from the licensing and promotional plans in place to ramp up for the film’s November 4 release, Disney isn’t leaving much to chance.
The consumer products team has a raft of licensees on-board to tap into the humor of the film, which centers around the tiny chicken’s desperation to prove that the sky really is falling this time around. Mass-market product targeting the three to seven set will include publishing, apparel, home décor and back-to-school ranges to complement the program’s main categories of toys and interactive games. These lines should start hitting shelves in late September, and DCP is hoping that a lot of the merch will also connect with six- to 11-year-olds.
Master toy partner Hasbro is betting on the appeal of its lead item, a singing Chicken Little plush that showcases the character’s moment of triumph in the film by belting out Queen’s ‘We Are the Champions.’
Meanwhile, just as the film was created in-house, so was an upcoming video game from Disney’s Buena Vista Games. Traditionally, interactive games based on Disney’s animated features have been licensed to third-party software developers. But BVG director of marketing Dana Long says quality was sometimes an issue under this strategy, and she believes BVG’s ready access to the studio’s digital assets will make for higher-caliber games.
Chicken Little is BVG’s first cross-platform global launch, and the family-oriented game has 17 levels, multiplayer capability and bonus features through which kids will be introduced to new settings and characters that didn’t make it into the movie. And many of the film’s voice actors, which include Zach Braff, Joan Cusack and Gary Marshall, have agreed to record extra tracks for the video game.
According to Preston Kevin Lewis, director of global film marketing at DCP, the company is already prepping the market for the film and its accompanying merch with an unprecedented seeding campaign. Tear-away, take-home posters teasing the movie are currently up on buildings in hip neighborhoods of L.A. and New York.
And DCP has also scheduled preview events in those cities for April and May to launch a collectible line of Chicken Little figurines; on-the-ground promo teams will orchestrate auctions featuring toys that have been painted by happening local artists. DCP ran a street campaign for Mickey Mouse two years ago, but Lewis says this is the first time they’ve gone urban grassroots for a brand-new property.
Recognizing the lift that DVD sales can bring to consumer products programs, DCP intends to spice up its range around Chicken Little’s March 2006 DVD rollout with new items created specifically for this second media coming.
While licensees may think it’s too late to get on-board the Chicken Little express, Lewis says that’s not the case. ‘If there’s anyone out there interested in doing something with Chicken Little, they shouldn’t hesitate to call the appropriate category manager at DCP to investigate,’ he says. ‘You never know what’s possible.’