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Chipmunks scurry into theaters, big L&M program in ’09

The familiar cry of 'Alllviin!!' is set to ring out in multiplexes across the US again this year when Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakuel rolls into theaters on Christmas Day. This time 'round, however, licensor Twentieth Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising is mounting a broad-based licensing and promo program for the follow up to 2007's surprise CGI hit, Alvin and the Chipmunks.
February 17, 2009

The familiar cry of ‘Alllviin!!’ is set to ring out in multiplexes across the US again this year when Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakuel rolls into theaters on Christmas Day. This time ’round, however, licensor Twentieth Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising is mounting a broad-based licensing and promo program for the follow up to 2007′s surprise CGI hit, Alvin and the Chipmunks.

With the first effort raking in a worldwide box office gross of more than US$360 million on an investment of approximately US$60 million (not to mention its bestselling DVD that generated an estimated US$100 million in sales), it’s not exactly shocking that Fox was quick to get the musical rodents back onto the big screen. L&M activity around the first film was limited, but the soft-sell strategy is not on the agenda this time.

Fox L&M SVP Michael Peikoff has already kicked off the Chipmunks Squeakquel program, sealing new licensing agreements with Mad Engine (t-shirts) and Issac Morris (apparel). Additionally, Madame Tussaud’s US operation is casting models of the helium-voiced animals to make Alvin, Simon and Theodore the first animated characters ever to be featured at the infamous wax museum.

Peikoff’s team is now on the hunt for more licensees. ‘We are endeavouring to partner with blue-chip manufacturers such as HarperCollins and Hallmark,’ he says. Key kids categories, including tech toys, video games, plush and publishing, are up for grabs and Peikoff’s also aiming to push into secondary ones like board games, puzzles, arts and crafts, outdoor toys and health and beauty. And keeping in line with the ‘go big or go home’ credo Fox is adopting for this program, Peikoff says that Chipmunk merch will not be restricted to one tier of retail. ‘We’ve seen the demand for product from mass to specialty,’ he says.

Similarly, Fox aims to stretch beyond the property’s key four to 10 target demo. Older consumers that have a nostalgic connection with the brand will be catered to with appropriate merch such as specialty tier collectibles.

Fox is also continuing to base product on the music, singing and dancing that drive the movies with a second soundtrack (the first one sold close to one million units worldwide) and a planned consumer electronics line that will hit the market roughly six weeks out from the Squeakquel’s release date.

In the meantime, Fox is on the lookout for more partners in the electronics and personal electronics categories while working on developing retail partnerships. ‘We think of retailers as our greatest partnership opportunity and we have been proactively pitching the full spectrum of distribution channels,’ Peikoff says. ‘We will continue to pitch them to the release date and through the home video window.’

In-theater promotions handled internally at Fox will also be amped up for the release and Peikoff confirmed the property would be ‘highly visible’ through a blitz of TV, radio and online promotions as well as in-store retail programs.

About The Author
Gary Rusak is a freelance writer based in Toronto. He has covered the kids entertainment industry for the last decade with a special interest in licensing, retail and consumer products. You can reach him at garyrusak@gmail.com

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