When Alvin and the Chipmunks, the first CGI movie based on the 1950s icons, pulled in more than US$360 million at the box office in 2007, Twentieth Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising was admittedly caught a little unawares. But Hollywood often provides second chances in the form of sequels. And with Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel set to launch in US theaters on December 23, 2009, Fox got to work early on building a wide-reaching mass-market program that’s ready to come to fruition.
‘We were pleasantly surprised by the strong demand for product,’ says Robert Marick, EVP of Fox L&M, referring to the first big-screen effort. ‘We really didn’t have enough deals to fill the demand. This time we have established a new strategy to make it the number-one film property for the holiday season.’
While initial deals surrounding the film were announced as far back as February, Fox has filled out the roster to hit every channel of distribution and cater to a wide range of demographics.
‘Our strategy is to take the merchandising program and focus on all the key demos,’ says Marick. ‘This is our first opportunity to create a totally new merchandising program and we want to be in-keeping with the creative content and the spirit of the property.’
To that end 20 licensees have been lined up across 18 categories and, not surprisingly, the key plush license has been split between mass and specialty partners. Toyco Jakks Pacific will have kid-targeted goods at retail giants like Walmart and Target by the middle of this month, while Westmont, Illinois-based Ty Inc. has signed on to manage the specialty and collector plush area with an eye towards an older demographic that has grown up with the characters. On the amusement side of things, Nanco is serving that channel.
Plush will also be the center of promotional activity through a deal that’s been struck with Build-A-Bear Workshop. The 300-plus US locations of the mall-based chain will be offering stuffable and pre-stuffed models of Alvin and the gang with optional sound chips. The promotion starts after US Thanksgiving, accompanied by in-store displays and a traditional holiday advertising buy.
Another key to the program’s mass-market push is the re-introduction of the Chipettes. The Chipmunks’ female musical counterparts, Brittany, Jeanette and Eleanor, were originally featured in the 1980s TV series, but will be making their silver-screen debut in December. ‘It really brings the girl appeal,’ says Marick. An entire range of plush featuring the characters that were designed by Janice Karman, wife of Chipmunks creator Ross Bagdasarian, are hitting retail shelves in conjunction with the release of the movie. On the apparel side, American Marketing Enterprises/Next Craze has been tapped to make girl-targeted sleepwear featuring the Chipettes, and Isaac Morris Limited is producing girls tees.
Looking at CE, Majesco Entertainment is rolling out a brand-new video game for the Nintendo Wii and DS in December and fans of the music-centric property will get the chance to warble like the wee rodents with the Emerson Karaoke machine. A ‘Chipmunk’ button turns human voices into those of the high-pitched mammals.
Of course, an international promotions program, including major media buys and retail partnerships, will pervade the usual channels throughout this month.