Twentieth Century Fox is looking to make 2011 Rio’s year. With an eye towards transforming consumer products based on the upcoming 3-D animated big-screen flick into perennial performers at retail, the studio’s L&M division is partnering with Toys ‘R’ Us for a wide-reaching exclusive that will make the retailer the US destination for all things Rio.
‘We talked to many retailers and Toys ‘R’ Us was very excited about it,’ says Robert Marick, EVP of Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products. ‘Seeing someone’s passion, to me, is the most important thing. Toys ‘R’ Us was passionate about the program.’
Making the initial product line exclusive to the Wayne, New Jersey-based retailer is Fox’s first move in making Rio stand apart from the crowd, including established movie franchises like Cars, against which this original property will be competing this year.
‘We wanted to make a statement,’ says Marick, explaining why the studio felt that finding an exclusive retail home was the right tack to take for the program. ‘In today’s environment, everyone has different priorities and sometimes your lines can get lost in the shuffle. With our partnership we knew we could deliver an impressive statement at retail.’
The program at TRU, targeting boys and girls ages three to six, will roll into the chain’s 840 US stores a few weeks before the movie, about a rare Rio de Janeiro-bound bird named Blu, opens wide on April 8, 2011. The timing is important, as the products will be in stores before the crucial Easter period and the promo is slated to run throughout Q2 and into the DVD window that will lead into the 2011 holiday season. And to make a splash, TRU is showcasing Rio in a three-foot endcap with ‘all the bells and whistles,’ including sound buttons, LCD monitors and a colorful array of goods.
While Rio’s licensee list is full of established names in the industry, including THQ (videogames), HarperCollins (publishing), JEM Sportswear (apparel) and Awake (apparel), Marick says the studio is always looking for additional partners. But, because of the evolving nature of the deals, he was hesitant to say what categories were still up for grabs at press time.
The flagship line, meanwhile, is being handled by L.A.-based ToyQuest, the company that managed the master toy programs for DreamWorks’ Monsters vs Aliens and Megamind.
‘Our goal was to capture the essence of the Brazilian setting with our toy line,’ says Peter Magalhaes, VP of business development at ToyQuest. ‘We concentrated on flight and color. There is extra articulation in the figurines and the talking plush really captures the personalities from the movie.’
ToyQuest has developed a line of three-inch collectible figurines, six-inch beanies, standard plush, and talking plush that uses select character audio files from the movie. Pricing for the range has yet to be nailed down, but it should fall in line with industry norms.
Fox’s high hopes for the franchise are based largely upon the CV of Rio’s director Carlos Saldanha, a native of Brazil, and the man who co-directed the original Ice Age and directed its sequel. (The Ice Age franchise has generated more than US$1 billion at retail worldwide over the past decade.) And with the voice talents of big stars like Anne Hathaway, Tracy Morgan and George Lopez, along with a soundtrack that features Black Eyed Peas lead Will.i.am and Bossa Nova pioneer Sergio Mendes, Fox feels Rio has the stuff to make the same kind of magic.
‘The movie is an immersive experience,’ says Marick, discussing how the brand-new IP will differentiate itself in a marketplace full of established and perennial favorites. ‘It has a unique flavor – with the imagery, the songs and the dance – and it will stand out. And we have a retailer that has really embraced it.’