Sony's live action/CGI film to use 'familiarization campaign'

NEW YORK — Sony Signatures has announced an ambitious licensing and marketing campaign for the launch of “Stuart Little,” signaling the family film’s positioning as Sony’s flagship holiday film for 1999.

The combination live action-CGI film, based on the E.B. White children’s classic about a mouse who is adopted by a New York family, is set to be helmed by Rob Minkoff, one of the directors of “The Lion King.” Producer is Douglas Wick.

” ‘Stuart Little’ is part of building our stable of characters which will be with us for a long time,” said Sony Signatures executive VP of worldwide licensing Peter Dang. Dang’s remarks came at the 18th annual licensing show running this week in at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here.

He added that the inhouse effects team at Sony Imageworks is developing sophisticated computer generated imaging techniques for rendering the mouse’s fur and whiskers.

Prior to the release of the film, Sony Signatures will embark on a familiarization campaign through schools and high-end licensed products, ensuring that families who haven’t read the classic will know the name. An animated television show is planned to follow up the feature release, the same strategy Sony used with “Men in Black” and “Godzilla.”

The animated Godzilla series “Godzilla Heat” launches on the Fox Kids Network this fall on Saturday mornings and will then move to a five-days-a-week strip. Undaunted by media skepticism, Dang said retailers are pleased with the performance of the Godzilla toys, announcing plans to continue the franchise with the Godzilla Origins merchandise line launching for adults and collectors.

The licensing arm also unveiled plans for Columbia TriStar Television’s upcoming animated series “Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot,” based on a Dark Horse comic book, set to run on an unnamed children’s television network in fall 1999. Toy licenses for boys 4-11, teens and adults are being discussed at the licensing show.

Gameshows are also a priority for Sony Signatures, and Dang said “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!,” recently licensed to Hasbro Interactive for CD-ROMs, will have intensified merchandising efforts worldwide, as will their younger offshoots “Wheel 2000″ and “Jep.”

Teens remain the toughest licensing challenge, said Dang, who thinks a carefully controlled program for teen age hit “Dawson’s Creek,” including makeup, publishing and apparel, will be able to penetrate the skeptical adolescent audience.

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