Burger King puts Nick kidpic on promo griddle

NEW YORK — Burger King seems to think the Rugrats can sell more Whoppers than the Grinch.

Kid cabler Nickelodeon is in advanced negotiations with the national fast-food chain to launch a major promotional campaign supporting Nick Movies’ upcoming release “Rugrats in Paris — The Movie.”

Burger King is apparently opting to align itself with the animated Paramount Pictures release rather than Universal Pictures’ live-action “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!,” starring Jim Carrey. Both kidpics are slated for Thanksgiving releases.

In addition to Burger King’s three-year relationship with Nick, insiders say “Rugrats” beat out “Grinch” because it has already established itself as a successful theatrical brand. “Nick’s track record in opening movies speaks for itself,” said one industry person.

Burger King backed the original “Rugrats” kidpic — which has grossed more than $105 million domestically — with similar big-budget promotions.

Sources say Burger King could commit more than $20 million dollars to a marketing and ad campaign targeted to both kids and adults. Nick and Burger King will also create a Web site to support the promotion, which will run for four weeks and will likely involve Burger King’s Big Kids Meals, as well as several unique premiums. Nick plans to extend the promotion through Nick.com and Nickelodeon Magazine.

Toying with franchise

In addition to “Rugrats” products, cable characters — primarily from cartoons — are in heavy play at this year’s American Intl. Toy Fair, which wraps Friday. Nick’s consumer products business logged approximately $2 billion in retail sales last year, according to Herb Scannell, president, Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite and TV Land.

New “Rugrats” toys include a line of wedding-themed fashion dolls and a fashion runway playset as well as “Karaoke Angelica” which comes with a special singing feature that lets kids try their hand at karaoke.

Adding to its successful “Blue’s Clues” line, Nick is introducing its latest franchises, based on the hit animated shows “The Wild Thornberrys” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

Powerpuff & Scooby-Doo

Cartoon Network’s “The Powerpuff Girls” is also making its licensing premiere at Toy Fair this week. The toon cabler is likewise pushing Scooby-Doo products, such as Pogo-Jumping Scooby-Doo, Talking Shaggy and Mystery Machine playset.

Television properties have an inherent advantage over their cinematic counterparts, according to Marty Brochstein, exec editor of The Licensing Letter: “The upside for a TV property is that if it is working, kids have a constant exposure to the characters. With a movie, in most cases, it’s a one-shot deal.” But, there is also a downside to betting on TV properties, Brochstein said: “Shows have been known to disappear off TV schedules quickly.”

But as both a movie and a television franchise, “Rugrats in Paris” has the best of both worlds. “We look at the movie as one event in our continuous relationship with kids and the ‘Rugrats’ property,” said Leigh Ann Brodsky, senior VP, Nickelodeon consumer products. “The year after the movie is released, the show will still be airing.”Nick proved its own brand was strong enough to boosting the opening of a theatrical pic. The cabler heavily promoted Paramount kid pic “Snow Day,” co-produced with Nick, and the pic piled up an estimated $14.8 million in its first weekend.

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