TV toons tuning up pic licensing tie-ins

'Spider-Man,' 'Evolution' skeins coming

Retailers, jittery over a slowing economy and ever wary of overhyped Hollywood tchotchkes, are breathing a little easier.

That’s because a large number of pics trawling Licensing 2001, the giant trade show that unspools Tuesday through Thursday in Gotham, either have been or will be animated TV series. Many think that gives tie-in products a better shot at hitting the consumer radar and staying there.

Take Sony, which will be touting three films: “Spider-Man” (with Marvel) and sequels to “Stuart Little” and “Men in Black.” All are due out in spring/summer 2002 and will be paired with animated TV shows.

An animated series spinoff of DreamWorks’ new release “Evolution” will debut on Fox this fall.

Universal’s “The Scorpion King,” also out next year, the third installment of ancient Egyptian hijinks a la “The Mummy,” hopes to gather momentum from animated series “The Mummy” on Kids WB this fall.

At Warner Bros., a live-action theatrical release of the classic cartoon “Scooby-Doo” arrives in 2002, as does “The Powerpuff Girls,” a pic based on the hit Cartoon Network animated series.

Synergy trend

“It’s absolutely a trend that’s developed. Movies with TV shows and movies with book deals and videogames all have longer life cycles. Retailers and manufacturers like that,” said Charles Riotto, prexy of licensing trade group the Licensing Industry Merchandising Assn. The trend is particularly pronounced this year.

There’s a lot at stake. LIMA says that for entertainment properties, royalties totaled about $2.6 billion. With no blockbuster hit last year, that figure was only up about 2% from 1999.

But Riotto sees a potential bonanza this summer and fall with DreamWorks’ “Shrek,” Universal’s “Jurassic Park III,” Fox’s “Planet of the Apes,” Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” Walt Disney’s “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” and “Monsters, Inc.” (with Pixar), Paramount’s “Tomb Raider” and the first installment of New Line’s “The Lord of the Rings” — all of which have boffo merchandising potential.

But deals for those properties are all locked up and product is rolling out. Studios are looking to the licensing show as a place to showcase their 2002 pics.

Thaw at Fox

Fox is touting “Ice Age,” its first animated feature since the flop “Titan A.E.” Likewise, DreamWorks is seeking a master toy licensee and other tie-ins for “Spirit,” its next animated film, due out in spring.

MGM returns to the show after a long hiatus with a line of MGM-branded product and is moving into full gear on licensing “The Birth of the Pink Panther,” the 10th in the series, due out next year.

The Lion will also present three little-touted titles from the 2002 slate. “Rising Stars,” “Bulletproof Monk” and “Bunny” are all based on comics.

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