Artisan crafts ‘Barbie’ deal

Co. plans October release of 'Rapunzel' on VHS, DVD

Artisan Home Entertainment has outbid several competitors for domestic distribution rights to the computer-animated sequel to last year’s Video Premiere Award-winning “Barbie in the Nutcracker.”

Artisan plans an October release of “Barbie in Rapunzel” on VHS and DVD.

The 3.4 million units Artisan sold of “Barbie in the Nutcracker” generated $65 million in consumer spending, exceeding the sales of new movie sequels to long-standing franchises from Universal and Warner like “The Land Before Time” and “Scooby-Doo,” respectively, according to Daily Variety sister publication Video Business.

Artisan’s new deal with Mattel is for “Barbie as Rapunzel” only, even though Mattel is said to be developing additional productions for what is planned as an annual series of movies. The toymaker has been in production on “Rapunzel” with computer-animation specialist Mainframe Entertainment for nearly a year.

Executive producer Rob Hudnut would not discuss the bidding process or terms of the deal but said Mattel was very happy with Artisan, especially since twice as many videos were sold as projected.

Artisan Family Home Entertainment prexy Glenn Ross said, “We expect ‘Rapunzel’ to do as well as, if not better than, ‘Nutcracker.’ ”

Anjelica Huston has already recorded her voice as a witch for the new Barbie movie. Kelly Sheridan returns as the voice of Barbie, with veteran voice actress Cree Summer (“Rugrats,” “Teacher’s Pet”) joining the cast as Penelope.

In keeping with Mattel’s desire for Barbie to be perceived as improving the self-esteem of its young female audience, this Rapunzel is not the traditional damsel in distress. Instead, she’s an active participant in her own rescue, an artist who paints her way out of captivity in the big tower.

(David Frankel is a reporter for Daily Variety sister publication Video Business.)

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