Fantastic Four

2007 Hot Property

Principals: Paul Gitter, senior VP, consumer products, North America, Marvel Entertainment; Simon Phillips, president, Marvel Intl.; Elie Dekel, exec VP, 20th Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising

Licensees include: Hasbro, Take-Two Interactive, Activision Publishing/Hands-On Mobile

The story: Store shelves are packed with sequel-based tentpole properties this year, and Marvel is putting more of its licensing elbow grease into “Spider-Man,” which has performed better in the merchandising realm.

Still, Fox’s “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” will be one of the bigger tentpoles of the summer — and there’s also “Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes,” a new anime-style weekly series on the Cartoon Network, to consider — so the associated merchandising campaign is considerable.

Licensing efforts targeting “F4’s” core and long-term fan base have been emphasized, with toys and vidgames being the focus.

Initial partners include master toy licensee Hasbro, Take-Two Interactive for vidgames, and Activision Publishing/Hands-On Mobile for cell-phone applications.

“Fantastic Four” also continues to be a focus of the Marvel Heroes licensing initiative, which teams several of the company’s superheroes under one common brand.

With more than 200 licensees, the mass-market program covers product categories ranging from toys (Hasbro and Mega Brands) to apparel (MGA, Mad Engine) to party goods (Hallmark) to trading cards (Upper Deck) to personal care (Gillette Oral B).

Meanwhile, “Silver Surfer” merchandising/promotional tie-ins are generating plenty of heat. Last monthy, for example, in a highly publicized marketing endeavor, Fox and the Franklin Mint thrilled fans — but raised the ire of government officials — when they released into illegal circulation 40,000 U.S. quarters modified so that the Silver Surfer appeared on the back of the coin.

POV: “This is a breakout year for the ‘Fantastic Four’ franchise,” says Eric Rollman, Marvel Studios exec VP, animation and television.

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