Merchandise for upcoming tentpole releases

Avatar (Fox)

James Cameron’s first feature since “Titanic,” this 3-D sci-fi epic is “sure to reset what’s possible in entertainment, from a film-experience perspective but also from a merchandise and licensing perspective,” says Elie Dekel, Fox’s exec VP licensing and merchandising. It also marks “the largest commitment the studio has ever made to a motion picture,” Dekel notes. Set for a mid-December 2009 release, “Avatar’s’ licensing program will be highlighted by a Ubisoft vidgame.

High School Musical 3 (Disney)

From apparel to electronics, “HSM” took retail by storm — and initially, by surprise. For “HSM3,” the franchise’s first theatrical release, due out this fall, an extensive licensing program continues the studio’s “whole new approach to the tween demo,” says Jessi Dunne, exec VP of global licensing for Disney Consumer Products. Merchandise includes everything for complete “High School Musical” immersion, from fragrances and party supplies to TVs, MP3 players, vidgames and even dried-fruit snacks.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (DreamWorks Animation)

For the second installment of DreamWorks Animation’s “Madagascar” property, “we’ll build on the success of our last program,” says Kerry Phelan, head of worldwide consumer products. Initial efforts included dozens of licensing partners and a top-selling vidgame by Activision. The follow-up program — launching with the film in November — will feature another videogame, as well as toys, apparel and home decor.

Star Trek XI (CBS)

CBS has revealed few details of its J.J. Abrams-helmed “Star Trek XI” merchandise program, but — similar to the film itself — early efforts suggest that generating interest beyond a core Trekker fanbase is a key initiative. Materializing at retail in spring 2009, the first phase of new Star Trek consumer products by Playmates Toys will include action figures, collectibles and role-play toys, many with interactive electronic features.

The Pink Panther 2 (MGM)

The second installment of MGM’s Steve Martin vehicle will include a “robust” classic licensing program, says Travis Rutherford, exec VP of MGM consumer products. On top of that, the February release will be the driving force behind “Pinkitude,” a charitable partnership with the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Not only have “we got a natural connection, with the character being pink,” Rutherford explains, but the campaign “opened up a whole new avenue of licensees that we’ve never had access to.”

Transformers 2 (Hasbro)

“More than meets the eye”: That’s the position the “Transformers” brand team takes with all its licensees, says Lisa Licht, g.m. of Hasbro’s entertainment and licensing division. From apparel to publishing to games, Hasbro expects “to really expand those programs” for the sequel’s release in June 2009 — as well as incorporate mobile and online initiatives “to meet the consumers’ desire to enjoy our brands anytime, anywhere.”

Where the Wild Things Are (Warner Bros.)

The fall 2009 release of the live-action version of Maurice Sendak’s bestselling picture book will feature a broad licensing campaign “that may not be as expansive as ‘Batman’ or ‘Superman,’ but it’s a nice program,” says Warner Bros. consumer products topper Brad Globe. And because Warner controls the classic, based-on-the-book property as well, the film will be complemented by an assortment of product based on both the movie and its original inspiration.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Marvel)

While past X-Men movies have been all about the heroes collectively, for the first time Marvel is focusing primarily on one: Wolverine. To complement the May 2009 release, an extensive licensing program will include an Activision vidgame, a softline program and “a pretty massive line” of Hasbro product, says Marvel’s president of consumer products North America, Paul Gitter. That will be supplemented by Wolverine Extreme, an “edgy, urban” brand targeting teens and adults.

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