Walmart along for ‘Dragon’ ride

Retailer will pump millions into marketing for exclusive tie-in

A boatload of “How to Train Your Dragon” merchandise is coming Walmart’s way.

In the latest example of a major retailer looking to lock down exclusive tie-ins with an entertainment property, Walmart will unveil “Dragon”-themed areas built within more than 2,500 of its stores this week.

Designed around a massive Viking ship, areas of the stores designated for “Dragon” will display more than 100 products — including clothing, foam swords and helmets, skateboards, hooded towels, sunglasses and snacks — that are exclusive to Walmart. Kraft, Kellogg, Pepsi, Spin Master and other manufacturers worked with DreamWorks Animation and Walmart to design the exclusive products.

The deal will put DreamWorks Animation’s toon in front of millions of consumers each day and guarantees the studio tens of millions of dollars worth of additional marketing support, bought by Walmart.

It’s the latest example of how retailers like Walmart, Target and Toys R Us are looking to tout exclusive toys, DVDs, videogames, CDs and other entertainment-related merchandise to get more shoppers into their stores.

While the sales potential for retailers is obvious, such deals for studios can result in a bigger promo push for their films, with the retailer willing to pony up more marketing coin than usual to raise awareness for the exclusives — upping the potential performance at the box office.

As part of the pact, Walmart will spend tens of millions of dollars on media, with TV, in-theater, print and online ads promoting the film’s bow and providing DreamWorks Animation with some serious marketing muscle. One 30-second ad, for example, will be shown on more than 13,000 screens in 4,600 theaters.

Walmart also has created a “How to Train Your Dragon” activity book that will be placed inside Happy Meals at 1,000 McDonald’s locations inside Walmart stores — a first for a movie tie-in for the retailer.

DreamWorks Animation has long had a relationship with Walmart, with Jeffrey Katzenberg courting the retailing giant since the toon studio opened its doors. The “Dragon” partnership is easily one of its biggest. The deal is also notable because “Dragon” is an untested property and not a franchise.

“Our partnership with DreamWorks Animation has changed the way retailers can work with the movie industry,” said Gary Severson, senior VP of entertainment, Walmart U.S.

A 40-foot Viking ship will dock in New York City’s Times Square starting today, to promote the “Dragon” deal. Pic bows Friday.

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