Balloon tour, tofu promotion part of marketing push for toon

DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek was used to try to get kids to eat healthier at McDonald’s. And now Po, the company’s paunchy kung-fu panda, has been tapped to help promote the health benefits of tofu.

As part of the toon studio’s efforts to drum up more than $100 million in worldwide marketing muscle from promotional partners, DWA has paired with House Foods America to co-brand the company’s products with “Kung Fu Panda 2″ in supermarkets. Po and the film’s Furious Five will appear on 8 million packages of tofu and other products, and a microsite (Kungfutofu2.com) will educate visitors on the Asian food while offering up contests and other tie-ins to the pic.

Deal reps the first time a studio has landed a tofu company as a promo partner.

Studios are increasingly seeking new ways to make their pics stand out, especially during the summer season, whose tentpoles line up long lists of promo partners. Push for unique deals also has Po taking flight as part of a U.S. tour of an official Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon that will set down in six cities (Miami, St. Louis, Dallas, Chicago and Phoenix) before landing in L.A. over Memorial Day weekend. Balloon measures 42-feet tall, 46-feet long and 34-feet wide, and appearances in each city will include family-friendly activities like martial arts presentations, face-painting stations and giveaways.

“With his debut at last year’s Macy’s Parade, DreamWorks Animation’s giant Po balloon became an instant spectator favorite,” said Amy Kule, exec producer of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “This special tour will bring Po closer to fans nationwide and is a great way to launch the sequel.”

Tofu deal was seen as a way to ink “marketing connections that fit organically with each movie,” said Susan Spencer, DWA’s head of promotions and marketing services. Tofu is integrated throughout the pic as Po’s father is a soupmaker who serves up the product.

Kung Fu Panda 2″ also has McDonald’s, AT&T, Best Buy, General Mills cereals, Sun-Maid raisins, Airheads candy, Hint Water and HP incorporating the film’s characters in products and ad campaigns that span TV, print, radio, outdoor, in-theater, in-store, and online, as well as social-media efforts leading up to the May 26 launch of the film.

Separately, Mattel is behind a toy line, THQ will create videogames, Hallmark has a line of cards and other merchandise, Jem Sportswear is producing apparel, and VTech, Penguin Books, Dalmatian Press and Ape Entertainment will publish a variety of books and ebooks.

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