NL spins slick pic for Dummies

First, there were pizza-gobbling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Now, New Line Cinema plans a live-action motion picture based on the Incredible Crash Dummies–stars of the public service announcements used to promote seatbelt use and auto safety.

New Line has acquired the movie and prime time live-action TV rights to the action figures from merchandise rights holder Leisure Concepts Inc. and manufacturer Tyco Toys. The deal also includes New Line’s future participation in the merchandising revenues following release of the picture.

The nationally known Crash Dummies–named Slick and Spin–are robotic action toy figures with human personas, who literally knock themselves out by exploding on impact as they teach kids to buckle up for safety.

While the Crash Dummies may seem an odd choice for big-screen stardom, New Line exex believe the characters fit the company’s strategy to create movie franchises with built-in marketing hooks.

Saturday series

New Line’s movie plans could capitalize on the Saturday morning animated TV series based on the Crash Dummies currently in development at CBS with Nelvana Entertainment planned for fall ’93. Also, Tyco is financing an animated special that’s expected to air in the first quarter of 1993. Already on the market is a Crash Dummies Nintendo video game.

As far as the big screen plans, New Line expects to hire a screenwriter for the project within two weeks, with hopes of having a completed draft by the end of the year. “It’s a priority project,” said company senior VP of production Michael De Luca.

He said New Line hopes to be in production on the “Crash Dummies” movie by spring 1993. “We simply can’t let it sit on a shelf because the ‘Crash Dummies’ are hot now and getting hotter,” De Luca said.

Contemplated as a Tyco Toys and Leisure Concepts production, the movie is expected to be budgeted in the $ 6 million to $ 10 million range.

Ultimate road movie

“We’re looking to make the ultimate road movie and the ultimate sight-gag movie,” said De Luca, who added, “The ‘Buckle Up’ message of the Crash Dummies will be included in the storyline.”

The rights deal with New Line was brokered by the William Morris Agency’s VP Alan Gasmer and co-motion picture head John Burnham. New Line chairman Robert Shaye expressed early interest in the Crash Dummies and championed the project along with De Luca.

Gasmer noted that Crash Dummies “was a good deal for our client (LCI) and for New Line, which is a very aggressive company that knows how to market a movie in this genre–they proved that with the wildly successful ‘Teenage Mutant Turtles.’ ”

New Line’s emphasis on “pre-sold properties” paid off in spades with the company’s spin-off of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The 1990 original, which Golden Harvest produced for around $ 12 million and New Line released domestically, grossed $ 135.3 million.

Originated in the early ’80s, the Crash Dummies were initially part of a public safety campaign from the state of California.

They were subsequently incorporated into U.S. Dept. of Transportation PSAs to promote seatbelt use through the characters’ zany adventures.

Over the last two years, the Crash Dummies have been revamped by Leisure Concepts Inc. and Tyco as toy figurines named Slick, Spin, Daryl, Spare Tire, Skid the Kid, and pets Hubcat (cat) and Bumper (dog).

For LCI, the Crash Dummies is the latest in a series of high-profile movie deals involving famous characters the company represents, including “Super Mario Brothers: The Movie” (Disney); “The Shadow” (Universal), “Charlie Chan” (Imagine/Universal) and “The Green Hornet” (rights in limbo).