L!censing '99 was packed again this year, filled with animated product. Mike Lyons takes a closer look at what this $132 billion industry holds in store for us.
As much as animation purists hate to admit it, the popularity that the medium is currently experiencing owes a lot to the endless wave of T-shirts, action figures, posters and the like that accompany each new animated series and feature film. Nowhere was this more evident than at L!censing '99 International.
From June 8-10, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, this annual show featured the more than 3,700 properties available for licensing, from the worlds of entertainment, music, sports, fashion, corporate brands, art and non-profit organizations, just to name a few.
More than 15,000 industry representatives were on hand to gage what the future holds for this $132 billion industry. The show essentially serves as a "sneak peak" at what promises to be some of the more popular "properties" (read: TV shows, movies, trends, characters, toys, etc.) in the coming year.
What follows is a look at just some of the hot properties from the world of animation.
A giant, inflatable moose in the Javits Center lobby heralded the biggest 'toon news on the big screen. At Universal's booth, they were beginning their initial push for The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, the Roger Rabbit-like live-action/animated blockbuster due in theaters summer 2000. The film stars Jason Alexander as Boris Badenov, Renee Russo as Natasha and Robert DeNiro(!) as Fearless Leader. Also being promoted at Universal was the live-action How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Directed by Ron Howard, the film adaptation of the Dr. Seuss, and subsequently Chuck Jones, classic will star Jim Carrey in the lead. The Grinch hits theaters Thanksgiving 2000.
Sony Pictures was introducing Stuart Little, the live-action film adaptation of the classic children's book, in which a boy is transformed into a mouse. The film, directed by The Lion King's Rob Minkoff, is due out this holiday season, bringing the title character to life through computer graphics.
At the Fox Family booth (Fox Kids, Saban Animation and the Fox Family Channel) visitors were treated to a preview of some upcoming series. There was NASCAR Superchargers, an animated series based on the fast-paced world of NASCAR racing, plus the fall brings the sci-fi series, Xyber 9: New Dawn, which will combine traditional and computer animation. Coming-of-age is the theme behind Angela Anaconda, a very animated look at adolescence. And Weird-Oh's looks at a world where cars rule and racing is a way of life.
At Warner Bros., word was out for their upcoming prime-time animated series, Baby Blues, based on the popular comic strip. There was also Detention, which looks at a group of pre-teens, who constantly find themselves in the titular high school hell. Interest was also surrounding the prime time series, The Downtowners, an animated look at Generation X.
Sony Wonder used Licensing '99 to introduce their new animated super-heroes, Mega-Babies, a group of snot-nose (literally) toddlers, who will fight crime "before nap time."
In the licensing industry, they're called "evergreens," which means, these classic animated properties will never go out of style. There were plenty of these "green pastures" at the Warner Bros. booth, with characters ranging from the Looney Tunes gang to the Hanna-Barbera canon. Over at Universal, the studio was continuing Woody Woodpecker's resurgence. Press releases from United Media pronounced "The Global Power of Peanuts," while at the Hearst Entertainment booth, there was literature announcing that live-action features are currently in the works for such characters as Mandrake the Magician and Flash Gordon. Speed Racer Enterprises was promoting -- what else? And Paramount now owns the rights to Terrytoons. Although there was no word on what the studio plans to do with the franchise, can Deputy Dawg: The Movie be far behind?
Mike Lyons is a Long Island-based freelance writer who has written over 100 articles on film and animation. His work has appeared in Cinefantastique, Animato! and The Disney Magazine.
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