A Universe of Properties

Established franchises are always an easy sell, but that's not the case with new brands, especially in a sluggish retail environment that makes many licensees risk-adverse. But new franchises have to start somewhere, a

April 6, 2018

A Universe of Properties

Established franchises are always an easy sell, but that's not the case with new brands, especially in a sluggish retail environment that makes many licensees risk-adverse. But new franchises have to start somewhere, and that's the approach Universal Partnerships & Licensing will be taking this year.

Two of Universal's major summer 2010 releases—

Despicable Me

and

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

—are based on new properties, as are most of its big releases scheduled for 2011 and 2012. The 2011 lineup includes the animated film

Hop;

the genre-bending action film

Cowboys vs. Aliens;

a new addition to the popular

Fast & Furious

franchise,

Fast Five;

and a prequel to the horror classic

The Thing.

"The great thing about 2011 is that we have some great new properties to talk about along with an established franchise like Fast & Furious that's already been successful," says Amy Taylor, senior vice president of UP&L.

Focusing on the new is appropriate for UP&L, which was formed in 2009 when Universal decided

to merge its consumer products and studio partnerships divisions and brought licensing, promotions, home entertainment and theatrical under one roof. "There was already so much crossover between the divisions that it was decided the best route to take was to make them one business," says Taylor.

Taylor says UP&L has high hopes for the studio's first big release of 2011, the offbeat comedy

Hop

. The blend of live action and animation due April 1 tells the story of an unemployed slacker who gets stuck taking care of the would-be heir to the Easter Bunny (Russell Brand). "We think it's going to be a fun program with strong Easter and seasonal tie-ins," says Taylor.

Its 2011 summer release,

Cowboys vs. Aliens

, is based on the graphic novel and boasts a strong lineup of talent behind it. Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are set to produce, with Jon Favreau (

Iron Man 2

) on board to direct and Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford in the starring roles, a pedigree that should make the movie highly marketable.

"It's a blend of a classic Western and an alien invasion movie," says Taylor. "And it has a dream team of talent."

In addition to the new properties, Taylor will have the luxury of shopping

Fast Five

, the fifth

Fast & Furious

movie that will feature original stars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker and original director Justin Lin. "The merchandise program will have a strong emphasis on cars, but we'll be looking to extend it into other areas," says Taylor.

Universal will also be talking to licensees about the start of its long-term partnership with Hasbro, which will involve making movies based on some of the toy maker's best-known brands. The deal is scheduled to launch with the May 25, 2012, release of

Battleship

, a film based on the classic naval battle board game that will be directed by Peter Berg

(Hancock)

. The second film will be

Stretch Armstrong

, a 3-D adventure based on the 1970s action figure.

Twilight

star Taylor Lautner is on board to star and Rob Letterman

(Monsters vs. Aliens)

will direct.

"We have a multi-year deal with Hasbro and these will be the first two films in a long-term relationship," says Taylor.

Universal also has a deal in place with Chris Meledandri's Illumination Entertainment for 2012 to produce a 3-D, CGI animation version of "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax," a 1971 children's book about the consequences of greed and the power of hope. "It's filled with great characters and has an eco-friendly message that was years ahead of its time," says Taylor.

Universal already has licensing programs lined up for

Despicable Me

and

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

that include D3 Publishing for video games, Little, Brown for books, Mighty Fine for apparel and Toy Factory for toys. And it is tending to its evergreen children's franchise Curious George, with new seasonal product being released this summer. In addition to children's bedding and apparel, it will add to its award-winning line of games with the Curious George Matching Game and the Curious George 3 Fun Card Games.

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