Pitching the Tentpoles

With big movies driving so much licensed product, License! Global takes a look at upcoming potential blockbusters and the promotional partnerships they're inspiring. It almost couldn't be a bigger year for movies.

April 6, 2018

Pitching the Tentpoles

With big movies driving so much licensed product, License! Global takes a look at upcoming potential blockbusters and the promotional partnerships they're inspiring.

It almost couldn't be a bigger year for movies. As studios begin jockeying for position in key summer weekends several years in advance, 2008 is proving itself to be more jam-packed with potential blockbusters than ever. Theater owners and licensees were already looking forward to a summer containing three major comic book films and the long-awaited return of Indiana Jones—but who could have predicted a few months ago that 2008 would also see a return to the big screen for Star Wars?

And that's just the tip of the iceberg for the tentpole films that will be driving licensing for this year and beyond. Read on to find out what the studios will be unspooling for us.

DreamWorks Animation

DreamWorks kicks it up a notch on June 6 with

Kung Fu Panda

, a CGI-animated martial arts comedy starring the voice of Jack Black as the titular panda. Such an action-packed license naturally lends itself to several categories, including a video game for all systems from Activision Blizzard and a master toy line from Mattel (left).

There will also be beach and bedding from Jay Franco and Sons Inc.

In addition, DreamWorks will be teaming with Kohl's for their Kohl's Cares for Kids charity program for

Kung Fu Panda

, offering up "special plush and books with proceeds going to children's charities," according to DreamWorks' publicist Olivier Mouroux.

Then on Nov. 7, the CGI sequel

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa


The Crate Escape

) claws its way into theaters, as well as a cross-platform video game from Activision Blizzard.

EON Productions

They may only produce one franchise, but it's set to have a big year. In anticipation of the Nov. 7 opening of

Quantum of Solace

, the latest James Bond film distributed by MGM, Corgi International will be releasing a master Bond toy line, spanning the new film as well as previous films.

Additionally, Activision Blizzard takes over the Bond video game license this year, and is expected to release a game based on

Quantum of Solace

for all next-gen systems. "We have some exciting new licensees and more to come," says Keith Snelgrove, senior vice president, business strategy for Danjaq, the United States arm of EON Productions.

Lucasfilm Ltd.

The house that George Lucas built has never had a summer like this—two theatrical releases with heavy licensing tie-ins. First up on May 22 is

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

, the long-awaited (19 years long) fourth chapter in the series. Distributed by Paramount Pictures, Indy has a raft of licensing partners aboard, including master toy licensee Hasbro, construction toy partner Lego, and various collectibles and figures from companies like Sideshow Collectibles, Kotobukiya, Gentle Giant, and Diamond Select Toys. Dark Horse will also release a comic book adaptation. In soft goods, Global Designs Concepts Inc. will produce a line of bags and accessories.

Then, in a surprise move, Warner Bros. Pictures will be releasing the CGI-animated

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

on Aug. 15 (the first Star Wars picture ever not released by Twentieth Century Fox). A prelude to the animated series debuting soon afterwards on Turner networks,

Clone Wars

will have a typical Star Wars mix of licensees on board at launch. Aside from the toy line from Hasbro, Basic Fun will be releasing a range of figural keychains, and Lego will be releasing several construction sets in the new animated style.

Marvel Entertainment

It's a summer of firsts for Marvel Studios, the production arm of Marvel Entertainment. Not only does hero Iron Man make his first trip to the big screen (as embodied by Robert Downey Jr.), but

Iron Man


The Incredible Hulk

represent Marvel Studios' first two self-financed films to hit the big screen. And, as is fitting for Marvel's new vision of a unified entertainment division and a shared film universe, the two films share many of the same licensing partners.


Iron Man

(hitting May 2 in the United Sates from Paramount Pictures) and

The Incredible Hulk

(opening on June 13 and distributed by Universal Studios in the United States) will be licensed by many of the same companies. "Top partners include Hasbro [master toy license], Sega [video games], Disguise [Halloween costumes], Fruit of the Loom [children's underwear], Kids Headquarters [master apparel license], Jay Franco [bed, bath, and beach products], and Mega Bloks [construction toys], among many others," says Paul Gitter, president, consumer products North America for Marvel Entertainment. "Partners will focus on developing product lines that reinforce the core attributes of each property in order to capture the imagination of kids in a way in which they are accustomed to with other Marvel Properties."

New Line Cinema

While New Line is going through some big changes this year, undergoing a transition from a mini-studio to a production arm of its corporate parent, Warner Bros., New Line will still be handling its own licensing. That will manifest itself this year primarily in

Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D,

an adaptation of the classic Jules Verne story starring Brendan Fraser. As the title implies, the film will be showcased using 3-D technology when it's released on July 11.

According to David Imhoff, senior executive vice president, worldwide licensing and merchandising at New Line Cinema, "For


, we have THQ (Nintendo DS Game); Penguin Putnam (tie-in program of five books); Freeze (apparel); Inkworks (trading cards); Mead (calendars); and India Games (wireless games)." Additionally, New Line has a promotional partnership with Wendy's Restaurants for the film.

Paramount Pictures

It's an event that happens less often than the Olympics—a film featuring a new comedic Mike Myers character. It's happening this year with

The Love Guru

, starring Myers as an American raised by gurus who becomes a self-help specialist. Licensing partners include Aquarius (posters, calendars, and playing cards); Disguise Inc. (costumes [left] and dress-up accessories); Changes (apparel and novelties); and Hot Properties Merchandising (magnets, buttons, keychains, and more).

Twentieth Century Fox

Apes and dogs bookend Fox's year. First up on May 2 is

Space Chimps

which, in a blatant case of truth in advertising, is a comedic CGI-animated film about chimps sent into space. Programs for the film include video games on the Wii, PS2, Nintendo DS, and PC from Brash Entertainment, as well as a publishing program from Penguin Group; novelty books from Publications International; and talking plush from Nanco.

Next on Oct. 10 comes family fantasy film

City of Ember

, which will also have video games from Brash Entertainment. Fox also has "other soft lines and social expressions in discussion for the DVD window and beyond," according to Michael Peikoff, senior vice president, Fox Licensing and Merchandising.

Finally, Fox closes out the year with the film adaptation of the mega-hit dog memoir

Marley & Me

, releasing on Christmas Day. According to Peikoff, Fox Licensing is "currently in discussion for a comprehensive [line of] dog care, toys, grooming, etc."

Universal Studios

According to Debbie Luner, vice president of global marketing and brand management for Universal Studios Consumer Products Group, "We have a fantastic slate of films lined up for 2008, with licensing opportunities ranging from mass-market programs to more specialty and collectible programs." Hitting first on July 11 is

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

, based on the Dark Horse comic and directed by Guillermo del Toro of



. Licensees include Mezco for action figures, Gentle Giant and Sideshow Collectibles for high-end collectibles, NECA for apparel and posters, and Dark Horse itself doing a novelization of the screenplay, an "art of" book, and a "monsters of" book.

Next on Aug. 1 is

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,

the third outing for Brendan Fraser's mummy-battling adventurer. Sideshow Collectibles will be producing prop replicas and figures, and there will be a variety of publishing partners—comic books from IDW, an adult novelization from Penguin-Putnam, and a making-of book from Newmarket Press.

Universal's big holiday release is the CGI-animated fable

The Tale of Despereaux

, about a mouse (right) whose sense of chivalry sends him on a quest to rescue a princess. "The program is anchored by master toy partner iToys, which is developing plush and electronic games," says Luner. "In addition, Candlewick Press, the publisher of the original children's book, is developing eight SKUs tied to the movie, ranging from a deluxe movie storybook to coloring and activity books. Publications International will develop electronic soundbook formats in support of the film."

Walt Disney Pictures

Disney is set for a huge year with four tentpole-releases-the most of any company in 2008. First up on May 16 is

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

, the more action-packed follow-up to the hit fantasy film

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

New toy partner Play Along (a Jakks Pacific company) is on board with a wide array of boy-targeted action figures and accessories, and Disney Interactive Studios is self-publishing a video game for all major systems, with game development by celebrated studio Traveler's Tales (

Lego Star Wars


Next comes


, the latest CGI release from Pixar Studios about a lovable trash-collecting robot in the future. "We have a great product line-up that plays up key elements of the film," says Nidia Tatalovich, senior manager of corporate communications for Walt Disney. Thinkway will be producing toys, including "ultimate" WALL-E and Crocs will have shoes that leave behind prints that look like WALL-E's tread marks. Jay Franco and Sons Inc. will be producing bed, bath, and beach products, and Delta Children's Products has a line of furniture.

October 24 brings

High School Musical 3: Senior Year,

the first theatrical installment of the mega-popular tween saga. "We have a broad assortment of merchandise inspired by the storylines in this third installment," says Tatalovich. HSM's armada of licensees will be ready with new product for the big screen bow, including a line of singing dolls from toy partner Mattel.


, the story of a superhero TV star dog who believes he really has superpowers until he's forced to make it in the real world, is the year's animated release from Disney proper. It hits theaters on Nov. 26. At press time, Disney was still talking to potential licensees.

Warner Bros. Pictures

"Warner Bros. Consumer Products is looking forward to a stellar year as we support several strong brands, projects, and event films," says Karen McTier, executive vice president of domestic licensing and worldwide marketing for Warner Bros. Consumer Products. First up on May 9 is

Speed Racer

, the live-action adaptation of the classic anime and the first film directed by the Wachowskis since the



"Mattel, our master toy licensee, is supporting

Speed Racer

across its toy category more than ever before with Hot Wheels, Radica, Tyco, action-play sets, games, puzzles, and even Barbie," says McTier. There will also be construction sets from Lego (above), Halloween costumes from Rubie's, backpacks from Accessory Network, footwear from ACI, swimwear from Issac Morris, and T-shirts from Giant and Freeze. Additionally, high-end apparel licensee Soul Industries will feature T-shirts, woven shirts, and cargo shorts.

Batman returns on July 18 in the United States in

The Dark Knight

, the follow-up to

Batman Begins

. Like

Speed Racer


The Dark Knight

will have product lines from Mattel, Lego, and Rubie's, but will also have high-end collectibles from DC Direct and Kotobukiya. Apparel licensees include backpacks by Fast Forward, footwear from ACI, swimwear from C-Life, sleepwear from AME, and T-shirts from Giant and Isaac Morris. "Berkshire has created an amazing line of Dark Knight accessories including headwear, umbrellas and socks," says McTier. "Additionally, high-end licensees Salvage and Lot 29 have produced distinct T-shirt designs for both boys and men."

Warner's big summer extends into the fall with the Nov. 21 release of

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

. "New and exciting licensees include Hasbro's Harry Potter Clue game, Jibbitz Charms, and Build-a-Bag and Collector Boards," according to McTier. Returning licensees include Mattel for the Scene It? Harry Potter game, NECA for action figures, Noble Collection for prop replicas, Gentle Giant for high-end collectibles, and San Francisco Music Box.

"Hot Topic has been our key retail partner on the last three films and will continue to feature a large scale in-store promotion as part of its exclusive deal targeting our core audience," says McTier. FAO Schwarz will continue to operate a Harry Potter shop in their flagship New York store.

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