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Buena Vista Gives <I>Bionicle</I> the Premiere Treatment

15 Sep, 2003 By: Stephanie Prange

A pioneer in the animated direct-to-video marketplace, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, with a trademark gala at Legoland in Carlsbad, Calif., last weekend, launched Miramax's DTV Bionicle: Mask of Light, and this first 3-D, CGI-animated film based on the popular Lego action features looks to be a winner with kids.

For most adults, however, Bionicle is likely as mystifying as Pok?mon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Transformers, Power Rangers or any of the other rages among the young set. But my 5-year-old can recount the whole movie and has been toting around the action figures instead of her Barbies. This weekend, kids in my neighborhood alternated between shuffling through Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and playing Bionicles. Talk about a generation gap! I didn't understand anything that was going on.

Like Artisan's deft handling of the Barbie movies, which dovetail nicely with Mattel's toys (I'll never forget searching stores for scarce Rapunzel toys last Christmas, and I'll no doubt be combing shelves for Barbie in Swan Lake this holiday season), Buena Vista seems to have struck a marketing chord with its Bionicle series. A second movie is already in production and is scheduled for release in September 2004.

But what's really impressive about both of theses toy-video franchises is the quality of the video product. The CGI animation is truly breathtaking, showing a commitment to the franchise, rather than slipshod cross-marketing. Buena Vista/Miramax's marriage with Lego -- like Artisan's with Barbie -- looks to be a profitable one that will be nurtured with care on video.

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