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Animation Explosion

23 Sep, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf


There's a veritable herd of animated woodland creatures, scared kids, loveable vehicles and prehistoric mammals stampeding into the fourth quarter.

This year's crowd of animated titles are a high-profile bunch. Collectively, they brought in 66.5% more revenue than last year's batch.

This year's animated slate also covers a broader reach of studios than in the past. In a growing trend, no one distributor has the release cornered.

“I think it's been good for family entertainment in general,” said Lori MacPherson, GM, North America for Buena Vista Home Entertainment. “It's always good when you have competition, it aises the bar and pushes you. It's raised the quality of the category and brought more people in.” Rather than cutting back, or cutting certain products out, family buyers often gobble up more when more is offered.

“When there are a lot of good family films, especially in the fourth quarter because of gift-giving opportunities, I think consumers expand their pocketbooks,” MacPherson said. “Then after the holidays, we get into gift-card redemption season.”

It's crowded for animation this year, sure, but the fourth quarter is always crowded, said Kelly Sooter, EVP and GM of the family category at Paramount Home Entertainment, which distributes DreamWorks Animation titles.

“You're going to see some rise more than others, but I think they are fairly well spread out,” she said.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment's The Wild kicked off the fourth quarter's animation lineup Sept. 12 and immediately landed in the No. 1 DVD sales spot.

“[Animated] titles definitely have legs because I think they have such broad appeal for families,” MacPherson said. A title like The Wild, which started out strong, will still be a good seller in December, she said.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Oct. 24 is releasing the scary-themed motion-capture CG-animated Monster House, making sure it was strategically available for Halloween.

Animated titles stick around on shelves, said Suzanne White, VP of marketing for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. And Monster House is dual-targeted to the older kids crowd and their parents, which are often left out of the animation loop, she said.

“We're seeing a growing trend of these family titles doing so well,” she said. “There is a market that constantly wants to refresh their collection.”

This year boasts the largest number of CG-animated titles ever, said Bill Desowitz, editor of AWN.com (Animation World Network).

That made for a crowded summer theatrical slate too, he noted. Because of the protracted production schedules for these types of films, that's not likely to be duplicated next year, he said.

The style of animation alone does not spell success, he said. “Some of the novelty of [CGI] just being new to the marketplace has worn off, and it's going to be driven now by story and how the studios are going to captivate the audience,” he said. “They'll look at what works, what doesn't and probably come up with release patterns that are more beneficial so they don't end up cannibalizing themselves.”

Working with animated titles comes with built-in resources to create rich experiences around the films and characters, Sooter said.

That's great for creating extra DVD content such as interactive games and activities and such, she said. Those extras are still very important to the family buyer, because they offer more value, she said.

Another challenge is marketing when there's a glut of titles, Sooter said. “You're going to see a lot of very big, loud campaigns in the fourth quarter as well as the theatrical holiday campaign,” she said. “Trying to get people's attention is going to be a challenge.” You won't see the same barrage from DreamWorks that accompanied the original Shrek, she said.

But there will be plenty of visibility tailored around animated releases as shoppers hit stores.

Over the Hedge has several promotional partners including Hostess, Sunkist and Chuck E. Cheese.

Monster House is paired with Ritz Bitz Sandwiches, packages of which come with dollars-off coupons for the DVD.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment's Curious George DVD arrives Sept. 26 with promotional muscle from several brands — Dole Food Co., French's Potato Sticks, Langers Juice, Little Debbie, Carvel, Cold-EEZE and Parenting Magazine.

And, there are more than just new animated hits expected. Buena Vista Home Entertainment's catalog classic The Little Mermaid arrives at long last on a two-disc DVD Oct. 3.

“I think Ariel is going to fit into the market the same way that Cinderella did last year,” MacPherson said.

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