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Marvel expands franchises with four new series and CP programs


Emily Claire Afan

KidScreen Magazine

May 1, 2008

With Wolverine and The X-Men and Iron Man: Armored Adventures sold to Nicktoons and two more animated series (Super Hero Squad and Hulk: Gamma Corps) in the pipe for Q1 2009, Marvel Entertainment is working with a new strategy for hitting kids with TV fare between feature film releases. "It's a media vehicle that can not only bring kids into the fold earlier, but that can also help us generate awareness for some of the properties that sit outside the Spider-Man franchise," says Paul Gitter, the company's North American president of consumer products.

And it's not just the six to 11 boys demographic that's in Marvel's crosshairs. Comedy-action toon Super Hero Squad (pictured above) represents the company's first attempt at making content for the five- to eight-year-old set, and it's specifically designed to appeal to girls and parents as well. The series features shorter, kid-friendly versions of well-known characters from the Marvel universe, including Captain America and the Silver Surfer, and it's currently in pre-production, with Film Roman handling animation services.

As for its older-skewing fare, Marvel Animation president Eric Rollman says Wolverine and The X-Men won't stray far from the series that aired in the '90s, product for which brought in close to US$100 million at retail. Though details of the licensing and retail programs for the redo were still being hammered out at press time, Gitter expects product to start hitting shelves between spring and fall 2009.

Boys ages three to seven tend to be Marvel's consumer products sweet spot, and Gitter will be looking to fill categories across the board, with a particular focus on apparel, back-to-school, interactive and sporting goods. Footwear is already locked up through an exclusive deal with Reebok and Foot Locker/Kids Foot Locker that was announced last month. Marvel will also be working with its existing partners on expanding their current deals to cover the new entertainment vehicles in an effort to avoid setting up competing licenses and cannibalizing the classic and movie programs.

Product will roll out first in the US, then globally, in all tiers of retail - from dollar stores, to mass and even high-end boutiques. For these upscale accounts, Gitter envisions high-grade apparel with designs that may appeal to an older demographic, but not veering far from the original art. Both he and Rollman see the tech-driven Iron Man/Tony Stark conceit translating well not only to soft lines, apparel and footwear, but also to ELAs, video games and other interactive products. For Hulk, they picture a stronger role-play element that focuses on the green one's powerful characteristics.

Gitter expects the new series to put product in a better retail position as well. "Retailers are not jumping on animation and movies the way they used to, so (we're) able to go out and demonstrate to them that there's a real program in place that will not only play around the movie, but that will last outside the movie window." Promotional plans with packaged goods companies and a QSR were also being fine-tuned at press time.


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