News Article

SOLID AS A ROCK?

A NOT-SO-STONE-AGE MARKETING BLITZ MAY MEAN BAM-BAM BOX OFFICE FOR 'THE FLINTSTONES

Take a dinosaur, Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, and the marketing muscle of Universal Pictures, and what do you get? Though it sounds like the sequel to Jurassic Park, the wannabe hit this time around is The Flintstones, and Universal is leaving no rock unrolled in trying to make it the movie event of 1994. Starring John Goodman and Elizabeth Perkins, The Flintstones isn't due until May 27, but the studio's marketing campaign kicks off this week at the annual Toy Fair convention in New York City. ''They've come out with guns blazing, checkbooks in hand,'' says movie analyst Martin Grove of the promotional juggernaut, which will exceed the record-breaking $65 million spent on Jurassic Park. Nearly 100 Flintstone licensees will churn out close to 1,000 products for babies, boomers, and beyond. ''There's no telling how big this will be,'' adds Mattel's Mark DiCamillo, who thinks The Flintstones' potential exceeds Jurassic's. ''This is a totally family-oriented movie and appeals to both boys and girls, whereas Jurassic Park appealed more to boys and was rated PG-13.'' The deluge includes: *Such Mattel toys as a Fred doll that bellows ''Wilma!'' in Goodman's voice and cuddly purple dinosaurs, which will be unveiled at Toy Fair. *Flintstones T-shirts and blankets as well as upscale jackets, ties, socks, and other apparel to be sold in department stores. *A $100 laserdisc special edition from Hanna-Barbera that includes long-lost footage of opening sequences that preceded the 1960-66 ABC series. *Video games from Sega, Nintendo, and 3DO, as well as a pinball machine from Williams Electronics Games that is highlighted by an elaborate re-creation of Bedrock. *Flintstonian fast food offered at the 9,000 McDonald's in the U.S. and half of the 14,000 restaurants overseas. Called RocDonald's in the movie, McDonald's is making The Flintstones its first international entertainment tie-in. *A slew of other product placements that will likely draw publicity for the movie: Nieman Rockus, Liz Claibone, Baccarock Crystal, and Sports Excavated magazine. But no measure of clever marketing will lift The Flintstones to Jurassic box office heights (nearly $900 million worldwide) unless the movie is entertaining. So, is it? Following a tortured eight-year development and the contribution of 35 writers to the script, the only word so far is that The Flintstones is true to the original. ''We analyzed what America loved about the show,'' says producer Bruce Cohen, ''and we figured we needed to be pun-heavy.'' Among the in-jokes are references to exec producer ''Steven Spielrock.'' Yet translating TV fare onto the big screen is a tricky business. The new tale could have more in common with The Beverly Hillbillies than with The Addams Family. ''The inherent danger,'' says Grove, ''is that people's affection for the original is such that they can't accept it in another form.'' Rival studios aren't banking on that risk. Apparently afraid of knocking heads with the Stone Age family, other studios have been rescheduling the openings of their family-oriented films. Columbia, for example, pushed City Slickers II back to June 10 to avoid overcrowding. ''I don't know if the studios said that was their reason in moving the films,'' reports Amblin's marketing consultant Marvin Levy, ''but the bottom line is, we're free and clear.'' Now the only question is, can they deliver the goods?

Originally posted Feb 18, 1994 Published in issue #210-211 Feb 18, 1994 Order article reprints