Movie Article

Tie Me In, Buy Me Up

Summer movie toys and product spin-offs -- ''The Rocketeer,'' ''Bill and Ted,'' and ''Robin Hood'' are some of the properties you'll see hawked this year

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Tie Me In, Buy Me Up

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Hollywood in recent years has rolled out its biggest guns in the summer: heavy-duty action pictures, high-profile sequels, big stars, bigger budgets, and — natch — a barrage of promotional tie-ins. The Batman blitz two summers ago set records for speedy exploitation, and battles among merchandisers haven't been the same since. Consider some of the products tied to this season's vaunted Big Three — Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and The Rocketeer. Due at theaters June 14, Warner Bros.' Prince of Thieves — starring Oscar-winner Kevin Costner as the regal bandit — has given Ralston Purina leave to launch a ''wholesome'' fruit-flavored breakfast cereal in its honor. Youngsters will also be targeted with toys from Kenner — including action figures, a Sherwood Forest Playset, and leather and suede clothes suitable for jousting.

Although Tri-Star Pictures' Terminator 2 is expected to be rated R for its violence, the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle is also focusing its tie-ins on kids. Timed to its July 3 release is a ''T2 special'' at Subway shops, which will also sell ''Thirst Terminator'' soda cups. Toy and product spin-offs are even more startling. Hollywood's most infamous killer cyborg will soon be stalking through comic books, jigsaw puzzles, and a ''totally cool'' toy line that features the sequel's ''good'' and ''bad'' Terminators (Arnie's the ''good'' Terminator this time out). Those too sophisticated for the sandbox can wear a necktie with the cyborg's skeleton on it, or a sprinkle of Hero cologne from Prince Matchabelli — which paid for placement in the movie and has a splashy promotion planned for July.

The June 21 opening of Disney's Rocketeer, based on the cult comic about a dashing '30s-era aviator-crime fighter, will be bolstered by a massive tie-in with Pizza Hut that zeroes in on small fry. (Kids! Order the new pizza pack and get a Rocketeer glider and special cup in the shape of the Rocketeer's helmet! And don't forget the activity book!) And there's more. Rocketeer will tie in with M&M/Mars candies (there's a sweep stakes with a genuine leather aviator jacket as the big prize) and with the Disney Channel, as well as generate plenty of plugs at the theme parks.

With all this stuff, the mood in the toy industry is upbeat but cautious — especially after last summer's couldn't-give-it-away Dick Tracy debacle. But who's gonna win this summer's movie toy war? Tony Gervino, editor of Toy & Hobby World, picks Robin Hood. The reason: Kids everywhere know Robin Hood — and Kevin Costner. (By comparison, kids didn't know Dick Tracy or Warren Beatty.) But for the toys to do solid business, the movie has to sell tickets. A doll based on a movie no one has seen is in trouble.

According to Gervino, the jury is still out on both Rocketeer and Terminator 2 gear. The latter could have tough going because the toy biz is in an antiviolence mode. As Gervino notes, the latest G.I. Joes are Eco-Warriors on the lookout for people who won't recycle.

As for a bodacious dark horse in the merchandising sweepstakes, how about Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey? Those who have seen the toy line — which includes historical action figures and the all-important time-travel vehicles — deem it ''totally excellent.'' Also set for the Orion Pictures entry: a Nintendo game, cereal, and a tie-in with Butterfinger candy. Not to mention the air-guitar contest (finals take place on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., where MTV will have its cameras). Talk about, like, instant fame.

Meanwhile, licensees are already lining up for what is expected to be summer '92's boffo entry: Batman 2. The original did an estimated $500 million retail in merchandise tie-ins. Talk about, like, instant bucks.

Originally posted May 31, 1991 Published in issue #68 May 31, 1991 Order article reprints