EVENTS & PROMOTIONS;DISNEY'S VIDEO BLAST;PROMO PALS JOIN STUDIO'S $200 MIL EFFORT BACKING NEW RELEASES

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Walt disney co. is preparing a $200 million marketing blitz for a flurry of video releases that begin hitting in midsummer, anchored by unprecedented support from the fast-food industry and such major marketers as Eastman Kodak Co. and General Mills.

The quality of the titles and the massive marketing support will make several of these releases entertainment events unto themselves. They include the second and final direct-to-video sequel to the 1992 film "Aladdin," hitting store shelves Aug. 15, and the home video debuts of Disney animated classics like "Oliver & Co." (AA, Sept. 25).

`TOY STORY' IN OCTOBER

The attack winds up with "Toy Story," which arrives in October and whose marketing budget could potentially equal Disney's entire summertime home video expenditures. Disney executives unabashedly promise that the "Toy Story" program, still being finalized, will set new standards for media strategy and in-store promotion for "event" releases.

The campaign follows an unprecedented cross-promotion with McDonald's Corp. centering on Disney's current "Masterpiece Collection" animated home video titles.

Disney's Buena Vista Home Video estimates such activity will generate $700 million in retail revenue from late summer to early fall, outpacing the rest of the industry by 30%. Disney generated $450 million in revenue during that same period last year.

TYPICALLY SLUGGISH PERIOD

The effort seeks to move product during a time that's traditionally sluggish for home video marketers, said Max Goldberg, Buena Vista's VP-promotions.

The fourth quarter is home video's lucrative season. But entertainment marketing experts say retailers are especially needy of that level of support this summer, which will be more challenging than usual.

"It will be a tougher sell because of the 1996 Summer Olympics and a very competitive field of movies that the studios will put into theaters this summer," said Michael Schau, executive editor of The Entertainment Marketing Letter.

Disney will help drive its rental business this summer by promoting 16 of its titles in a single sweepstakes promotion that offers $25,000 as one of its top prizes; promotional partners are being sought for that, as well.

HERE COMES `HUNCHBACK'

The home video marketing blitz should help amplify the Disney brand during this noisy summer. Moreover, Disney will unveil its 34th animated film, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," on June 21; its first summer 1996 video release, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame Topsy Turvy Sing Along," will arrive four days after the launch of the movie. The video will be supported with national TV spots, created in-house.

Of Disney's summertime-fall video releases, at least three will be supported with promotions from as-yet undisclosed fast-food restaurants: "Aladdin & the King of Thieves," "Oliver & Co." and "Toy Story." Buena Vista will execute six fast-food promotions in 1996, up from one last year.

"Fast-feeders are increasingly dependent on these kind of promotions because they have to have a new kind of toy, a new kind of `happy meal,' a new angle to hook kids," Mr. Schau contended. "Disney produces the safest, most marketable products you can find. Its video products are even safer, because they're all proven successes."

Mr. Goldberg said the fast-food deals he is cutting will fall outside the proposed Disney-McDonald's 10-year alliance, which is now being finalized. That pact is expected to take effect with the Thanksgiving launch of the live-action version of "101 Dalmatians."

KODAK'S ROLE

Kodak will promote its ties to "Oliver & Co." and "Toy Story" with TV advertising from J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, and a $5 cash-back coupon with video purchase. Kodak joins ConAgra's Kid Cuisine on "Oliver" and Eveready Battery Co.'s Energizer, General Mills and Gillette Co.'s Oral-B toothbrushes on "Toy Story." All will supply TV spots, $5 coupons and rebates.

Mr. Goldberg is finalizing a deal with a package-goods company for "Aladdin."

Buena Vista is also finishing up programs for "Back to School With Winnie the Pooh" (July 17) and "Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco" (July 31). Both will also get national TV ads and coupon offers for other Disney videos and merchandise.

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