GM TOONS IN WARNER BROS. FOR LOONEY TUNES MINIVAN: CHEVY DEAL WAS FIRST PRESENTED TO WALT DISNEY

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General Motors Corp. is in talks with Warner Bros. about licensing Looney Tunes characters for a limited-edition Chevrolet Venture minivan, said executives close to the deal.

GM first took the plan to Walt Disney Co., with which it has an ongoing relationship for its theme parks, but those talks fell apart due to disagreements over costs, the executives said. They said that has caused a rift between GM and Disney.

A Chevrolet spokesman, when asked about the Venture minivan deal with Warner Bros., said "there's nothing in cement; there's nothing to announce. There is no deal."

GM DENIES DISNEY RIFT

Warner Bros. and Disney declined comment by press time. A GM spokeswoman denied its ties to Disney are on the rocks.

"Our relationship with Disney is strong," the spokeswoman said, but declined comment about the limited-edition minivan.

In March, GM breaks a corporate TV spot on broadcast and cable TV tied to the GM Test Track ride opening that month at Walt Disney World's Epcot Center.

N.W. Ayer & Partners, Detroit, produced the commercial back in 1997, when the ride and exhibit were originally due to open.

The Venture earlier was tied in with two animated Disney movies. In 1997, Chevy produced two of the minivans with likenesses of characters from Disney's "Hercules" and gave them away to moviegoers. The minivan also was a paid sponsor in a mall tour for Disney's "A Bug's Life" last year.

CONSOLIDATING PLACEMENT WORK

Separately, GM is in the midst of consolidating its movie and TV product placement work at one of three Hollywood-area companies that currently handle those efforts for various brands, executives close to the automaker said.

Earlier, vehicle brand managers worked with their division's Hollywood contact. But now Phil Guarascio, general manager, group VP-marketing and advertising for GM in North America, will oversee product placements and Interpublic Group of Cos.' General Motors Eventworks unit in Detroit will coordinate.

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