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'LION' IS NEW KING OF LICENSING JUNGLE FROM BOX OFFICE TO BURGERS, MOVIE IS A HIT

By Published on .

"The Lion King" is so big it's even rattling Bedrock.

Walt Disney Co.'s animated film is a box office smash, and so are its accompanying promotions and merchandising tie-ins. The frenzy is so intense it's even casting a shadow over other summer licensing extravaganzas, including Universal Pictures' "The Flintstones."

While the Stone Age era film was a decided success at the box office when it passed the $100 million mark June 24, sales of "Flintstones" licensed merchandise won't break any records.

And while Burger King Corp. scrambles to keep up with demand for "Lion King" premiums, McDonald's Corp. was never in danger of running out of "Flintstones" toys sold with Happy Meals.

In contrast, virtually all licensees with tie-ins to "The Lion King" hit the jackpot. The film scored the third highest-grossing opening weekend ever for a film with $42 million in box office revenue after its June 24 opening.

The "Lion King" phenomenon is due to the unusually strong crossover appeal of the romantic adventure to kids and adults, and both genders. Most telling is the fact that many kids-and some adults-are already going back for repeat viewings.

"It's spectacular. Kids are trying to go back to see `Lion King' again and again, which is the true measure of a promotional and licensing smash success. On the other hand, nobody's clamoring to see `The Flintstones' over and over," said C. Woody Browne, president of the licensing consultancy Building Q, Cherry Hill, N.J.

"The Lion King" is expected to top the $1 billion mark this year in total merchandise sales, on a par with last year's hit "Jurassic Park," said Ira Mayer, publisher of The Licensing Letter. He declared the film "an instant classic."

Toys "R" Us last week was forced to constantly restock "Lion King" merchandise at all outlets, where action figures and plush toys from Mattel flew off shelves. Other retailers also experienced unprecedented demand for related items.

Through its strategic partnership with Disney, Mattel is supporting the toys with three 30-second spot TV commercials created by Ogilvy & Mather, Los Angeles.

"We're getting a stronger initial response for `Lion King' merchandise than we remember for any other film," said Chuck Champlin, communications director for Disney Consumer Products, which is coordinating the licensing efforts.

Underscoring the film's broad appeal to both kids and adults, Disney said it's selling more apparel, jewelry and ties for adults tied to an animated film than ever before.

Payless ShoeSource, Topeka, Kan., registered "tremendous" sales last week with a "Lion King" promotion, its largest ever. The promotion is backed by a $3 million network and spot TV campaign from Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago.

Nestle Chocolate & Confections is also doing booming business with its short-term offer of "Lion King" milk chocolate bars, each molded to reflect one of five scenes from the film. A 30-second TV spot from Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor, Glendale, Calif., broke June 27 and will air on Saturday morning network children's programming.

Christy Fisher contributed to this story.

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