Competition will be especially fierce this fall, with Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.'s first animated musical, "Anastasia," and Paramount Pictures' "Fairy Tale: A True Story," a live-action film from the producers of "Forrest Gump."
Both will have to contend with Walt Disney Co.'s re-release of "The Little Mermaid," which marked the renaissance of Disney's animation business but predated the maturity of its vaunted marketing machine.
"Mermaid" was a tough sell to licensees during its initial run in 1989, but Disney and licensees are banking there's more to squeeze out of the brand by relaunching it with new package designs and products.
"I think there's room for both, but I think `Anastasia' has an advantage as a licensed property because it's new," said Pat Wyatt, president, Twentieth Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising.
"Anastasia" licen-sees include Galoob Toys and HarperCollins, which has a multi-title publishing effort on tap.
Disney won't be touting "Mermaid" at the Licensing Show in New York next week, as it usually declines to formally exhibit there. But Fox, Viacom Consumer Products and others will be there with their girl-skewing properties.
The dilemma in gaining licensing business, said Debbi Petrasek, VP-strategic property development at the Viacom unit: "Girls will watch boys' programming, but usually not vice versa. So if you skew female you cut out half your consumers."
"Anastasia," "Fairy Tale" and "Mermaid" will be marketed to a mass audience, but their merchandising will skew female. And while there's a market for those properties, their shelf life is often short and the trend these days is to build franchises that will keep on giving.
`FAIRY TALE' GOAL
Viacom hopes "Fairy Tale" can spawn an enduring licensing program, however.
Like Universal Studios' attempt via "Jurassic Park" to own and brand dinosaurs, an established play pattern with boys, Viacom hopes it can do the same with fairies, a popular motif among girls. But instead of exploiting the name "Fairy Tale," Viacom has created a different brand name for its products: Fairies of Cottingley Glen.
"It's a brand that can outlive a single movie and creates a distinct world that can produce future line extensions," Ms. Petrasek said.
Licensees on "Fairy Tale" include Playmates Toys, Gib-son Greeting Cards and Random House.
Like the toy licensees on "Anastasia" and "Mermaid," Playmates will support with TV advertising via Sachs Group, Los Angeles. But "Fairy Tale" lacks promotion sup-port, whereas "Anas-tasia" has Burger King Corp. and "Mermaid" has McDonald's Corp. on their sides. Unlike Viacom's "Fairy' plans, Fox has no franchise goals for "Anastasia." But both boast a modest number of quality licensees.
VIACOM'S `CLUELESS' ON TV
Viacom also will chase girls with a TV-inspired property this fall.
The marketer has faith that "Clueless" can become a hip fashion brand among junior-high girls. The show has been picked up by the UPN network after being canceled by ABC. Viacom is working closely with sister UPN in crafting promotions for the show that involve licensees.