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"Anastasia," the first movie to be created and released from Fox Animation Studios, was a cultivated success, says Steve Ross, 38, exec VP and general manager-Twentieth Century Fox Licensing and Merchandising.

Mr. Ross, who was senior VP-worldwide promotions and product placement prior to the release of "Anastasia," was responsible for the film's promotions.

As early as June 1995, Mr. Ross was meeting with potential third-party licensing promotion partners; a fast-food restaurant, toy licensor and a master publishing program were the key categories.

"Two-and-a-half years before release, we made presentations to McDonald's and Burger King. We wanted to lock in our fast-food partner to give credibility to the film," says Mr. Ross, who acknowledges that Fox Animation had to overcome "a spotty history with animation.

"Nobody had been able to mount successful competition to Disney for all-family animation," he says. "I don't want to say companies were skeptical -- but we had to work much harder to get them on board."

Mr. Ross says the turning point came when Burger King became a partner. Then came Dole Food Co., Hershey Foods Corp., Galoob, Harper Collins and Golden Books.

"We were Burger King's first animated tie-in, post-Disney. Coming out of the box, it enabled us to make a statement about the movie," Mr. Ross says.

Key to the effort, says Mr. Ross, was the working relationship between his department and the theatrical marketing group.

"I realize so much of what I do when I sell-in to associate with Fox is to sell-in unparalleled marketing expertise of these films. We showed [partners] our plans and strategy and got them in sync," says Mr. Ross.

"When I was out selling the power of Fox and talking about `Why take a chance on Fox?', we were able to show the impressive global nature of News Corp," he adds.

"In this extraordinarily cluttered entertainment environment we are facing, there are so many pictures released every weekend. There is very little time to carve a niche for a film. These third-party tie-ins go a long way to cutting clutter and help penetrate the culture and create a mind-set that sets the tone for awareness.

"At Fox, we view them as an essential part of the strategy."

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