STUDIOS OFFER BACK-TO-SCHOOL PRODUCTS

NEW YORK -- General- merchandise buyers can expect another onslaught of licensed entertainment and character properties from the major studios for back-to-school.The studios' consumer-products divisions, along with their licensing partners, were getting ready for a full-scale back-to-school invasion of retail outlets with grocery-appropriate products ranging from notebooks, pencil-toppers and book

NEW YORK -- General- merchandise buyers can expect another onslaught of licensed entertainment and character properties from the major studios for back-to-school.

The studios' consumer-products divisions, along with their licensing partners, were getting ready for a full-scale back-to-school invasion of retail outlets with grocery-appropriate products ranging from notebooks, pencil-toppers and book covers to greeting cards, T-shirts and Halloween costumes.

The troops were amassed here for the Licensing '98 International trade show, June 9 to 11, at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. The show's 1,200 exhibitors attracted approximately 15,000 attendees. It is sponsored by the Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association and produced by Expocon, coordinator of worldwide consumer and trade expositions and conferences.

To reflect the growth in its licensing programs, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Beverly Hills, Calif., has merged its entertainment and consumer-products divisions to reflect the synergy between the businesses. At the show, the studio was stepping up its merchandising efforts around "The Simpsons," which is celebrating the broadcast of its 200th episode.

In honor of the event, the company has created a new style sheet for the product line. Rather than advertising apparel or dishware with Bart Simpson's image splashed across it, Fox was promoting consumer goods of the sort that Bart himself might use or wear. The images of Bart and other members of the Simpson family are relatively small. Simpson-identified product for third and fourth quarters will include dishware, such as plates and mugs, as well as stationery and greeting cards.

Also planned for back-to-school is a revived Nestle Butterfinger campaign, which will spotlight two new animated commercials featuring Bart Simpson, and a TV Guide special promotional issue.

The Academy Award-winning film "Titanic" is bound to spawn back-to-school merchandise, especially with a Sept. 1 release from Hollywood-based Paramount Home Video. Fox Licensing and Merchandising retained the merchandising rights to the film. Paramount parent company Viacom, New York, will be partnering with licensees to produce grocery-appropriate product tie-ins.

Also, "Frasier" fans who attend the show will be able to purchase an assortment of Cafe Nervosa products, including a premium line of specialty coffees.

The television series "Clueless" will target young teens with such licensed products as a branded low-cost makeup line, telephones and an electronic diary.

Scholastic Entertainment, New York, announced a number of licensing partners for its "Animorphs," the company's children's publishing success. A series now in production will debut on Nickelodeon in the fall and on home video in 1999.

Columbia TriStar Home Video, Culver City, Calif., stepped up its efforts to become a force in children's programming by announcing its release of "Animorphs" on home video. Other licensing partners include Antioch Publishing, which will produce stationery; Berkshire Fashions, which will create hosiery and knit accessories; Hallmark, which owns the greeting-card and party-goods licenses; Kittrich, which will produce book covers; and Plymouth, Inc., which has the school-supplies license.

According to David Imhoff, executive vice president for worldwide licensing and merchandising at New Line, Los Angeles, the studio has decided to throw its merchandising weight behind "Austin Powers," following what Imhoff characterizes as the title's "incredible success as a video-rental property," and a sell-through release that moved 1.5 million units.

The studio is currently in production on a sequel and an animated television series, which will be written by Mike Myers. Products available for back-to-school will include gifts and novelties from Creation Entertainment, greeting cards from Kaboom! and magnets and clocks from Ata Boy.