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A 'Curious' promo strategy for monkey cartoon

By Gail Schiller
Reuters, February 8, 2006

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - In a rare move for an animated film, Universal Pictures' "Curious George" has integrated Volkswagen, Dole bananas and the U.S. Postal Service into the movie, which opens Friday.

While many animated movies depict fantastical worlds that don't usually lend themselves to real-world product placements, "Curious George," with its realistic city setting, was an ideal film for product placement, said Stephanie Sperber, executive vp partnerships at Universal Studios.

"It really is hard to do placements in animated movies," Sperber said. "But the way 'Curious George' was written provided a few key scenes that were appropriate for Volkswagen and Dole. 'Curious George' is not a fantasy with a capital 'F.' It takes place close to the real world, so it does lend itself to product placement more than most animated movies."

The two- to three-year lead time usually needed for animated films frequently hinders advertisers from partnering with animated fare because their marketing plans and even their products could change by the time the movie comes out. Release dates also tend to shift more with animated fare than with live-action movies, creating yet another obstacle for brands that need to time their marketing plans to a movie's opening.

Advertisers also need to be willing to allow their products to be shaped and styled to fit the animated style of a particular movie. Sperber said the fact that "Curious George" is such a well-known and beloved property made it easier for advertisers to tie into the movie so far in advance.

In "Curious George," the Man in the Yellow Hat drives a Volkswagen Touareg based on a real-world design of a Touareg concept vehicle. "We took the Touareg and adapted that car design to suit the needs of the film," Sperber said, noting that the filmmakers needed a pickup truck-type vehicle that could carry George and his so-called magnificator device.

Volkswagen is not promoting "Curious George" but might partner with the movie's DVD release, Sperber said.

For its part, Dole, which is promoting the movie with "Curious George" stickers placed on 100 million bananas in grocery stores nationwide, has its logo depicted on numerous fruit and vegetable crates during two scenes.

A U.S. Postal Service mailman and mailbox also are depicted in the movie. The USPS licensed "Curious George" for its Favorite Children's Book Animals commemorative postage stamp pane but is not a promotional partner for the movie.


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