Last week TrekMovie.com took a look back at the history of Star Trek film merchandising. We will now take a look forward at what we can expect with merchandising for the new JJ Abrams Star Trek movie. According to sources the film will have the biggest merchandising campaign since Star Trek The Motion Picture, which is befitting the film’s budget and mass market target. See below for what we know as of now.
Like with every other aspect of Star Trek, the merchandising plans are being kept secret. However, through sources much has been learned and a picture is beginning to take shape…so lets go item by item.
Toys…Playmates and more
Two weeks ago TrekMovie.com broke the news that Playmates, the big toy company that had the Trek license throughout Trek’s heydays of the 90s, is back. Subsequent reports are that that they are planning an extensive line of multiple sized figures, playsets and toys (phaser, communicator and maybe more). They will also have at least two ship toys, an Enterprise and an ‘alien ship.’ More details on these should come out of the New York ToyFair which opens this Sunday.
TrekMovie.com has also learned there is at least one other new toy company licensee, but we have not been able determine who. A guess (and this is purely a guess) would be either Lego or MegaBloks, both of whom do licensed lines (Lego has Star Wars and Indiana Jones, MegaBloks has Pirates). Another possibility would be some plush toys, which are very common for movie tie-ins and are good for younger kids. In addition, Corgi also has a license for the film, but it isn’t clear if that will extend to their small low-cost ship models or just be focused on their high-end Master Replicas line (more below). Again it is likely to learn more about Corgi and any other brands at ToyFair.
High-end reproductions from Master Replicas
As just mentioned, Corgi’s Master Replicas has a license. TrekMovie.com has been told they will producing at least an Enterprise and a phaser replica, but also some additional items as well. Hopefully more will be learned at ToyFair.
Books and Comics
As per usual there will be a novel adaptation for the film from Pocket Books. There has been some talk about a ‘Making of’/art book as well, but that one is less likely as are other tie-in books like a prequel (at least tied to the film’s release). There is no word currently on any children’s book tie-ins either. An audio version of the adaptation is also in question as Simon and Schuster Audio has been reducing the number of fiction audio books they do. There will likely be some kind of announcement on plans from Simon and Schuster in the upcoming months (likely naming the author for the adaptation).
IDW are currently readying plans for comic-book tie-ins for the film. The hopes are to do two series: an adaptation as well as a ‘prequel’ to the film. This would be how they handled the Transformers and other big film licenses. Plans for the comics (and the books) will depend on timing for releases (more on that below).
Video Game: No / Board Game: Yes
The current holder for the Star Trek video game license, Bethesda Softworks, has confirmed that they do not have the license for the video game. This has led to speculation as to who should get the license. However, TrekMovie.com has learned that no one has the license as of now and that there will be no video game for the new Star Trek movie. Apparently it was felt that in order to give the game the appropriate build time (14-18 months) they would have needed design assets in 2007 when they were not available. At this point the best chance would be for a game sometime between the release of the new movie and a possible sequel. If that is a case a good move would be to have the game ‘bridge the gap.’
Although there will not be a video game, TrekMovie.com has learned there will be a board game. It isn’t clear who will be making it or if it is directly tied to the film or Trek in general, but there is apparently a new licensee working on it now.
Cards and collectibles
Another traditional form of tie-in for movies are collectible cards and TrekMovie.com has confirmed that Rittenhouse, the current Trek card licensee, will also be doing cards for the movie. Another current licensee, Hallmark, are also expected to do some kind of Christmas ornament, but it isn’t clear if they will be able do one for this holiday season. At some point official 8x10s Pictures and Autographed pictures will be available (likely from Creation). Apparently there will be other collectible tie-ins as well, but no details are available now.
T-Shirt maker Junk Food has recently picked up the license for all Star Trek and this will include the new film. It is expected that there will also be the usual hats and other apparel for the film. It isn’t known if there will be children’s apparel items. There is currently no licensee for any official Star Trek costumes/uniforms and it doesn’t look like this will change in time for the new movie.
Fast Food: Yes / Other Food: Probably not
One area that is key to mass market merchandising is food. All big franchise tentpoles today do some form of food merchandising. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was actually the first licensed film Happy Meal tie-in, but since then Trek has never had the full treatment…until now. TrekMovie.com has learned that there are talks with one of the big two for a big Trek tie in. It is likely Burger King, but that has not been confirmed yet.
The fast food tie in is very good news, however (even though past Trek films have had tie-ins with Kraft, Kellogg’s and others), it looks like the new Trek film will not be showing up on your grocers shelves. Food merchandising is important for kid (and Mom) appeal and so hopefully something is done in this area.
A big part of modern movie marketing is product placement and tie-ins. The Bond franchise is especially famous for these. Of course with Star Trek, we are in the 23rd century and so Kirk popping a ice cold Coke probably would seem a bit out of place. However, TrekMovie.com has learned that there are talks for some kind of tie-in with a large cell phone maker (possibly Nokia). It may just be for promotion, but it could possibly take the form of a phone that has been reskinned to look like the new communicator (which reportedly resembles a black flip phone with a video screen inside and the Starfleet Logo emblazoned on the top). It is highly unlikely there will be any actual product placement within the film.
But wait…there’s more
The above list is only what has been gleaned so far. Obviously there will be a soundtrack and of course a later DVD release. Sources say there is more as well, but no details. So do not look at the above as comprehensive. It is common for other franchise films to do licensed school supplies (folders, backpacks, lunch boxes, etc), household goods (bedding, kitchen items, etc.) and electronic and electrical goods (branded TVs, piggy banks, CD players, clocks, lamps, etc). In the past Trek has dabbled in some of these areas and it would be a welcome extension of the license.
Timing is everything
Like with comedy, movie merchandising is all about timing. If you look at other big tentpoles like the Star Wars prequels, Superman, Batman, etc…almost all of the merchandising began weeks before the film’s opening. This means a month before these films were out you could have listened to the audiobook, pursued the art design book, eaten the cereal, etc, etc. However, with the new Star Trek movie there seems to have been a lot of reluctance to do early releases on merchandising…much of this due to concerns over spoilers. Lately it appears that there has been a loosening of these concerns. Apparently the decisions on timing will greatly effect the scope and scale of the merchandising in each area. The various licensees believe they can do much more if allowed to do it earlier.
TrekMovie.com feels that this is one area where the film makers may be taking the concerns for secrecy too far. If Star Trek is using other big recent franchise films as models for mainstream appeal, then one cannot ignore how these films were marketing and merchandised. All of those toys in Target, books at Barnes and Noble, etc. are like little movie posters all over mainstream retail. The products let the general public know the film is coming and also validate that it is a ‘big event.’ For example, in the case Star Wars Revenge of the Sith, the merchandising itself was an event, with all products (books, toys, apparel, etc) being released on the same day. The ‘Star Wars merchandise day’ was April 2nd 2005 and the film came out May 19th and went on to make $850 Million world-wide.
Lastly, the movie comes out on Christmas Day! You simply will not have the same impact in retail by putting things out there after Christmas.
And don’t’ forget the kids
One of the biggest challenges for the new Star Trek will be to appeal to the kids and teens. Most Trek fans today fell in love with Trek when they were young. Many of us can remember the toys and products from our youth, most of which are no longer available. The lack of a video game is not going to help in this area. There is much more than just action figures to kids and TrekMovie.com thinks that CBS and Paramount should do their best to appeal to this key group to create next generation of Trek fans. And while we are talking about targeting, don’t forget specialty items for girls and women who are supposed to be a key part of the planned ‘expansion’ of Trek’s new audience.
This is big
Timing issues aside, the feeling is that the merchandising for the new Star Trek film is going to be big. It will certainly be the biggest thing for Trek since TMP. The question now is, will it be able to achieve the heights of merchandising for other recent mega movies such as Transformers, Star Wars and Batman. TrekMovie.com has been hearing reports already from collectors who are already setting aside money in their 2008 family budgets for new Trek stuff. So start saving, because there is a lot of Trek coming.
Still taking shape
Bear in mind that CBS, Paramount, Bad Robot and the licensees are not talking on the record about merchandising yet. So very little above is ‘official,’ but is the best assessment we can come up with at this time. Look for some official news coming out of Toy Fair next week. TrekMovie.com has a correspondent at Toy Fair for that and will continue to report on happenings with movie merchandising over the next year.
UPDATE: Obviously the move to May 2009 makes profound changes to the plan and timing for merchandising and its marketing. For now we just do not know what.
Special thanks to TrekMovie.com Merchandising Editor John Tenuto who contributed to this article.