February 27, 2001

Licensing Wizardry
Lauren Kellachan

Excitement surrounds The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of three films based on J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings fantasy book series. New Line Cinema has been filming the three movies simultaneously in New Zealand with a star-studded cast and, reportedly, out of this world special effects. Translated into 40 languages over the past 50 years, Tolkien's tale of Middle Earth will reach even more people in movie form, says Kathryn Maciel, Toy Biz's vice president of marketing.

Toy Biz is manufacturing a line of action figures and accessories based on the film trilogy that will be in theatres every holiday season for the next three years. "Starting off with a built-in fan base of over 100 million people, the movies are going to renew interest and generate new fans," she explains.

Tolkien's universal story makes it appealing to a licensee, adds Sideshow Toy President Greg Anzalone, and the combination of the books and movie trilogy will keep the property in the public eye for at least the next four years. In a unique licensing and business partnership, Sideshow and the special effects group involved with the making of The Fellowship of the Ring, Weta Workshop, have developed Lord of the Rings collectible figures that authentically replicate the film's characters.

"We've found a way to bridge the expertise from both sides and meld the film with the product," says Anzalone, "which is a very interesting way for things to happen. If there is to be one property that rises above the fray, Lord of the Rings is the one."

Games Workshop, the U.K.-based company that has spent the last two decades building its own stable of brands, has signed on to create miniatures and a table-top wargame for all three films. Calling it the "one license that best fits Games Workshop," North American CEO John Stallard is excited about the project. "We've been heavily influenced by Tolkien's work," he said. A box game containing two armies and a straightforward rulebook aimed at a wider audience than the company's own Warhammer fantasy line, will kick off a 90-day phase release in early November. Paint sets and add-on blisters of assorted warriors will follow.

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