Hot on the heels of the return of two blockbuster franchises, Jurassic World and Minions, The Bugg Report recently sat down with Marc Low, Senior Vice President, International Consumer Products at Universal Partnerships & Licensing to discuss all things in and around the upcoming film from Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment, The Secret Life of Pets.
Thank you for speaking with us Marc, we appreciate your time. As an introduction, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role at NBC Universal?
I recently joined Universal where I lead regional teams and a network of international agents to oversee the continued growth of our business in international markets. Before joining Universal, I was with The Walt Disney Company in various positions, most recently as Vice President & General Manager of EMEA for Fashion & Home Furnishings. Previously I held international marketing and merchandising roles with Nike, Gap and Russell Athletic.
Jurassic World and Minions have received huge coverage globally to date; to begin, can you give us some updates on these two high profile properties from Universal?
Jurassic World is the 3rd highest grossing film of all time worldwide with upwards of $1.6B at the global box office. Hasbro continues as our global master toy licensee – a partnership we’ve enjoyed since the first Jurassic Park film – and along with figures has introduced role play items for the first time. We’ve also partnered with The LEGO Group on the first-ever construction line for the Jurassic brand; they have created five sets, including Raptor Rampage which features a Minifigure of Chris Pratt’s character from the film, Owen. On the digital side of the business, we’ve partnered with TT Games to develop LEGO: Jurassic World, a multi-platform game that for the first-time ever allows players to experience all four Jurassic films in one game. And Ludia has introduced Jurassic World: The Game on mobile devices.
In Australia, the box office figure has reached USD$40M which ranks it as the 2nd highest grossing film for 2015, after Furious 7. The key categories of toys and apparel have exceeded expectations setting the brand up for further success in 2016. In addition, location based entertainment also has been a huge success.
Minions is the prequel to Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me global film franchise, and we’ve seen incredible excitement around the world for this brand. The film opened No. 1 in 56 territories and is now the 2nd highest grossing animated film of all time worldwide. The licensing program is anchored by our global master toy partner, Thinkway Toys; other global partners include Hasbro (for both games and Play-Doh products), Mega Brands (construction sets) and EA, who is developing Minions Paradise, an all-new mobile game that introduces an exclusive never-before-seen Minion named Phil and challenges players to help the Minions build, craft and design their ultimate tropical playground, including plenty of bananas.
In Australia, release of Minions has been one of the major pillar events at retail this year – across all our key retailers. In addition to the successful toy program, there are several partners who are playing a big role in catalyst areas; Caprice for key softlines, ZAK for melamine and hydration and Fonterra for chilled dairy snacks to name a few. In fact, all our licensing partners have enjoyed a very successful year with Minions and will be continuing to drive the brand at retail throughout 2016, in the lead up to Despicable Me 3 in 2017.
The Secret Life of Pets has been getting great attention across many platforms in the lead up to its release in July 8th, 2016. Can you give us a rundown on the idea behind this film and what we can expect?
The Secret Life of Pets, a comedy about the lives our pets lead after we leave for work or school each day, is the fifth fully-animated feature-film collaboration between Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures. Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri and his longtime collaborator Janet Healy will produce the film directed by Chris Renaud (Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2), co-directed by Yarrow Cheney and written by Brian Lynch, Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio.
Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet and Kevin Hart will star in The Secret Life of Pets as Max the terrier, Duke the mongrel and Snowball the rabbit respectively. From a casting point of view, what else can we expect from The Secret Life of Pets, given the already stellar line-up?
As you mentioned, comedy superstars Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet and Kevin Hart make their animated feature-film debuts in The Secret Life of Pets. The film will co-star Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Jenny Slate, Bobby Moynihan, Hannibal Buress and Albert Brooks.
Are you able to tell us when we can expect to see the first trailer for The Secret Life of Pets?
Our first trailer debuted globally online June 17 and then went up in theaters around the world with Minions.
I believe that the film will be directed by Chris Renaud; can you give us a background on Chris and other films he has worked on to date?
Chris Renaud directed Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2.
From a production point of view, Illumination Entertainment are producing the film. This is the same company that produced both Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 and have also produced Minions to be released later this year. Can you tell us more about this company and the benefits of working once again with a familiar company on The Secret Life of Pets?
As mentioned, this is the fifth fully – animated feature film collaboration between Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures. On each film, we’ve worked closely with the team at Illumination on everything from the selection of our partners, to product development, marketing and creative execution. Our partners appreciate the direct involvement of the filmmaking team – as an example of this collaborative approach, Illumination’s writers, directors, artists, and animators are working hand-in-hand with EA’s mobile development team on the Minions Paradise mobile game. We expect that Illumination will have this same level of involvement on the development of the Consumer Products line around The Secret Life of Pets.
From the images we have seen, the design and animation looks fantastic which is great for licensing. What will be the main categories that you will explore and is there a toy partner to date?
Innovative play leader Spin Master is our global master toy partner for The Secret Life of Pets. Spin Master has the rights to develop a wide variety of toys.
In addition to traditional plush and and figurines, Spin Master will develop interactive and motorised toys that bring the pets to life in unexpected ways. Just like the film’s characters, the toys for The Secret Life of Pets range from cute and cuddly to feisty and irreverent.
We anticipate a robust cross-category program in support of The Secret Life of Pets; additional partners will be announced soon.
Thanks again for your time, Marc. We look forward to speaking with you again in the coming months on all things Pets!
For licensing enquiries for Australia and New Zealand please contact WP Brands on +61 3 9274 2900 or email email@example.com
** Editors note: The scheduled release dates for The Secret Life of Pets will be June in the US and September in Australia.