Fox looks for merchandising bonanza from Avatar

MUMBAI: Twentieth Century Fox is banking on Avatar to drive its biggest US product licensing push in years, starting with toy figures and expanding to items from home decor to party goods.

Fox has used its Avatar licensing deals, including one with Mattel Inc for toys, as a way to recoup on what is one of the most expensive films in history, costing at least USD237 million to produce, analysts said.

Fox and its partner companies could turn Avatar into a major merchandising franchise, and perhaps even enter the same universe as the $18 billion retail phenomenon Star Wars, the movie franchise that has long been an inspiration for Avatar director James Cameron.

Fox sees Pandora, the extra-terrestrial globe where Avatar is set, as a rich fictional world that can be mined for retail products.

"In the US market, this is the largest launch that we have had probably in recent memory — if ever," said  Fox Licensing executive vice president Robert Marick.

Since October, Mattel has been selling Avatar figures with an i-TAG that can be held near a computer’s webcam. The computer scans the tag and launches an image of the character moving on-screen, or even fighting with another character.

Last month, News Corp’s HarperCollins published several books on the film, including Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora. JEM Sportswear and Awake Inc launched T-shirts, sweatshirts and fashion tops.

This month, videogame maker Ubisoft released James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game. Fox hopes to one day launch home products such as, bedding, as well as costumes, party goods, toy building sets and other products, Marick said.

Still, some analysts wonder if the strange-looking characters of Avatar will connect with children.

Mattel general manager Mattel’s girls, boys and games division Tim Kilpin , acknowledged that because the movie is new "there’s going to be some ramp-up to awareness."

"We think before too much longer, a lot of people will know these (‘Avatar’) stories and these characters," he said.