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Francis says Lassie retains a strong brand appeal globally, in part because the original series continues to run in syndication in countries around the world.

"She's the original superhero and stands for the great qualities of loyalty and trust and is a uniquely American icon," Francis said. "Lassie is a property that is at the top of our list, and we're actively developing the Lassie brand to ensure that new audiences are in love with that property."

Although some analysts are skeptical that DreamWorks can teach an old dog new tricks, Katzenberg points to the success Marvel Studios has had in reviving comic book characters such as Thor, Captain America and the other "Avengers."

There is no Lassie TV series or movie in the works just yet — though DreamWorks is developing a "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" film set for release next year. Instead, the studio is developing a multimedia marketing plan to reintroduce the dog.

Lassie will make appearances at such events as dog shows, charity events, children's TV shows, as well as do promotions through social media, Francis said. Lassie already has her own Facebook page.

DreamWorks may also introduce a new line of Lassie-branded pet food, toys and accessories, which also could generate additional licensing revenue for the studio, he said.

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Although DreamWorks and Disney have built successful franchises around new characters, there's also a benefit to working with popular characters that have a proven track record, said Ira Kalb, professor of marketing at the USC Marshall School of Business. "It's a very powerful brand,'' he said. "This dog has a reputation of rescuing people and saving the day, and when you get right down to it, most people like a happy ending."

Jon Provost, who was 7 when he joined the "Lassie" cast as Timmy in 1957, played an older version of Timmy in yet another TV series, called "The New Lassie," that ran for two seasons before it was canceled in 1992.

Provost would like to see Lassie make another comeback. He still does promotions for the original series and signed autographs Saturday at the Hollywood Show at the Westin Los Angeles Airport. He was joined by other celebrities, including June Lockhart, who played his mother in the original TV series, along with a collie.

"A lot of the younger generation has never seen Lassie, so I think it's great to reintroduce it, as long as they keep the tone of the show the way it was originally," Provost said. "Timmy always learned something. He didn't talk back to his parents. It's not like the shows today."

richard.verrier@latimes.com