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Jordan and Bugs are new dream team


Pocahontas and John Smith. Batman and Robin. Bugs Bunny and . . . Michael Jordan?

The Air and The Bugs will be among the top licensed products next year when the superstar athlete and the superstar cartoon character team up in the November 1996 release of "Space Jam."

Get ready for the T-shirts, the mugs, the fast-food meals and anything else the industry can think of to capitalize on the event, said executives attending last week's Licensing Expo in New York.

"Warner Brothers, Bugs and Jordan -- that's a pretty good trio," said Murray Altschiller, director of the Licensing Expo.

"I'd bet on that one."

Other "hot" properties predicted for later this year or next include a remake of the Johnny Quest TV series, the Hercules TV series -- which is getting lots of attention -- and Disney's release next year of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

This summer, of course, it's Pocahontas, Batman, Casper and Power Rangers, whose movie will be released Friday.

But already rumblings are that by next summer, Power Rangers could go the way of that purple dinosaur that was all the rage just two years ago. This summer's movie likely will keep the line fresh for a while, said Karen Raugust, executive editor of The Licensing Letter, a newsletter in Brooklyn.

"We think probably last year was its big year," commented Ms. Raugust.

But while the media constantly searches out the "hot" properties, it tends to overlook the tried-and-true properties in the business, said Seth Siegel, co-chairman of The Beanstalk Group, licensing agents based in New York.

"Harley Davidson probably generates more revenue than anyone on this floor," said Mr. Siegel of his client. "So it's not what's hot by any means."

Some 10,000 attendees turned out at the show where 2,000 different properties were on exhibit. The products ranged from big-budget movies from the Hollywood studios such as MCA/Universal's "Dragonheart" -- which is saying it will do for dragons what "Jurassic Park" did for dinosaurs -- all the way to such TV shows as "Wishbone," a public-TV show about a little dog with a big imagination.

While the film properties and TV shows get all the hype, one of the fastest growing segments of the $102 billion licensing industry is corporate brand extensions, said Mr. Altschiller of the Licensing Expo.

"Corporations like it for the consumer exposure," said Mr. Altschiller.

And getting a buzz now doesn't mean the property will sell. Last year, you couldn't turn a corner at the licensing show without hearing some hype on The Pagemaster. It failed to live up to expectations, although it got a slew of licensing deals.

But, "It's only hot when it's bought off the shelf," said Mr. Altschiller. "If it dies on the shelf, it ain't hot."

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