Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  This week, Bennett muses on last week's Licensing Expo.
I must confess I wish I could have attended last week's Licensing Expo, the trade show of the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association.  I know that it's not as "sexy" as Comic-Con or Toy Fair, but whether we like it or not licensing is the relentless economic engine that helps drive our industry as well as being an inescapable part of modern life.  Like last Sunday, while running errands with a friend I found examples of it in the least likely of places.  I found X-Men: Days of Future Past Flipz Chocolate-Coated Pretzels in a crafts store and official  Star Wars Yoda Dog Headbands and Princess Leia Cat Headpieces (which smacks of speciesism; I mean, why can't a dog dream of being Princess Leia instead of Yoda?) while searching for the "right" brand of kitty litter.
Not to mention the fact that the Expo's 400 booths exhibiting 5,000 brands would provide me almost endless opportunities to acquire bags of swag and hobnob with entertainment industry insiders.  And while I couldn't care less about any of the upcoming big brand name movie blockbusters such as Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Terminator: Genesis, G.I. Joe 3, etc., (and Lord knows I've tried), as always I want to see what the next hot new property will be.  So it's unfortunate the unofficial theme of this year’s Expo seemed to be "Do You Remember...?"  I've no doubt missed a few, but among the characters set to soon make their return include ALVINNN!!! and the Chipmunks, Thunderbirds, Danger Mouse, Powerpuff Girls, Be Cool, Scooby Doo, Popeye, Zorro, Looney Tunes and Sailor Moon.
Not that there's anything inherently wrong with updating a character; as the World's Self Appointed #1 Astro Boy Fan I can find no fault in a new animated Astro Boy series (see "'Astro Boy' Gets New Treatment for TV") even if this one is a French co-production.  By the way that's not a gratuitous slam at the French, just a reflection of my feelings about most French television animation.  If nothing else it'll be a chance for me to stock up on more action figures and comics (IDW Publishing has the license).  Though admittedly it does seem kind of strange they just announced a completely unrelated preschool version of the property, set to debut in Nigeria, of all places, a couple of months ago (see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--OK, I Didn't See This Coming").  Or that it was only 2009 when the last revival attempt, an indifferent movie, tanked at the box office.
And being a big Felix the Cat fan I was admittedly well pleased when Jeffrey Katzenberg announced that DreamWorks had acquired the rights to the character (though there's a large portion of me certain he'll be colored a bright Bugs Bunny blue by the time focus groups get through with him).  That is until I read a piece titled "Dreamworks Launching High-Tech Experience, Reviving 'Felix the Cat'" by Alex Ben Block that appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.  According to Katzenberg, DreamHouse (which, apparently, is what they will actually be calling this) will be a "complete overhaul of the Santa experience, utilizing all of the high-tech gadgetry in our storytelling box.  Shoppers will be treated to a fully immersive story that will appeal to parents as well as kids.  It will be hosted by our characters and include a thrilling four-minute flight on Santa’s sleigh to visit the big buy in his home at the North Pole."
Being very often wrong I had to check the above text three times to make sure that it wasn't me turning "big guy" into "big buy," but no, that's the way the original text reads, which to me sure seems like the press release equivalent of a Freudian slip.  I know taking kids to visit Santa at the mall isn't some kind of sacred ritual; it's the very definition of a commercial enterprise and it can be problematic on all sorts of levels.  But ultimately it's an authentic experience and the only reason I can see to give it a "complete overhaul" and replace it with a wholly manufactured one is that it's an opportunity for someone to make an enormous amount of money.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, but just because you can doesn't mean you have to--except apparently when it comes to American style capitalism.  There's one more interesting quote from Katzenberg in the piece; "We need to engage customers in a world that’s constantly changing… change is hard.  It's not a warm embrace.  It's more like being doused with ice water."  Which is exactly how I feel after reading about DreamHouse…
* For all of the Millennials out there, Branded was a 1965 TV series starring Chuck Connors as a disgraced Cavalry officer who travelled the Old West searching for the evidence that would clear his name.  It was incredibly short-lived but lives on in the memories of Baby Boomers mostly through the strength of a theme song which contained the line "Branded! Scorned as the one who ran.  What do you do when you're branded, and you know you're a man?"
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of