Thursday, August 27, 2009

Culture Shock 08.27.09: Creepy movie merchandise watches while you shower

Not at all creepy.

As "Star Wars" creator George Lucas proved 30 years ago, the real money from making movies comes from merchandising.

Never mind the toys and video games. That's just the obvious stuff. There's also money to be made from bed sheets, T-shirts, pajamas, underwear, dinnerware, scented candles, unscented candles, Pez dispensers, wallpaper, drapes, velvet paintings, Halloween costumes, Halloween costumes for your dog, Halloween costumes your cat will refuse to wear, lunchboxes, lunch meats, breakfast cereals, cereal bowls, jigsaw puzzles, coloring books, colas, candy, cardboard stand-ups and even glow-in-the-dark light-switch covers.

A movie that fails to turn a profit at the box office can still make money if the licensing deals are right.

Yet with all of the merchandising opportunities movie studios routinely exploit, there are some they miss. And that's when fans have to take matters into their own hands.

Until they sold out, one Internet artisan was offering — by request — shower curtains featuring Edward Cullen, as played by Robert Pattinson in the "Twilight" movies.

Yes, as if Edward were not creepy enough, given all of his stalkerish behavior and the fact he's a 100-year-old vampire obsessed with a teenage girl, his disembodied head can watch you while you shower or sit on the toilet. (Actually, there's probably a scene just like that in the "Twilight" novels.)

Lucas built his Lucasfilm empire, in large part, with the proceeds from merchandising his original "Star Wars" trilogy. Back in 1977, no one knew just how much of a cash bonanza movie merchandising could be. Nobody got rich off of "Planet of the Apes" action figures. So, 20th Century Fox agreed to let Lucas keep 100 percent of the "Star Wars" merchandising rights. Now, Lucas has a net worth of about $3 billion. Sure, he lost $900 million in the recession, but he still has a larger GDP than some countries.

But not even Lucas can think of every merchandising possibility.

Earlier this year, online retailer unveiled its tauntaun sleeping bag, based on the creatures Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are seen riding at the beginning of "The Empire Strikes Back." In the movie, Han slices open a dead tauntaun and stuffs Luke inside the creature's carcass to protect him from the cold.

Needless to say, the prospect of being able to zip open a tauntaun-shaped sleeping bag and stuff oneself inside it appealed to a lot of "Star Wars" fans, who thought this was the greatest piece of "Star Wars" merchandising ever. There was just one problem — the tauntaun sleeping bag was an April Fools' joke.

But demand for the fictitious product was so great that ThinkGeek is now trying to figure out how to make them for real. I'm sure Lucas won't mind, as long as he receives his cut of the profits. Besides, it's not as if a sleeping bag that simulates being inside a dead fantasy creature is the most bizarre licensed product ever made.

And it's not as bad as the new line of "Star Trek"-inspired fragrances, which include Tiberius, Red Shirt and, last but not least, Pon Farr, named after the Vulcan mating ritual.

Still, there is some merchandise that is so risqué that no major movie studio would officially license it. For example, there are no official "Twilight" sex toys. But there are sex toys that just happen to be marketed to people who would love to have an undead stalker/boyfriend.

Use your imagination.

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