Sunday, August 17, 2014

News You Can't Use: Lassie as Salesdog: One More Trip to the Well

Much like strategic oil reserves, endangered barn owls and my willingness to put up with people that whistle there's only a finite amount of ideas. Fortunately, in the Creativity-Industrial complex we can simply resurrect the better moments of the 1950s, something that's not really an option when it comes to burned dinosaur remains or the person who made annoying mouth noises and forced me to beat them to death with a claw hammer. Thus, we see the return of "Lassie" and it's probably just a matter of time before that "Racket Squad" re-imagining that the world is literally begging for like we're a thirsty loser trapped in the classic television Friend Zone.

Maybe it was the three publicists in tow. Maybe her hairdo was wilting under the hot television lights. Maybe a dog, even a showbiz one, was just not meant to be a meteorologist.

Maybe I'm just like my mother. She's never satisfied [with lame attempts to recreate Truman administration television characters].

Booked to help give the weather report, she woofed off cue and let loose a torrent of drool.

So it was pretty much like any other "celebrity" appearance, just with slightly more mistimed barking and slightly less foul emissions from the face holes.

“I’m not sure,” a Fox anchor said as the segment ended, “but I think Lassie is annoyed.”

Being re-animated by a combination of chemistry and evil wizardry by Big Television will do that to you. It is the same dog, right? "She's my dog, I'll grind her into essential salts and perform the dark ritual, Pa."

“Good work, gorgeous,” said one of the public relations people, Ame Van Iden, giving her client a pat on the snout.

When professional celebrity "handlers" cross over into "pet lover" territory you might want to have that air sickness bag ready.

Initially flummoxed about what to do with a treasured but outdated symbol of Americana, the studio is now convinced that a simple collie can still resonate in a Grumpy Cat world.

Because your grandparents sort of half-watched it in between playing with their lead toys, you'll like it too!

Studios typically revive old characters with new movies. But DreamWorks Animation dismissed that idea, aware that Lassie’s rural escapades would have little relevance for viewers now keen on explosions, aliens and superheroes.

As you've probably already guessed, the new "Racket Squad" will have superpowers, be issued mortars and mini-guns and will battle Martian bunco schemes, the schemes that cost decent people more money every year than all the bank robbers with their violence.

Now to roll several thousand pounds of TNT in here!

Instead, the studio decided that the best hope for making money from Lassie was to make her a merchandising star, and it turned to a suitably old-fashioned tactic to prepare an onslaught of products next year: the publicity stunt.

If that fails, we'll try to market this dog by telling you to "Look behind you! No, seriously! You've got to look right now!"

“Unlike everyone else in Hollywood, Lassie is much bigger in person,” Ryan Seacrest told listeners when the dog stopped by his radio show.

There's probably some kind of Tom Cruise joke here.

Slick promotion is a Hollywood specialty, of course, even for hard-to-sell products (like bad films).

Because your average movie goer, the one that struggles to get popcorn into a misshapen maw and yells instructions at on-screen characters, is noted for being extremely discerning.

Experts say that in success, Lassie could generate tens of millions in added revenue.

"In failure it would be significantly less, obviously," they further clarified.

“Our ambitions are global,” said Michael R. Francis, DreamWorks Animation’s chief brand officer, “dog food, dog accessories, dog grooming, dog beds, dog training,” targeted mainly at adults.

It's good that this is a global campaign so that the large portion of the world that's trapped in poverty can learn that there are dogs with a lifestyle an order of magnitude better than their own.

None of these planned Lassie products are available right now, but the studio says deals for all of them are in the works.

Commercials first, product second. Makes sense.

Resuscitating the character is such a priority that even Jeffrey Katzenberg, the studio’s chief executive, is working the phones. He called Harvey Weinstein and persuaded him to put Lassie on a coming episode of “Project Runway.” Mr. Katzenberg has also pitched the dog for a guest spot on “The Amazing Race.”

Filler to sell products in a "Project Runway" episode? Next you'll tell me some of it is scripted!

“There is nothing Lassie can’t do,” he said. (Well, except certain things unbecoming to a V.I.P. One tip: Do not ask Lassie to fetch.)

You might also want to have, say, a doctor, perform that open heart surgery.

The 2006 film “Lassie” took in only $652,163 in North America.

So I guess I can be forgiven for having absolutely no recollection of that cinematic abortion.

Unsure of how best to freshen the musty franchise, the studio commissioned market research, which to its delight found that Lassie retained an 83 percent “brand awareness” among Americans; words like “loyal,” “hero” and “heartwarming” were most often associated with the character.

Welcome to Joe Biden's America, where our virtues are put into sarcasm quotes while we roll our eyes and roll about the floor laughing at them.

“We realized that Lassie has an authenticity that makes her a merchandising holy grail,” Mr. Francis said.

You have chosen...unwisely.

There are no plans for a new Lassie movie or TV series.

But watch for "Sexy Diverse Young People House" debuting this fall!

Filmed entertainment is also expensive, and the character would have to be updated, though perhaps not to the point of wearing a cape.

"He's the dog from 1938 with today's 'urban' attitude! Get your dawg on!"

“I would love to believe that modern children would sit down and watch lovely Lassie frolic with Timmy in the meadow,” said Jeanine Basinger, a film historian. “But I fear they would get awfully bored unless she turned into a superdog that blows things up, and that would be sacrilege.”

Worst generation ever, am I right? Always wanting those explosions. Generation Kaboom, that's what they are. It would be a crime against nature and nature's God to do that. Whereas selling "dog beds" to horrible wealthy scumbags is totally respectful to the character.

“Lassie was always a bit of an acting lightweight anyway,” Ms. Basinger added.

As opposed to Rin Tin Tin who had considerable dramatic range.

Full Article.

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Aaron Zehner is the author of "Posts from the Underground," now available in paperback and e-book. Read free excerpts here and here.

His first novel "The Foolchild Invention" is also available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

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