DreamWorks Markets Lassie as Merchandising Star

Studio bought Lassie in 2012, now seeks to capitalize on recognizable brand

When DreamWorks bought the rights to Lassie in 2012, it seemed like an odd move. The fading brand didn't appear to have much clout in an era ruled by viral video sensations like Grumpy Cat, and the bucolic adventures the canine embarked on in her heyday hardly seemed primed for a reboot. But instead of films, DreamWorks is reimagining the character as a merchandising star.

The studio is preparing for a bevy of Lassie products next year with a publicity tour this summer, The New York Times reported. Lassie—in her current incarnation, the tenth in a family line—has appeared in a video for People, as a guest on Ryan Seacrest's radio program and at charity functions for Best Friends Animal Society and Save The Children. "Unlike everyone else in Hollywood, Lassie is much bigger in person," Seacrest joked on the air.

Vanity Fair also recently agreed to write a feature on Lassie's beauty regimen. And DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg persuaded Harvey Weinstein to put the dog in an upcoming episode of Project Runway. According to The New York Times, Katzenberg has been manning the phones, making the promotion of his canine star a priority and has also pitched the pooch for a guest spot on The Amazing Race.

DreamWorks sees Lassie as a way to make up for recent failures at the box office. The studio has reported a loss for the last two quarters, and sees Lassie as a potential crown jewel as it moves into merchandising to generate revenue. The character—who first appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in 1938 and went on to star in a CBS series from 1954 to 1973—retains an 83 percent "brand awareness," according to DreamWorks' market research. Participants associated the character with words like "heartwarming," "loyal," and "hero."

"We realized that Lassie has an authenticity that makes her a merchandising holy grail," Michael R. Francis, DreamWorks Animation’s chief global brand officer, told the Times.

So what kind of Lassie products can we expect in the near future?

"Our ambitions are global," Francis said. "Dog food, dog accessories, dog grooming, dog beds, dog training" are some of the products the studio currently has in the works. None of these items, which will be aimed primarily at adults, are available yet, but the studio is reportedly working on deals for all of them at the moment.

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