Rovio Entertainment Exec Andrew Stalbow: 'Angry Birds Star Wars' Is 'Going to Be Huge' (Q&A)
New collaboration with LucasFilm is just the beginning for the game maker’s Hollywood aspirations.
Rovio Entertainment is growing its North American presence with a growing Los Angeles office. The game maker behind Angry Birds, Bad Piggies and Amazing Alex has partnered with LucasFilm to bring a new take on Star Wars to gamers and launch an entire line of merchandise. Rovio is also developing a 3D feature film based on Angry Birds with David Maisel consulting on the project. And the company has been active in the short-format animated series business, including a new Angry Birds Star Wars series that will launch in November.
While he was senior vice president of mobile at Fox Digital Entertainment, Andrew Stalbow worked with Rovio on Angry Birds Rio, a successful collaboration that was a hit across all platforms (and was just released for consoles as part of Angry Birds Trilogy from Activision). Stalbow, who’s now executive vice president of strategic partnerships at Rovio, talks about the role Hollywood will play in the future of Angry Birds and other projects in this exclusive interview.
The Hollywood Reporter: How have things been progressing in Los Angeles with the new hires on board?
Andrew Stalbow: Great! We’ve got a great team, and they’ve been a wonderful addition to the Angry Birds family. We’re excited to continue developing and expanding our U.S. operations.
THR: What role does the U.S. play today with Angry Birds and other games and how important is this market?
Stalbow: The U.S. has been and continues to be our top market. It’s a key concern for us.
THR: How does this office's proximity to Hollywood play into the Angry Birds movie and short animation series?
Stalbow: It’s great synergy to be so close to the entertainment capital of the world, especially with our short animations coming up later this fall. And we just announced our collaboration with LucasFilm on Angry Birds Star Wars, which is going to be a huge entertainment property.
THR: What role do you see Angry Birds Star Wars playing this year and beyond for Rovio?
Stalbow: Angry Birds Star Wars is going to be huge. It's two of the biggest, most beloved entertainment brands collaborating on this massive new project, not just in games but also in animation and merchandising. We're really excited for our fans to check out this new galaxy, which combines the best of Angry Birds and Star Wars.
THR: What role do you see Hollywood playing in Rovio's overall plans?
Stalbow: We’ve transitioned from being a mobile game company to a fully integrated entertainment company, and we’re going to continue developing our entertainment services. That being said, we’ve never done things the “traditional” way, so we’re going to have a lot going on beyond Hollywood.
THR: How have things been progressing with David Maisel and the 3D Angry Birds movie?
Stalbow: We don’t have anything to announce at the moment.
THR: There have been many references to Disney, a Hollywood mainstay, and comparisons between Mickey Mouse and Angry Birds. What role do you see the 30 Angry Birds theme parksplaying in the big picture?
Stalbow: We’re really interested in bridging the digital-physical divide, and encouraging kids to get outside and interact with their environment. Angry Birds parks give another way for kids to engage with the characters, have fun, and use their imagination.
THR: What have you learned from the first theme park in Finland that will be applied to other theme parks?
Stalbow: Our fans were delighted to see the characters and the game world in real life. It motivates children and families to spend time outside playing and having fun. We have very good experiences from Särkänniemi Park. When the average visitor rate in amusement parks in Northern Europe went down 20% this season, in Särkänniemi they had a 12% increase.
THR: How has the launch of Amazing Alex gone?
Stalbow: We were pleased with the launch, which exceeded our expectations. We just released our first update.
THR: What opportunities do you see for that franchise from a marketing perspective?
Stalbow: We have some merchandise out already, and we’ll let you know when we have something more to announce.
THR: How does Bad Piggies change things up from a gameplay perspective?
Stalbow: Where Angry Birds is all about tearing things down, Bad Piggies is all about creativity and building things up. It gives you a lot of room to experiment and create. Plus, it introduces the story from the piggies’ perspective.