'Dragon' ship charts new course for Wal-Mart
Retailer steps up film promotionsA 40-foot-long Viking ship is set to dock in Times Square on Monday.
It will come courtesy of DreamWorks Animation and Wal-Mart for the purpose of advertising "How to Train Your Dragon," not to mention the copious amount of toys and other products generated by the 3D movie that opens Friday.
On the surface, the faux boat might symbolize an unusual dedication to the success of a film on the part of Wal-Mart, but it's actually the culmination of a yearlong effort to align itself with the family film.
Wal-Mart will sell more than 100 items -- clothing, games, cookies, etc. -- based on "Dragon," all but a handful of which can only be purchased at its stores. The stuff will be easy to find at the 2,500 Wal-Marts nationwide: Look for it near the half-size version of the Times Square Viking ship.
The boat will be in Times Square through March 23, and DWA chief Jeffrey Katzenberg will be on hand part of the time, as will America Ferrera, who voices the film's female lead.
DWA showed scenes of "Dragon" to Wal-Mart executives more than a year ago, "and their ambition for it outpaced even our own," said Anne Globe, the studio's head of worldwide marketing and consumer products.
"This program is twice as big as any original movie launch for us," she said.
Not included in DWA's exclusive arrangement with Wal-Mart is the DVD and video game based on the film, but nearly everything else is, including a special Happy Meal item only available at the McDonald's restaurants inside Wal-Mart stores.
Globe said she envisions more three-way relationships among DWA, Wal-Mart and McDonald's.
"Wal-Mart is the No. 1 retailer in the world, and they know how to sell merchandise," Globe said. "We're inspired by what we've seen."
Wal-Mart has been known to pull out the stops when it comes to certain DVD releases -- it is holding midnight parties and trivia contests at some locations for Saturday's release of "New Moon," for example -- but "Dragon" is a first when it comes to theatrical openings.
Don't expect it to be the last.
The retailer, in fact, recently expanded the role of executive Chris Nagelson, now charged with "elevating certain entertainment properties," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Melissa O'Brien said.
She wouldn't divulge what other movies the retailer might be thinking about, though.
For "Dragon," Wal-Mart had a hand in the creation of much of the merchandise it will sell and even its packaging, and it was kept in the loop during the production process.
"We embraced the message of family in the movie because we know moms will embrace it," O'Brien said. "And moms are our customers."