Fox Consumer Products President Talks China, Parks and the Enduring Appeal of 'The Simpsons'
20th Century Fox vet Jeffrey Godsick also sounds off on the longterm play for 'Avatar' and the upcoming 'Independence Day' sequel.
This story first appeared in the Feb. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Team Cookie T-shirts, tiny Independence Day-themed drones and more Simpsons products than you can shake a doughnut at … this is what's on Jeffrey Godsick's 2016 docket. The 54-year-old marketing veteran, 20th Century Fox's president of consumer products since 2011, is juggling a surging roster of film and TV properties — all while his group expands into amusement parks abroad (Dubai's planned 20th Century Fox World) and at home (Disney's The World of Avatar attraction in 2017). Just back from China, where Fox is opening its first Simpsons store for the $7 billion grossing consumer empire, the married father of five sounded off on moving into the new market, the distinction of Empire and franchise envy.
What were you doing in China?
China is particularly important for us because we're opening the first Simpsons store there in March. It's in Sanlitun, the trendy shopping district in Beijing. It's all Simpsons. They won't sell anything else.
How many Simpsons products are there in the world?
There are probably 10,000 different items available for purchase. The Simpsons in China is so interesting, because we originally entered that marketplace as a fashion brand. Some people just love it for the design.
Speaking about China, a lot of people get hung up on box-office potential. How much business is your division going to be doing there moving forward?
Our focus there is on The Simpsons, Independence Day and Ice Age. There's a growing awareness of Western brands. And then we're in business with a Chinese toy company called Attop, which has created amazing remote-controlled flying ships for Independence Day that we'll distribute globally. It's not just about selling in China, it's about partnering.
The Independence Day sequel is out June 24. How long have you been working on those products?
We introduced Independence Day at the Hong Kong licensing show last year. We've been working with Roland [Emmerich] and the team since preproduction. You're trying to talk, in an ideal world, 18 months at a minimum before the release of a movie — all the way up to 24 months. That's when they're concepting and doing production designs.
How has the success of Empire translated to sales?
When we launched the strategy for Empire, we wanted to do it differently. We launched it as a fashion lifestyle brand, instead of evolving into a lifestyle brand. The show has so much style, and the first thing we actually did was a collaboration with Saks [Fifth Avenue]. In New York, we had 11 of their windows designed around the show. The appetite is at a fever pitch in the U.S.
Looking down the line, how much potential do you see for the three Avatar sequels?
Very rarely do studios commit to three movies, so we're really treating Avatar as a brand. It's the most successful movie of all time. You know about the land opening at Disney [at its Animal Kingdom park in 2017], and we have a traveling exhibition that will begin a five-year tour this year. It will probably launch in China in the summer. We've been relatively active, but nothing like we're going to be once we get closer to knowing exactly the plan for the release dates [Fox hasn't set]. Having time has allowed us to talk to some really unique partners.
An Avatar figurine in Godsick's office. He is already prepping product rollouts for the three sequels.
Fox is launching parks in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. Why not America?
There's not a tremendous opportunity in the U.S. right now because of saturation. We're only going to go where we believe an opportunity makes sense. Certainly we've been approached, but the U.S. is not part of the plan right now. There are very limited opportunities to do the kind of park that would be the scale we'd want if we got to that point.
What rival film or TV property do you envy?
Star Wars is certainly one you could have a lot of fun with, but I'm always interested in people who create larger brands out of things they have. Look at the Disney Princesses.