Saga of 'Scarface' is upwardly mobile


Say hello to Disney's little friend: "Scarface" mobile content.

The franchise, which Walt Disney Co.'s Starwave Mobile unit licenses from NBC Universal, has emerged as one of the biggest draws in the wireless space, notching more than 2 million downloads in ringtones, voicetones, graphics and games.

Now Disney intends to build on that by minting a new slew of mobile extensions set to roll out throughout the second half of this year inspired by "Scarface," the 1983 gangster classic starring Al Pacino.

"It's such an iconic brand that can reach pretty broadly and continues to inspire us," said Larry Shapiro, executive vp and managing director of Starwave Mobile. "Thinking broadly about how to drive that story line to new story lines, and thinking about the content as part of a new entertainment platform, has made it successful."

Since launching in September, the suite of "Scarface" mobile products has broken the 2 million mark in aggregate sales, according to internal figures based on data supplied from all the major U.S. mobile carriers.

"Who would have expected 24 years ago (that) 'Scarface' soundbites would lead to more than 186,000 voicetone purchases?" asked Paul Leakas of Nielsen Mobile, which is owned by the Nielsen Co., parent company of The Hollywood Reporter. "The success of 'Scarface' is a testament to mobile's evolving marketplace."

Disney and Universal Mobile Entertainment declined to break out revenue from "Scarface," but the 2 million purchases range from the $5.99 fee necessary to pay to play the game "Scarface: The Rise of Tony Montana" to the $1.99 that will get you one of an assortment of wallpaper images that features Pacino's menacing mug.

"Scarface" mobile content was in demand in 2006, with the franchise accounting for 1% of all mobile consumption and 15% of those consumers purchasing an action game, according to research firm M:Metrics.

In the mobile arena, the performance of the voicetone featuring the movie's famous line -- "Say hello to my little friend" -- has surpassed all others on the market, spending 18 weeks topping Nielsen RingScan's weekly voicetone sales rankings and selling 110,000 tones since its sales began being tracked 31 weeks ago.

Taken together, the remix and reggaeton versions of "Say hello" make it more than twice as popular as the second-biggest selling voicetone, Disney's "Tigger" from "Winnie the Pooh," which sold slightly more than 48,000 to date, according to RingScan. Ranking third, at 48,000, is the "Angrie Stewie" voicetone from Fox Mobile Entertainment's "Family Guy" -- a franchise that serves as one of that studio's most successful mobile properties, selling 232,000 voicetones overall.

To expand on the "Scarface" product line, Starwave Mobile and NBC Uni have collaborated again on a new casual game, a separate console-style game, made-for-mobile animated shorts based on the film and a total of 30 new voicetones and mobile images combined.

New features include "Scarface Casino," a casual game inspired by poker and card games where players strategize against one another, and "Scarface: MPR" (Money. Power. Respect.), a more immersive game that's task-driven.

New voice and ringtones will incorporate music genres like hip-hop with additional prominent lines from the film layered over them, while a group of original wallpaper images and screensavers featuring money and gangster themes are being unveiled.

While the "Scarface" online mobile storefront already has an existing video section with short clips drawn from the film available, the new video shorts will be created with elements designed to view specifically over the mobile platform.

"In terms of mobile, this franchise speaks to exactly the right audience -- college-age kids," said Jeremy Laws, senior vp at Universal Mobile Entertainment.

Laws and Starwave Mobile's Shapiro also attribute the successful mobile extension to the collaborative approach between Starwave and Universal and their mutual embracing of the brand's irreverent nature when it comes to creating innovative mobile content.

Leakas attributed part of the spike in growth to the release of the Vivendi Universal's video game in November, "Scarface: The World Is Yours," which sold more than 1 million copies. Additionally, "Scarface: Money. Power. Respect" was a big seller for Sony's PlayStation Portable system.

"From the very beginning, we've factored in its edginess," Laws said. "We want to continue to build on what we have. 'Scarface' is more than just a film -- it's a cultural phenomenon."