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May 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 5
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Hollywood ToyBoy: Bored of the U.S.A.

Will Global Stories Lead to Global Toys?


From far-off India they come. From video games they come. Even from audiotapes.

Everyone wants to make a TV show, or a movie, and they’re hoping the Golden Fleece of LaLa Land will “baaaa” for them, and riches will come flooding in.

The movie and television landscape has truly gone global... but that doesn’t mean it’s gotten any better.

GLOBAL GARBAGE, AMERICAN PENS

“I’ve seen garbage from every country in the world now,” laughed a development exec over her Red Bull and lemonade. “Used to be just American trash. Now everyone thinks they’re geniuses.”

But some might be ... and with them, comes the merchandizing. Truly global toys.

“India is the place now,” commented a VP of production from one of the studios, while fiddling with a new Mazzar Espresso grinder (truly one of the best). “They can do everything over there for one-tenth the price ... but they still need an American writer.”

Another global attack is taking international legends and stories and turning them into a franchise-able entity. A money-man I met overseas was digging into backing for just such a project: “It’s a good idea: Get Argentine writings and sell to Argentina. Chinese legends to China,” he pitched to me as he put too much cream into his airport coffee. “Spark it all up with American writers and voila: the perfect travel accessory for long plane flights.”

GAMING PAINS

And the South American video game market is waking up to the potential of its products. “First they adored the sheer act of creativity,” reported a video game designer buddy who was mixing gin with pomegranate juice, topping it all off with a slice of lime. “Now, they’re looking to make everything into a proprietary franchise, finance their own media, and keep the merchandizing rights. Problem is, they can’t crack the U.S. or Japanese markets. They need a different cultural bias for that.”

Sources in the Writers Guild are leaking of major changes in the agreements surrounding online and in-game content usage, which would up the stakes and turn many highly trained American scribes into global content providers.

“They don’t know anything about selling to network TV, and I do,” said one writer who’s working with an Australian game company. “When the time comes, who do you think they’re going to call?”

FABRICATING DIVERSITY

Global content inspired by local color fueled by American writing to sell to the Western market. It comes from myths and legends, video games, oral tradition and even... dare we say it: national movies.

The toy business has always been global, but with the huge sway of licensed products, everything started to look very homogenous. Will content and merchandise become as diverse as the people of Earth itself? “Hold my calls! I gotta think about this....”



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Writer's Bio: Mark Zaslove is an entertainment industry veteran in developing content (writing, directing and producing television and feature films) for the major studios, including Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing and recipient of the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies), Mark is also Head of Content Development for Nice Entertainment. Read more articles by this author

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