Retro vision widens King's appeal to youth market

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The Independent Culture

Elvis Presley, "the King of Rock'n'Roll", is being rebranded to make him appeal to the generation born after his death, a quarter of a century ago.

An icon of the post-war era with a voice and good looks that earned him a global following, his songs will feature on the soundtrack for a new animated feature film from Walt Disney, Lilo and Stitch, which is due for release this summer.

The film, which tells the story of a Hawaiian girl who loves Presley's music, is a throwback to his 1961 movie Blue Hawaii in which he strums his way through a romantic Pacific adventure.

RCA Records which owns the artist's back catalogue, is also planning to release a compilation of 30 of his greatest hits to coincide with the film. RCA hopes to match the success of last year's compilation of the Beatles' 27 No 1 singles which sent the band to the top of the charts 30 years after it split up.

Elvis would have been 67 had he lived, but over-eating, drink and drugs contributed to his death, aged 42, in August 1977.

Executives at RCA Records are now keen to tap in to millions of potential fans under the age of 25 who have yet to fall under the spell of the King.

A spokeswoman for the record label revealed plans for the promotional drive were still being finalised, but she said: "There's going to be a focus on the 14 to 25-year-olds, to reintroduce Elvis to a younger audience."

But the Disney movie could excite interest among those even younger. It is thought the producers will aim for a U certificate to reach children. Also in the pipeline are plans for a video game and a promotional toy tie-in, reportedly with the McDonald's burger chain.

RCA bosses are not the only ones to believe the time is ripe for an Elvis revival. Lansky Brothers, the Memphis clothes store famed for dressing the young rocker, will launch a new Fifties-style clothing label in the autumn which aims to appeal young people across America and the world. The Elvis Presley estate has given permission for the use of the name "Elvis Presley" on the labels and in advertising.

A spokeswoman for Lanksy Brothers said: "We hope for the kids who right now are wearing the Fifties retro look, that it will appeal to them."

Donnie Deutsch, head of the advertising agency Deutsch Incorporated, said people were looking back to simpler times so the campaign could work. "He's a poster boy for all that [period]. Elvis is one of the pop culture figures of the twentieth century," he said.

Yet Elvis has not enjoyed the enduring sales that might be expected of one of the most charismatic and popular performers of the 1950s and 60s.

In his lifetime he appeared in 33 films and enjoyed dozens of hit singles worldwide. He won three Grammies and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. But last year he sold only 1.4 million albums in the United States and staff had to be laid off at his former home, Graceland – a mecca for fans – after the number of visitors fell by 15 per cent.