Avatar merchandise turns toys high-tech, enters new realms

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The Independent Online

In conjunction with the release of the epic Avatar, Twentieth Century Fox will launch a merchandising campaign that introduces more than 125 products, that encompasses the worlds of video games, toys, apparel, and publishing.

In partnerships with Ubisoft, Mattel, JEM, HarperCollins, and Abrams Books, Fox Licensing takes the movie experience from the big screen into other realms. In addition to video game, Avatar: The Game (for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Nintendo DS, Sony PSP and PC), the film is marketing a series of products.

Mattel Inc. has created a line of high-tech toys with "augmented reality" for the Avatar action figures, creatures and vehicles that include a "3D web tag." Scan the iTAG on a computer's webcam to reveal content onscreen about the product, such as biographical background and additional images, such as a Pandora plant growing on the screen. The "deluxe" collection features animated 3D models that "come alive" on screen. Place two iTAGs from the "Battle Pack" onto the webcam together to watch images interact as the Viperwolfs and Leonopteryx take on the RDA warriors (www.avataritag.com).

A line of t-shirts, sweatshirts and tops have been created for older boys and young men by JEM Sportswear and Awake Inc. through a licensing agreement with the film company. The apparel features the wild blue Na'vi, creatures and imagery from the world of Pandora. There is also a line of backpacks and bags.

Five new books are available to coincide with the film's opening, including The Art of Avatar: James Cameron's Epic Adventure (Abrams Books) with a foreword by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson. It visually documents the technology of the filmmaking with behind-the-scenes looks, interviews with art directors, visual effects designers and animators, and more than 100 color images, sketches, paintings, drawings, and film stills (www.abramsbooks.com/Books/The_Art_of_Avatar-9780810982864.html).

HarperCollins is publishing Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora, a field guide of detailed descriptions of the unique creatures and plants found on Pandora, the culture, language, and physiology, and Resources Development Administration (RDA) technology and weapons. The Children's Books division offers titles including a chapter book, James Cameron's Avatar: The Na'vi Quest, an Avatar scrapbook and reusable sticker book.

Not the typical merchandising campaign with fast-food chain toys, the products cover a range of ages from children to adults. Serious fans will go for the line of collectible statues, dioramas, life-size busts, and maquettes from Sideshow Collectibles, such as an authentic A.M.P. suit model, created with the film's special effects studio, Legacy Effects (www.sideshowtoy.com/?page_id=4489&sku=300032).

Many items will be available at retail chains in the US such as Walmart, Target, and K-Mart/Sears.