NEW YORK, June 26 -- The symbols, logos and brand names that will drive consumers to buy T-shirts, toys, books, boxed cereals and other merchandise are on display this week at the International Licensing and Merchandising Exposition. Licensing '96, the 16th annual three-day show, opened Tuesday at the Javits Convention Center. It previously had been held in a hotel but had to move to a larger site to accomodate a dramatic increase in the number of exhibitors, up 40 percent from last year to 325. As usual, the entertainment industry was prominently represented by major film studios, television, recording companies and the animation arts. Altogether some 3,000 commercial properties were being touted to an estimated 15,000 executives from the apparel, housewares, giftware, sporting goods, toys, home furnishings, software, electronics, video and entertainment industries. The show resembles an upscale flea market with eager licensors seeming to outnumber visitors who represent retailing firms that are estimated to generate more than $100 billion in business annually worldwide. It is a show heavy on nostalgia but as up-to-the-minute as licensing campaigns for toys, apparel and a comic book inspired by Paramount's new feature film 'Mission: Impossible' and Quasimodo dolls, lunchboxes, coloring books, songbook and a makeup kit spawned by Disney's 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame.' Diane Stone of Expocon Management Associates, which put together the show, said at the exposition opening that deals signed at the Javits Center will result in products, promotions and advertisements that are seen by consumers around the world in the coming year.
'No one knows what the next licensing phenomenon will be but everyone knows where to look for it,' she said. 'Licensing '96 is the mecca where the world meets and deals get made. Exhibitors range from the movie studios, sports programs and personalities, corporate brand names, and cartoon characters to independent artists licensing designs of their own creation.' This year's show seems to be weighted with classic brands and characters that are universally recognized by consumers rather than by blockbuster new characters, such as the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who were the stars of the show in recent years. This was underscored by the presence of two first-time exhibitors, Children's Televison Workshop and Hasbro, creators of such established cultural icons as Sesame Street, GiJoe and Mr. Potato Head. The familiar primordial world of 'Jurassic Park' was back at the show in the form of a 18-foot dinosaur figure that towered over other exhibits both physically and psychologically. It promotes licensing promotions for the film's sequel, 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park,' due out next summer. 'Don't be fooled by the absence of the Power Rangers or the Ninja Turtles,' said Murray Altchuler, executive director of the International Licensing Industry Merchandiser's Asociation, which sponsors the show. 'The void is rapidly being filled with the standard bearers of licensing, the classic brands and characters that retailers and consumers hold dear.' Altchuler pointed out that new 'spit and polish' has been applied to revitalizing and repackaging old favorites for the 1997 market, which he said was breaking new ground through computer software and Internet exposure. Among the freshly burnished properties are TV's 'McHale's Navy,' which is being given big-screen treatment this year, Viacom's 'Star Trek' franchise which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, 'Tarzan' who is coming back in a new TV series, Mattel's perennial Barbie, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and Bozo the Clown, who is celebrating his 50th year in show business. Warner Bros. Consumer Products is showcasing a new logo design for the Looney Tunes' 50 characters and Batman and Robin. Among the firms offering fresh brand opportunities are 20th Century Fox which is promoting the image of Anastasia, the legendary Russian grand duchess, from Fox Animation Studio's first animated feature film bearing her name. Universal offers Hercules for the first time as the result of the success of its syndicated TV series about the mythical hero. Scholastic Productions is hoping to cash in on the popularity of its 'Goosebumps' book series and its 'The Magic School Bus' TV series with a range of merchandising programs. Sony will continue to push its television properties, 'The Three Stooges' and 'Abbott & Costello,' in the area known in the trade as nostalgia licensing. Sony also is offering new licensing and merchandising partnerships that promise profits as the result of excitement generated by 'The Beatles Anthology.' And if that isn't enough nostalgia, Viacom is offering for the first time a classic Christmas brand name, Irving Berlin's 'White Christmas,' in a range of licensing ideas.