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Wondering what you should "Boldly Go" see at the movies next year? The 2015 Licensing Expo offers you some clues

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Wondering what you should "Boldly Go" see at the movies next year? The 2015 Licensing Expo offers you some clues

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Greeting from the 2015 Licensing Expo, which is being held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.


Photo by Jim Hill

I have to admit that I enjoy covering the Licensing Expo. Mostly becomes it allows bloggers & entertainment writers like myself to get a peek over the horizon. Scope out some of the major motion pictures & TV shows that today's vertically integrated entertainment conglomerates (Remember when these companies used to be called movie studios?) will be sending our way over the next two years or so.


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Take -- for example -- all of "The Secret Life of Pets" banners that greeted Expo attendees as they made their way to the show floor today. I actually got to see some footage from this new Illumination Entertainment production (which will hit theaters on July 8, 2016) the last time I was in Vegas. Which was for CinemaCon back in April. And the five or so minutes of film that I viewed suggested that "The Secret Life of Pets" will be a really funny animated feature.


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Mind you, Universal Pictures wanted to make sure that Expo attendees remembered that there was another Illumination Entertainment production coming-to-a-theater-near-them before "The Secret Life of Pets" (And that's "Minions," the "Despicable Me" prequel. Which premieres at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival next week but won't be screened stateside 'til July 10th of this year). Which is why they had three minions who were made entirely out of LEGOS loitering out in the lobby.


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And Warner Bros. -- because they wanted "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" to start trending on Twitter today -- brought the Batmobile to Las Vegas.


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Not to mention full-sized macquettes of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Just so conventioneers could then see what these DC superheroes would actually look like in this eagerly anticipated, March 25, 2016 release.


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That's the thing that can sometimes be a wee bit frustrating about the Licensing Expo. It's all about delayed gratification. You'll come around a corner and see this 100 foot-long ad for "The Peanuts Movie" and think "Hey, that looks great. I want to see that Blue Sky Studios production right now." It's only then that you notice the fine print and realize that "The Peanuts Movie" doesn't actually open in theaters 'til November 6th of this year.


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And fan of Blue Sky's "Ice Age" film franchise are in for an even longer wait. Given that the latest installment in that top grossing series doesn't arrive in theaters 'til July 15, 2016.


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Of course, if you're one of those people who needs immediate gratification when it comes to your entertainment, there was stuff like that to be found at this year's Licensing Expo. Take -- for example -- how the WWE booth was actually shaped like a wrestling ring. Which -- I'm guessing -- meant that if the executives of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. didn't like the offer that you were making, they were then allowed to toss you out over the top rope, Royal Rumble-style.


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I also have to admit that -- as a longtime Star Trek fan -- it was cool to see the enormous Starship Enterprise that hung in place over the CBS booth. Not to mention getting a glimpse of the official Star Trek 50th Anniversary logo.


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I was also pleased to see lots of activity in The Jim Henson Company booth. Which suggests that JHC has actually finally carved out a post-Muppets identity for itself.


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Likewise for all of us who were getting a little concerned about DreamWorks Animation (what with all the layoffs & write-downs & projects that were put into turnaround or outright cancelled last year), it was nice to see that booth bustling.


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Every so often, you'd come across some people who were promoting a movie that you weren't entirely sure that you actually wanted to see (EX: "Angry Birds," which Sony Pictures Entertainment / Columbia Pictures will be releasing to theaters on May 20, 2016). But then you remembered that Clay Kaytis -- who's this hugely talented former Walt Disney Animation Studios animator -- is riding herd on "Angry Birds" with Fergal Reilly. And you'd think "Well, if Clay's working on 'Angry Birds,' I'm sure this animated feature will turn out fine."


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Mind you, there were reminders at this year's Licensing Expo of great animated features that we're never going to get to see now. I still can't believe -- especially after that brilliant proof-of-concept footage popped up online last year -- that Sony execs decided not to go forward with  production of Genndy Tartakovsky's "Popeye" movie.  But that's the cruel thing about the entertainment business, folks. It will sometime break your heart.


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And make no mistake about this. The Licensing Expo is all about business. That point was clearly driven home at this year's show when -- as you walked through the doors of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center -- the first thing that you saw was the Hasbros Booth. Which was this gleaming, sleek two story-tall affair full of people who were negotiating deals & signing contracts for all of the would-be summer blockbusters that have already announced release dates for 2019 & beyond.


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"But what about The Walt Disney Company?," you ask. "Weren't they represented on the show floor at this year's Licensing Expo?" Not really, not. I mean, sure. There were a few companies there hyping Disney-related products. Take -- for example -- the Disney Wikkeez people.


Photo by Jim Hill

I'm assuming that some Disney Consumer Products exec is hoping that Wikkeez will eventually become the new Tsum Tsum. But to be blunt, these little hard plastic figures don't seem to have the same huggable charm that those stackable plush do. But I've been wrong before. So let's see what happens with Disney Wikkeez once they start showing up on the shelves of the Company's North American retail partners.


Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of Disney's retail partners ... They were meeting with Mouse House executives behind closed doors one floor down from the official show floor for this year's Licensing Expo.


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And the theme for this year's invitation-only Disney shindig? "Timeless Stories" involving the Disney, Pixar, Marvel & Lucasfilm brands that would then appeal to "tomorrow's consumer."


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And just to sort of hammer home the idea that Disney is no longer the Company which cornered the market when it comes to little girls (i.e., its Disney Princess and Disney Fairies franchises), check out this wall-sized Star Wars-related image that DCP put up just outside of one of its many private meeting rooms. "See?," this carefully crafted photo screams. "It isn't just little boys who want to wield the Force. Little girls also want to grow up and be Lords of the Sith."


Photo by Jim Hill

One final, kind-of-ironic note: According to this banner, Paramount Pictures will be releasing a movie called "Amusement Park" to theaters sometime in 2017.  


Photo by Jim Hill

Well, given all the "Blackfish" -related issues that have been dogged SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment over the past two years, I'm just hoping that they'll still be in the amusement park business come 2017.

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  • You could have slapped 2005 on this event and I wouldn't notice. I think Disney is hammering that little girls are more than just princesses, they are jedi too. They are definitely cornering the market for little girls and more. No theme park presence for Star Trek yet. We will still wait, but maybe Paramount is too late. Amusement Park is probably sending different message.

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