Toys R Profitable

No. 5, the lovable robot of "Short Circuit," helped push that film to a lovable $100 million in worldwide theatrical and ancillary revenues--surprisingly without merchandising tie-ins to the lovable movie. But the nuts-and-bolts humanoid, laboring in Toronto for producers Lawrence Turman and David Foster and director Kenneth Johnson in "Short Circuit II," appealed most strongly to the under-14 audience. So No. 5 is about to lose its merchandising innocence.

For starters, the mechanical hero ages from childhood to adolescence in the sequel, sporting a new punked-out look--spiked antennae and draped with chains. And the plot of the sequel cleverly has star Fisher Stevens--again playing an East Indian scientist and the only cast holdover--making and selling a toy robot. A department store toy buyer (Cynthia Gibb) helps Stevens, while a street-smart hustler (Michael McKean) and a larcenous bank teller (Jack Weston) try to foil his dreams.

Sequel co-producer Gary Foster, David's son, said Worlds of Wonder already has constructed 30 18-inch models of the robot with forward-backward movement and lateral head motion. Foster expects a similar No. 5 to hit stores--at "somewhere between $40 and $60"--when Tri-Star releases the $15-million picture in May.

Coke-owned Tri-Star is mulling a 30-second TV spot for Sprite or Coke highlighting the robot and the film--and if a scene in "II" calls for a soft drink, you can bet it will be a Coke product. Also a promotional tie-in with Kodak, whose batteries are seen powering No. 5 in the sequel. And possibly an association with Topps' Bazooka Bubblegum, which may be the adhesive that joins two wires and saves the day in a crucial scene.

"I think that the appeal of No. 5 to Corporate America is virtually unlimited," enthused Foster. "The trick will be not to cheapen him and the movie by overexposing him."

A number of tie-in proposals have already been nixed, he said.

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