The real star of Jingle All the Way, Twentieth Century Fox’s $75 million family comedy due Nov. 22, isn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sinbad. It’s Turbo Man, the jet-pack-propelled live-action character who, in the movie, has his own TV show, lunch box, T-shirt line, and holiday-parade float. For the film, Jingle director Brian Levant (The Flintstones) had all of the Turbo Man props custom made, with the idea that everything should look ”authentic, as if they all sprang from the same well.” You’d expect such a concerted production effort to have yielded a marketing bonanza in real life. But come holiday time, only one item, a $25 Talking Turbo Man figure, will be carried in 2,300 Wal-Mart stores.
What happened? ”To do a toy normally takes well over a year,” says Pat Wyatt, Fox’s president of licensing and merchandising. ”Same goes for fast-food promotions. We had 6 1/2 months.” That’s because Fox didn’t sign Schwarzenegger until February, after he became available when the studio’s long-planned Planet of the Apes remake stalled again. By then it was way too late to gear up any significant movie merchandising — which means that when it comes to licensing dollars, Turbo Man may already be a lost action hero.