If Christmas goes to the dalmatians, it’ll be over Bugs Bunny’s dead body. In a holiday movie season more stuffed than a Butterball turkey — 61 films between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 — the tug-of-war to watch is between Disney’s live-action 101 Dalmatians, with Glenn Close, and Warner Bros.’ Space Jam, which teams the world’s foremost hoopster, Michael Jordan, with Hollywood’s best-known hare. This will be the first-ever showdown between a Disney animated classic (albeit in a live-action form) and Warner’s Looney Tunes. So how does this Christmas clash shape up?
Film: Space Jam (Nov. 15)
Sounds like: A cross between Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and an NBA all-star game.
Attention, shoppers: Warner’s pulling out all the stops with a $30 million marketing campaign, which could have been even bigger if Jordan’s own deals hadn’t crimped where the studio could slap his image. ”We didn’t do Michael Jordan tennis shoes,” says Warner Bros. VP of publicity Nancy Kirkpatrick. ”We did Looney Tunes tennies.” Besides sneakers, expect everything from Space Jam beanbags, blankets, and jammies to Mylar balloons and yo-yos.
Fast-food tie-in: McDonald’s, which will serve up Looney Tunes figurines inside Happy Meals from Nov. 1 to 26.
Stumbling block: Audiences must be convinced that they need to see more of Hare Jordan, which originally debuted as a 1992 Nike ad campaign.
If it’s a hit: Warner establishes a foothold in the animated-feature market, long dominated by Disney.
Film: 101 Dalmatians (Nov. 27)
Sounds like: Exactly what it is…a new spin on one of Disney’s most beloved classics.
Attention, shoppers: Disney’s planning to speckle the globe: Everything from high-end fashions and dotted dinnerware to down-market leggings and sunglasses will sport spots. (Worst tie-in: A Nestle candy bar made of white chocolate and studded with black cookie bits that look like they belong inside a petri dish.)
Fast-food tie-in: Also McDonald’s, which will replace Looney Tunes with plastic pups from Nov. 27 to Jan. 2.
Stumbling block: Fearing an ill-conceived and temporary bull market in spotted dogs, the American Kennel Club has given the film 101 damnations. ”What we all fear is that people will rush breeding for a quick buck,” says an AKC customer representative, Rob Garrett. ”We’ve seen it before.” (After Beethoven, Saint Bernards became the doggies in demand.)
If it’s a hit: Disney taps into a new and incredibly rich gold mine — live-action versions of its classic cartoons.