Rumpus.com to Release Animated Children's Feature Online

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Rumpus.com, New York, plans to hop into the children's animated feature arena with Disney and DreamWorks SKG when it releases its first full-length animated feature called Herschel Hopper, New York Rabbit, available for download from its Web site, www.rumpus.com, April 23.


To promote the 45-minute flash animation feature, the Web-based toy retailer sent out e-mail announcements to the 25,000 members of its Rumpus Kids Club earlier this month, and this week, it contacted club members again with another message containing a special discount offer. To help attract nonclub members, Rumpus.com is also promoting the movie through product placement agreements with retailers, including Krispy Kreme Donuts, Jelly Belly Jellybeans and Body Shop, and on the fan sites of the teen stars lending their voices to the movie's characters.


"We are getting a lot of people to order the movie, which up to this point it has been a couple of thousand," said Larry Schwarz, CEO of Rumpus.com. "The numbers so far are what we expected. But I anticipate on seeing a lot of people come to the site with their coupons the day of the movie to download it."


Rumpus.com always intended to create Web-based features centered on their characters.


The film will cost $3 to purchase and download. But through special discount offers to club members and deals with retailers, some will be able to get the movie for free.


Rumpus Kids Club members receive an update every couple of weeks containing information on events, features and new offers on the site. Earlier this month, it sent a message to all of its members announcing the movie and the date it would be available. A link was provided back to the site, where kids were asked to check out the music video from the movie.


This week, another notice containing a special discount offer went out to all club members again. Rumpus.com is tracking the kids who respond to the first e-mail but will be sending the second message to all members again so that even those who have ordered the movie can receive the special discount as well.


Before ordering the movie, new visitors will be asked to provide information including their name, address, e-mail address and phone number. New visitors will not automatically be made Kids Club members, but Amy Kunen, vice president of communications at Rumpus.com, said it will hold onto their information.


Through its agreements with retailers such as Krispy Kreme Donuts and Body Shop, the purchase of two dozen donuts or $20 worth of merchandise will get parents a card containing a free download code for their children. Those products including Jelly Belly Jellybeans will all appear in the movie.


It is also being promoted on the fan sites of the stars who will be voicing some of the characters. Rumpus sent out an e-mail message to the fan sites of Jason Priestly and Brad Renfro announcing that they would be participating in the Herschel Hopper movie.


"We are getting e-mails from the members of these sites wanting to get more information on how they can get the movie," Schwarz said. "It is aimed at kids ages 3 to 12, but with these stars taking part it will also attract an older teen audience."


With only a small advertising budget, Schwarz said he is relying on a viral effect to help spread word of the movie as well as a big public relations effort. April 17, the movie will be screened for film critics, "just like a movie being released in the theaters," he said. "We are looking to promote it just like a regular movie is promoted through reviews and announcements in places like Entertainment Weekly, Variety, Hollywood Reporter and on TV shows like Extra and CNN Showbiz Today."


An ad will also be run in the New York Observer.


Herschel Hopper is the first of three animated features that Rumpus plans on doing this year. The Day I Saved America will be available in July, and next Christmas, children will be able to download The Red Bison. According to Schwarz, this first movie will serve as a test to see what works and what doesn't with regards to the marketing plan.


"This is all experimental, and we are going to see what works here and what doesn't and design the next marketing campaigns based on what we see here," Schwarz said.


Rumpus was launched in 1997, but in mid-February of this year, it announced that it would no longer be selling its merchandise at retail locations and that its toys would be available only online. Some of its characters include Gus Guts, Harry Hairball, Monster in My Closet and Space Puppies.


"We felt that we could market and present our products better than anyone else," Kunen said. "You get a better understanding of what our toys are about and what they can do through our Web site, instead of having them sitting on a shelf three miles high in a toy store."


The interactive site contains games and a number of animated series that run from 2 to 3 minutes.
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