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Fashion

DreamWorks Revives He-Man, Richie Rich, Felix, and Underdog in the Most Expensive Way Possible

How does a regular T-shirt become a $75 T-shirt? When designer Todd Snyder slaps his initials over a stock image of He-Man! (Click to enlarge.)
How does a regular T-shirt become a $75 T-shirt? When designer Todd Snyder slaps his initials over a stock image of He-Man! (Click to enlarge.)

As part of the recently concluded Men’s Fashion Week in New York, DreamWorks Animation created a limited edition “Character Clash” clothing collection, exclusively available from Amazon.

The clash presumably refers to the violent confrontation that will occur between you and your wallet, should you actually decide to purchase one of these items. DreamWorks Animation teamed up with — that is, probably paid — designers Billy Reid, Ernest Alexander, Michael Bastian, Ovadia & Sons, Public School, Robert Geller, Timo Weiland, and Todd Snyder to create a 16-piece capsule line of tees and hoodies ranging between $75-$150. Although, more interesting characters like Underdog and Felix the Cat are also involved, the price tag for any of these items beggars belief.

Timo Weiland designed this $75 T-shirt for Felix the Cat fans who don't want anybody to know they're wearing a Felix the Cat shirt. (Click to enlarge.)
Timo Weiland designed this $75 T-shirt for Felix the Cat fans who don’t want anybody to know they’re wearing a Felix the Cat shirt. (Click to enlarge.)

Between paying its designers and manufacturers, it’s hard to imagine that DreamWorks is going to make any money back on this deal, which makes it a marketing scheme designed to find ways to reboot these somewhat exhausted characters for 21st-century audiences. (The company owns all of these properties through its DreamWorks Classics portfolio.) After all, masculinity icons like He-Man and wealth (mis)managers like Richie Rich skew strange and anachronistic in an era whose multitudinous diversity and identity transformations barely resemble that of the 20th century in which they were created.

And while Martin Handford’s gloriously disorienting books make for great art and games, who can or is going to drop $75-$150 on a reimagined Where’s Waldo T-shirt or hooded sweatshirt? Indeed, how many of these do DreamWorks Animation have to sell to recoup their investment? And if not, how many of these are going to produce a viable vehicle for a future animated series or feature? It’s a lot of money to spend on mere homage.

Put a black bar over your own eyes if you paid $175 for this hoodie designed by Ovadia and Sons. (Click to enlarge.)
Put a black bar over your own eyes if you paid $175 for this hoodie designed by Ovadia and Sons. (Click to enlarge.)

“Our library of diverse characters includes a host of heroes, trailblazers and misfits that make an unlikely complement to these leaders in men’s design,” said Brian Robinson, DreamWorks Animation’s head of creative, design and development, via press release. “The collision of these icons of pop culture with those of the fashion industry has resulted in a fun and irreverent collection we’re thrilled to share with Amazon’s millions of customers.”

While there may be some cultural capital to wring out of DreamWorks Animation’s purported intention “to inspire a clash between designer and subject,” this is a merchandising play for geeks who may not even exist. Ironically speaking, who will drop a hard-earned Benjamin on anything Richie Rich from Bastian or Ovadia, while the elitist character’s newest live-action series is a one-star flop with Netflix viewers? Would you want to know them?

Where's my $75? I just spent it on this Where's Waldo shirt designed by Ernest Alexander.
Where’s my $75? I just spent it on this Where’s Waldo shirt designed by Ernest Alexander.

In the final analysis, DreamWorks can give designers free rein to create “artistic reinterpretations” of these characters for too much money to pay so soon after The Great Recession, but what will they get in return — other than this snarky column, that is? Will they actually be able to move these pieces? Will the New York Men’s Fashion Week reboot of He-Man create an opening for another series? It’s all too much. Literally.

Underdog hoodie by Public School. (Click to enlarge.)
Underdog hoodie by Public School. (Click to enlarge.)
Underdog t-shirt by Billy Reid. (Click to enlarge.)
Underdog t-shirt by Billy Reid. (Click to enlarge.)
Where's Waldo Hoodie by Ernest Alexander. (Click to enlarge.)
Where’s Waldo Hoodie by Ernest Alexander. (Click to enlarge.)
Felix hoodie by Robert Geller. (Click to enlarge.)
Felix hoodie by Robert Geller. (Click to enlarge.)
Richie Rich Hoodie by Michael Bastian. (Click to enlarge.)
Richie Rich Hoodie by Michael Bastian. (Click to enlarge.)
  • DWA WTF?

    Dreamworks has officially lost their mind. WHY would you spend MILLIONS of dollars buying the rights to these old characters, and then put them on the Douchiest of Douchey designer clothing that NOBODY wants, or can afford?
    Just when I thought Dreamworks couldn’t tarnish their brand any further….they find a way. Way to go Katzenburg.

    • It’s a vicious cycle.

    • Watch some Dreamworks director go to the Kids Choice Awards with one of these 75$ shirts on and spill slime on himself.

  • Nudibranch

    A couple of these look nice IMO (I personally really like the Robert Geller Felix the Cat ones and the Underdog ones are alright) but they’re all way too out of my price range anyway. Better off just slapping a generic pic of the character on it and selling it for like $15

  • L_Ron_Hoover

    It’s a sin but they really could have been a lot worse. It’s a lot more subtle than what Warner Bros. does to the poor Looney Tunes characters.

  • Jonathan Lyons

    I paid $2 for an Underdog T shirt at the Goodwill.

  • top_cat_james

    “Simon says, ‘Bastardize!'”

  • JodyMorgan

    How does one reach the point where they get paid for slapping their initials on a stock pop-culture image? That’s the job I want.

  • anonymous

    I got laid off from DreamWorks years ago. Anybody want to buy an old Shrek crew t-shirt?

  • John A

    Underdog? Richie Rich? These characters weren’t exactly trendsetters when they were new. Half a century later, they’re still lame.

  • $75 for a freakin’ stock Heman shirt!?! Nice move, Dreamworks.

  • Barrett

    I’ve now seen at least a half-dozen stories over the years here on CB about various iterations of classic cartoon characters being put on “high-end fashion” merch. If the past fashion lines are any indication, none of this stuff is going to sell in large numbers, or even small numbers among “influential” people. There were various attempts to “designer-fy” such toons over the past few years, I don’t see this stuff on the streets, in bars or other nightspots, the beach or parks, or even the clearance bin at Ross. It seems like these lines are more like “guerrila marketing” that is actually for sale at a pretty penny, and the wearer is a participant in the marketing. Too bad none of them seem to be working.

  • You could make a few of those He Man shirts for less money with just an iron and a printer.

    But hey, if they aren’t making money from Shrek anymore they have to get it from somewhere.

  • Ridgecity

    ” how many of these do DreamWorks Animation have to sell to recoup their investment? ” at those prices and looking at the quality fabrics, about 7 of each.

  • mechasus

    The Underdog ones actually look nice, but I’ll bet DreamWorks will blame it on demographics if they don’t sell.

  • Erik Charles Tillmans
    • Barrett

      Uhm, that link is Disney.

      And no, it’s not just Dreamworks trying to do this whole “underground” high-end fashion tie-in, but they have been the most blatant at pushing dormant characters like Betty Boop and Richie Rich as the hot new (old) thing.

  • DuffyStudios

    The world of fashion has its own set of rules. It’s near-impossible to apply animation-nerd-logic to this project. If you’re starting off with “$75 for a t-shirt?!” then there’s really no chance of understanding. It’s a very strange, very particular, yet very real class of people who these are made for.

  • ScamScum

    Why does Dreamworks keep insisting on trying to work with other franchises? Do they not learn from the successes of Kung Fu Panda and HTTYD? Or from the failures of Mr. Peabody or Home?

  • Barrett

    Most adult geeks with money will pay $15-$25 per tee shirt, but no one I’ve ever met would pay $75 a tee. That’s Hollywood/NYC/Miami douche patrol-level money & style. The style of the illustrations of these various fashion lines also indicates that they are going more for “trend-setter” types, hoping a Kim Kardashian or Iggy Azalea or Drake or someone will wear it and it will show up in tabloid media and go viral from there. I’m not enough of a fashionista to know why what catches on does but it seems like all attempts to get media personalities to wear any of this publicly has failed. And unless you’re playing around with one-percenter money (or are totally abusing credit), nobody is gonna pay these prices.

  • The_Strawbear

    Surely this is market research, which of these brands has the most gullible fans? Whichever wins will be rebooted with an emphasis on more overpriced merch.

  • Jack Blackstone

    For reals? Which back alley are you selling it in?