Lassie Making a Comeback as a Salesdog

“Lassie is much bigger in person,” Ryan Seacrest said when the dog appeared on his radio show. (Credit: Sadao Turner/Ryan Seacrest Enterprises)
“Lassie is much bigger in person,” Ryan Seacrest said when the dog appeared on his radio show. (Credit: Sadao Turner/Ryan Seacrest Enterprises)

Maybe it was the three publicists in tow. Maybe her hairdo was wilting under the hot television lights. Maybe a dog, even a showbiz one, was just not meant to be a meteorologist.

Whatever the reason, Lassie seemed unfocused as the cameras rolled last month at KTTV, the Fox affiliate here. Booked to help give the weather report, she woofed off cue and let loose a torrent of drool. “I’m not sure,” a Fox anchor said as the segment ended, “but I think Lassie is annoyed.”

No matter. The publicists cooed their approval, deciding that the appearance had done its job: Lassie had inched a bit closer to a comeback. “Good work, gorgeous,” said one of the public relations people, Ame Van Iden, giving her client a pat on the snout.

How does Hollywood teach an old dog new tricks? Pay attention, Toto, because DreamWorks Animation, which gained control of the faded Lassie brand in 2012, has unleashed the comeback campaign to end all comeback campaigns. Initially flummoxed about what to do with a treasured but outdated symbol of Americana, the studio is now convinced that a simple collie can still resonate in a Grumpy Cat world.

Studios typically revive old characters with new movies. But DreamWorks Animation dismissed that idea, aware that Lassie’s rural escapades would have little relevance for viewers now keen on explosions, aliens and superheroes. Instead, the studio decided that the best hope for making money from Lassie was to make her a merchandising star, and it turned to a suitably old-fashioned tactic to prepare an onslaught of products next year: the publicity stunt.

And so Lassie’s calendar this summer has been filled with coast-to-coast appearances. Vanity Fair recently agreed to do a story about Lassie’s beauty regimen. (“She’s like the Kate Middleton of animals, all poise and perfect hair,” the publication said.) The collie’s new publicists brought her to People magazine to make a video; Lassie helped select cover photos and sat patiently while accessories editors draped her with jewelry.

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The New York Times

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