Fox Hunts For More Than Just Game As 'Rio' Hooks Up With 'Angry Birds'

Mar 22, 2011
Originally published on March 23, 2011 9:39 pm

You simply cannot appreciate the brilliance of Angry Birds unless you play the game. So go get your iPhone or borrow one from a friend. You can download the first game for free.

The physics-based game is wildly addictive. You could waste a good deal of time catapulting those angry birds through the air, trying to get the arc just right so you smash the pigs' castle.

By the way, the birds are angry because the pigs have stolen their eggs, in case that's not immediately apparent.

Created by the Finnish company Rovio, Angry Birds is one of the most downloaded apps ever, with over 100 million downloads in just 15 months. Now the Hollywood mega studio 20th Century Fox is getting a piece of the action. Two Fox executives flew to Helsinki, wowed the Rovio team with clips from their new movie Rio and struck a deal. Rio is being made by the same people behind Ice Age.

What is it about Angry Birds that makes it so successful? Andrew Stalbow, Senior Vice President of Mobile for 20th Century Fox, says it's partly that the degree of difficulty is just right for both kids and adults. "It looks pretty simple but it's pretty hard to master," he says. Plus, Rovio markets the game almost exclusively on social media. "They've created these adorable videos that just spread virally across social networks," says Stalbow. "It's something that we really aspire to with the games we've created at Fox."

So the American behemoth 20th Century Fox wanted to sit next to this little company in Finland. To make it happen, Andrew Stalbow and another Fox executive flew to Helsinki. They showed Peter "Mighty Eagle" Vesterbacka and the team at Rovio clips of their new movie Rio, which is also about birds. "Our creative people really liked what they saw," says Vesterbacka.

So Rovio agreed to create a new game featuring the Angry Birds and the exotic birds from Rio. Check out this trailer to see how these birds come together.

Fox would be thrilled to get a piece of the Angry Birds fan base. And a lot of those gamers are not moviegoers. With this new avian alliance, Fox might have a chance to reach them. "There will be a lot of people who will go and see this that normally wouldn't go and see a movie, so it will be very interesting to see," says Rovio's Vesterbacka.

And what's in it for the angry birds? "Marketing power," says Andrew Stalbow of Fox. That includes billboards, posters, and a hidden code in a Super Bowl commercial.

It's hard to say who has more to gain from the Fox-Rovio partnership. The Angry Birds got a free ride in an expensive Super Bowl ad, and Rio might reach a whole new audience when its birds are part of the massively popular, highly addictive video game.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

(Soundbite of game, "Angry Birds")

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Robert, I'm going to be with you in just a second. I'm just trying to finish this game of "Angry Birds" here. Sorry.

SIEGEL: She's Melissa Block.

BLOCK: I am.

SIEGEL: Yeah. And...

BLOCK: I'm a little distracted right now.

SIEGEL: Yeah. "Angry Birds."

BLOCK: "Angry Birds," addictive - an addictive game that I'm playing on my iPhone right now.

SIEGEL: A game that has been downloaded - a hundred million downloads in 15 months.

BLOCK: "Angry Birds," it is the most downloaded app ever, Robert, and all you do is you pull a slingshot back.

(Soundbite of game, "Angry Birds")

BLOCK: You catapult this angry bird...

(Soundbite of game, "Angry Birds")

BLOCK: ...toward a crowd of ornery green pigs.

(Soundbite of game, "Angry Birds")

SIEGEL: And...

BLOCK: Missed.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: ...no birds and no pigs were harmed in the making...

BLOCK: Absolutely.

SIEGEL: ...of that game. "Angry Birds" has a new version out. It was created by a small company in Finland that's become the envy of the entertainment business.

BLOCK: And NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports that it's helping 20th Century Fox promote a new animated movie, "Rio."

(Soundbite of game, "Angry Birds")

ELIZABETH BLAIR: First, why are they angry?

Mr. PETER VESTERBACKA (CEO, Rovio): The birds are angry because the pigs steal their eggs.

(Soundbite of game, "Angry Birds")

BLAIR: Peter "Mighty Eagle" Vesterbacka of Rovio, the makers of "Angry Birds."

Mr. VESTERBACKA: You know, if somebody would steal your eggs, you would be really angry too.

(Soundbite of game, "Angry Birds")

BLAIR: The physics-based game is addictive, getting the arc off the catapult just right.

Mr. ANDREW STALBOW (Senior Vice President, Mobile, 20th Century Fox): It looks pretty simple, but it's pretty hard to master.

BLAIR: Andrew Stalbow is senior vice president of Mobile for 20th Century Fox. He thinks Rovio got everything right with "Angry Birds": the degree of difficulty, the fact that it appeals to both kids and adults, the marketing...

Mr. STALBOW: They've created these kind of adorable little videos that just spread virally across social networks, and it's something that we really aspire to in terms of the games that we've created here at Fox.

BLAIR: The American behemoth 20th Century Fox wanted something from this little company in Finland. So Stalbow and another Fox executive flew to Helsinki. They showed Peter Vesterbacka and the team at Rovio clips of their new movie "Rio," which is also about birds.

(Soundbite of movie, "Rio")

Mr. JESSE EISENBERG (Actor): (as Blu) Oh, how I wish I was back in my cage with my mirror and my little bell. Aah.

Ms. ANNE HATHAWAY (Actress): (as Jewel) Bobo here can't fly.

Mr. GEORGE LOPEZ (Actor): (as Rafael the Toucan): Don't worry, Blu. It's in your DNA.

Mr. VESTERBACKA: Our creative people really, really liked what they saw.

BLAIR: So Rovio agreed to create a new game featuring the angry birds and the exotic birds from "Rio."

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLAIR: Now, remember, "Angry Birds" has been downloaded over a hundred million times. Fox would be thrilled to get that audience for "Rio." Plus, a lot of those gamers are not moviegoers.

Mr. VESTERBACKA: There will be a lot of people that will go and see this that wouldn't normally maybe take their time to go and see a movie, so it's going to be very, very interesting to see.

BLAIR: And what's in it for the "Angry Birds"?

Mr. STALBOW: The marketing power that we can bring to promote the new game on the platforms.

BLAIR: Billboards, posters, a hidden code in a Super Bowl commercial.

(Soundbite of TV commercial)

Unidentified Man #1: From the creators of "Ice Age."

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (as character) Welcome to Rio.

Unidentified Man #1: A bird who never learned to fly.

BLAIR: It's hard to say who has more to gain from the Fox-Rovio partnership. The "Angry Birds" got a free ride in an expensive Super Bowl ad, and "Rio" might reach a whole new audience when its birds are part of the massively popular video game.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.