Sandy-area pooch has Times Square boosters
If all goes well, Abbygail - the lively Jack Russell terrier runt from the Sandy River Gorge - will soon have an office on the 15th floor of the Paramount Building in Times Square.
It just shows how quickly things can change in a month.
Only a few weeks ago, Al and Terri Lynn Link were gearing up to fly with their dog cross-country to New York to promote 'The Tails of Abbygail,' a live-action family film the Links created in their backyard in Boring.
The draw to the Big Apple was ToyFair, an international products extravaganza held Feb. 17-20. They not only had the opportunity to display their film to thousands of potential buyers, they also became a focal point of the event when they were selected to be the subject of a documentary out of thousands of vendors.
Between ToyFair, a private party at world-famous toy store F.A.O. Schwartz, jaunts around New York City and Times Square, Abbygail landed some Big Apple fans who have the potential to rocket her to stardom, her owners say.
'Everyone loved the dog,' said Al Link. 'There was plenty of new this and new that at the show, but Abbygail was the only live animal at the show. The people coming by were all very interested in the tape and what's going on with this. She got a big fan club there in a short amount of time.'
The Jack Russell soon became the talk of ToyFair. A fan of her own movie, Abbygail would get excited whenever 'The Tails of Abbygail' started playing at the Links' booth.
'Every time the tape would come on she'd bark and go crazy,' Link said, 'and that would draw people to her like a magnet.'
Link said he and his 'Kid Vid Entertainment' crew handed out about 500 tapes to toy buyers and other industry officials while at ToyFair.
'Everyone loved it once they took a second to understand it,' Link said. 'A lot of people were so busy - there were something like 20,000 vendors - they just buzzed by.'
But one industry official took special interest.
Entertainment agent James von Scholz of Gotham Artists Agency was one of the many people who received a tape of 'The Tails of Abbygail' during ToyFair, and once he got a chance to view the movie, he decided he had something noteworthy on his hands.
Von Scholz quickly arranged a meeting with film industry executive Tony Trimarco and New York publicist Judy Jacksina at Jacksina's office on the 15th floor of the Paramount Building in Times Square, just before the Links were to return home to Oregon.
'James said he had been looking for something like this for many years,' Link said. 'He was just so excited about this.'
Jacksina, a well-connected film, stage and music publicist, told the Links she had 'a few minutes' to talk about Abbygail. They left the office two hours later.
'They were so impressed with our product,' Link said. 'They were praising it up and down. They can't believe we made it with one camera and a reasonably small budget.'
The meeting turned into an adrenaline-filled brainstorming session, with ideas flying around about spinoffs with all the characters, Abbygail kids' meals at national fast-food chains, promotion on Nickelodeon, video games, books, backpacks and lunchboxes, a clothing line, dog food sponsorships and much more.
'They said they want to take her international,' Link said. 'They want to make her the next Lassie, Benji, Rin Tin Tin.'
But before all that happens, there has to be a lot of groundwork laid, Link said.
'You don't just show up on 'Good Morning America,' ' he said. 'Judy's going to set that whole scenario up for us, how to approach it and how to get out there.'
Jacksina imagined it all beginning with the opening of an Abbygail store in downtown Portland, a retail space that has shelves filled with the movies. The opening of that store could be covered by 'Entertainment Tonight' and other similar infotainment shows.
'As you could imagine, we were pretty much blown away,' Link said. 'That doesn't just happen where you come in (to ToyFair) and get a deal. We were buzzing.'
The Links returned home to Oregon with what they believe is a major entertainment industry connection. Kid Vid Entertainment - the Links' production company - is in the final stages of signing an agreement with Von Scholz and Jacksina for representation and publicity.
For Jacksina, although nothing's official yet, she's all-in for Abbygail.
'I can tell you one thing from my end: Abbygail has definitely got herself a Broadway publicist,' Jacksina wrote by e-mail. 'Her executive producer and writer/producer (the Links) are two of the most savvy businesspeople with whom I have ever met. … We intend to take Abbygail global.'
The Links would retain creative control of the Abbygail franchise. They would continue to make the movies and be in charge of the direction of the characters.
'They don't want to get in on the movie-making side,' Link said. 'They said this is too good; they don't want to screw around with what's already working. They just want to show it to the world.'
It's sort of the calm before the storm right now for the Links. As they're waiting for their big New York deal to finalize, they're answering e-mails from the many ToyFair contacts they made and are kicking around ideas for the next Abbygail movie, 'Choices,' which will be filmed on Mount Hood.
Having the deal inked would boost that project, since it would begin to funnel funds to it. For the first film, the Links paid for everything out of pocket. Link estimates that the documents will be signed in the next few weeks and that filming would begin within 30 days.
Once a final deal is put together, the Links will fly back to New York to sign it in person.
'We want to look them in the eye, make sure the excitement is still there, listen to their business plan and the vision and strategies they set up,' Link said. Abbygail will put her paw print on all the documents as well.
'This was always our dream; we just never knew how we were going to get there,' Link said. 'Hopefully this will make her a big star and Sandy will be proud.'