Meanwhile in movieland, publicity and the merchandise machine behind the PG-13 rated flick (7) was rolling! The soundtrack (on the Play-Tone/Riverdale/Epic/Sony Movie Soundtrax label) and the single, 'Three Small Words', were released. The movie merchandise was strictly based on the movie. For example: the dolls resembled the actresses, not the familiar comic/cartoon characters. Other movie offerings included: cosmetics, T-shirts, backpack and 'PretendEars' (as worn in the movie). In the case of the shirts and backpack, you get the name and silhouettes...no faces.
Many of these were held from the shelves by the merchandisers. According to a representative, they wanted to see how the film hit the theaters. If it's a big one, they will quickly release them to stores like Wal-Mart and Target with more on the horizon including 'series two' dolls.
If you still preferred the 'old school'; Josie, Warner Home Video (who were at the time, a part of the AOL/Time/Warner corporate family tree, is related to Cartoon Network) released two Josie compilation tapes with four episodes each. The first set, titled 'Melody Memory Mix', contained 'The Great Pussycats Chase', 'Nevermind A Mastermin', 'Strangemoon Over Miami' and 'M. M. M. U.'. The second one, 'Chile Today, Hot Tamale!', contained 'Spy School Spoof', The Midas Mix-Up', & 'The Secret Six Secret' and the title episode.
However, if you blinked too quickly, you might have missed a new Josie comic. How? Technically, it wasn't a Josie title. The book was issued under yet another anthology umbrella title called 'Archie & Friends'; (in this case, #47). Its contents were changed to all Josie stories at the very last possible minute and the comic retailers were allowed to make emergency orders for extra copies.
As for the comic itself: it's very much like the ones from the 90's. In the first and only original story, 'Gimmick Happy', Alex browbeats the group about a new gimmick to maintain their audience and The Cats throw back a list of Alex's failed attempts at gimmickry. Alex in his pride refuses to give up the good fight and manages to clear out the mansion with his rant. The Cats escape to a nearby park to rehearse in fresh air and end up giving a free concert.
The three other stories are all reprints from later Josie comics, 'Maid Of Money', 'The Eyes Have It'; and 'Costume Capers'. The rest of the pages were taken up with information about the movie, the characters (taken straight from the web-site) and bios of the actresses who play them. There was also a special offer - if you sent in your ticket stub from the Josie movie, you'd get a two dollar discount on subscriptions to various Archie titles and another copy of Archie & Friends #47. The artwork (the ones that were credited) was done by Archies' other veteran artist, Stan Goldberg.
By the time this comic was released, Archie was already soliciting another all-Josie issue of Archie & Friends (#49). Only this time, it was the second half of a two-part story called 'Music For The Masses'. In this story, the gang goes off to an unstable Banana Republic country to shoot a low-budget flick. The real twist? The first half of this same story (#48) was neither mentioned nor solicited before!!
However, with all the merchandising and activity surrounding Josie on all fronts, there was still one thing missing....Dan DeCarlo's name! Be it tied to the movie, the TV show (old and new) and comic as the original credits in some of the reprints were had edited Dan's name, and, in one case, likeness, out. Even Cheryl Blossom has made a hasty exit from the Archie universe and his old house style began to steadily change.
"I'm hopeful, but then I get depressed, and I wish it would be over, one way or the other.", Dan has said recently about his case against Archie. "I get depressed at all the lies, from the people you though were your friends". Dan expressed mixed feelings about the movie, especially since he has to pay to see it, "Sometimes I wish it would flop, sometimes I wish it would be a success. But I definitely have to see what they did with it."
The critics were the first to see what 'they' did. The response was unanimously... mixed. One point that stood out in all reviews was satirically excessive product placements. Some thought it was smart and appropriate while others accused the film makers and the studio of subverting the natural purpose of satire just to sell more product, thus keeping the movie's budget low. It's an anti-advertisement for itself," states Robert Wilonsky of the L. A. New Times, "a subversive piece that tells it's audience, 'Hey, you're all stupid sheep for buying Josie T-shirts, Josie ears, Josie coke and all the other crap we're trying to sell you. Now, be free thinkers and buy our merchandise.'" This plot point sent mixed signals to the audience, especially those who left halfway through a screening, as reported by this same critic. Even in a very positive review, Kenneth Turan from the L.A. Times closed with: It's a potent reminder that no matter how innocent a film may seem, there's a Hollywood cash register behind almost every frame." One other, more positive, point established was a running gag with Alexandra. Even though she didn't say or do much in the background, she was being noticed through the film as part of Josie's entourage. "Why are you here?"; she's finally asked and replies with utmost logic, "I'm here because I'm in the comic book."
However, it wasn't all funny soon after the opening weekend. 'Josie' opened with 2556 screens on Wednesday, April 11th just before the Easter weekend, next to 'Joe Dirt' starring David Spade and co-produced by Adam Sandler. The numbers came out on the following Monday: 'Josie' ended up in 7th place with only $7.2 million: $5.2 million over the weekend with an additional $2 million for Wednesday/Thursday. The next weekend saw only $3 million and 9th place. When reached for a comment, Nikki Rocco, head of Universal distribution, said, "It;a little soft, but these things happen. It's an inexpensive film, so hopefully we won't get hurt too badly on this investment."
The only item that sold well from the movie was the soundtrack. It went as high as #13 in the Billboard album charts. The people have spoken! Loved the music, not the movie. The soundtrack offered 11 tracks of souped-up guitar-driven 'Josie'; (including a version of the original Josie TV theme with updated lyrics) with a couple of tracks by the late DuJour. Although the credits only listed the musicians under the generic 'Performed by Josie & The Pussycats', there were obviously some rock names behind the mike. Outside of Kay Hanley (who sings lead in all the 'Josie'; tracks), notable support came from Biff Naked, Matthew Sweet, Adam Durtitz and Jane Weidlin from The Go-Go's. One of the albums many producers/project 'executives' (10 in all) likened the sound to a female Blank 182.
Old school Josie fans might have been disappointed with the movie, but they were about to be given a overdue nifty little gift in 2001: an official digital release of the original 1970 'Josie' album! Around this time, Rhino Records established an exclusive internet-only collectors sub-label called Rhino Handmade where the rarest of the rare and the most unusual recorded titles get a royal re-issue treatment that Rhino is well-known for, only in very limited quantities. Reflecting this aesthetic, Handmade labels first release was a 3-disc set of Wild Man Fischers complete output with the main label.
'Stop Look & Listen: The Capitol Recordings'; (above) was the title for the Josie set. It may have been a single disc, but was stuffed with lots of bonus goodies: outside of the original LP tracks, there were 18 bonus cuts: 12 of which were originally only available as singles, 3 alternative remixes and 3 unreleased tracks ('Together'; 'Dreammaker' and 'The Time To Love'). The booklet itself was crammed with illustrations from the first TV series, detailed production notes and, as mentioned earlier, liner notes from Janssen and co-songwriter Sue Sheridan.
According to the Handmade site at the time, Rhino were planning to produce a general retail version of the LP, minus the bonus material, but that never came to pass.....and not too far behind, Archie published 'The Best Of Josie & The Pussycats' (below), a 95-page collection of Josie, both before and during her Cat days. Each page was scanned and digitally re-colored (some more elaborate than others!!), but with some of the later material, no credits were edited out. Even in the introduction piece, 'Whoever Heard Of Girls With Guitars?' by Paul Castiglia, offered no names, mainly Dan's.