Coachella made headlines in 2012 when it featured a performance from one of the most iconic rappers of all time. But it wasn’t Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, or Ice Cube. Rather, the festival presented the audience with a performance by Tupac — in full digitally rendered glory. That same company, Pulse Evolution, is doing the same thing with another icon, but this time it’s bigger than Tupac. In fact, it just might be a the icon to end all icons — Marilyn Monroe.
Marilyn’s digital likeness — not quite a hologram yet, according to designers — is set to be rolled out by Pulse within the next few years. Monroe’s estate holder Authentic Brand Group (ABG) recently signed a long-term contract with the company, according to The Wall Street Journal. But signing over the right to recreate Marilyn in stunning detail has much more to it than surprising festival-goers. Monroe is so universally recognized that companies will be eager to hire Marilyn — or rather Monroe’s likeness — to sell their products. ABG’s CEO Jamie Salter, however, notes that the class and recognition that Marilyn’s image invokes will not be taken lightly.
“We’re sticking with the best companies in that [fashion] space. We’ll be very careful when Marilyn Monroe takes a job from a model standpoint. We’re treating her no different than if Brad Pitt or Lady Gaga was our client.”
Of course, the idea of capturing the essence of a celebrity digitally is something that has been addressed, even if just in science fiction. Most recently, Ari Folman’s film The Congress showed an aging actress give up her right to perform in order to have a copy made of her to appear in all future roles. Marilyn could eventually have a similar future, but stars that may be Monroe-level famous later on are being approach by these companies to figure out the logistics of these new technologies now, says Pulse CEO Frank Patterson.
“We see this as a real opportunity for living human beings as well. We’ve been approached by several high profile celebrities about this idea of building and owning their own polygons. We’re at an age where it’s smart for celebrities to begin thinking about their digital likeness rights in different ways. If I can capture your polygons and store them for you, that’s a great asset. That’s smart estate planning.”
Development of the digital image process is, however, in its infancy. Marilyn just happens to be one of the most famous people of all time, meaning she’s also one of the first likenesses that Pulse will want to get their hands on. If the technology takes off, Monroe could be a hot commodity.
“We’re taking these assets and applying them to traditional business structures. First having them appear in major venue installations – think of a casino appearance with a major, 52-week show commitment. Then rolling them out into touring presentations and special appearances, generating sponsorship and branded-content opportunities.”
Would you go to a movie featuring a digital Marilyn Monroe?