The following is an excerpt from the upcoming 20 Years of Tomb Raider, the definitive guide to the franchise, digging deep into two decades of Lara Croft’s impact on pop culture. As Lara returns to PS4, we look back at a key moment from the character’s past, as she takes her first steps towards Hollywood…
Tomb Raider III: Completing the Trilogy
Lara’s expansion into the pop-culture consciousness continued to grow in her third year of life. Partnerships established in 1997 came to fruition in 1998 as merchandise requests continued to flood in. “Eidos as a company is very, very protective over Lara so we’re very careful with the merchandise that we choose,” said Janet Swallow, VP of Licensing in GameTap’s Tomb Raider retrospective. “We’ve had two odd requests; one of them was a racehorse owner asking whether he could call his racehorse after Lara, which we declined.” The concern being that the horse may fall at the first hurdle, a risk they didn’t want to take. “And the second one was a tulip grower in Holland,” continued Swallow. “To name one of their brands of tulips after Lara which we thought was quite nice.” She confirms the tulip deal was approved and they were grown in Amsterdam.
Some top tier merchandise also made it through approvals, such a series of 9” figures from Playmates that became immediate fan favorites. Each posed Lara within intriguing dioramas, and kicked off a long partnership with the toy company. Other products included a PlayStation memory card with Lara’s torso jutting out from the console, letting her save games with style. She was also partnered up with U.K. sports drink brand Lucozade for a series of action-packed commercials, and starred in one of German band Die Ärzte’s music videos, taking it to the top of the music charts for eight weeks.
March of 1998 saw the announcement that Paramount had acquired the worldwide film rights to Tomb Raider. “Tomb Raider is a high-energy, inventive and smart action-adventure project,” said Producers Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin in an official release. “It’s based on the rare video game that is well-suited for film adaptation, not only because of its thematic and visual richness, but also because it’s so strongly character and story oriented.” A pair of striking teaser posters were released long before an actress was cast, asking “Who is Lara Croft?” Following the movie’s 2001 release, there would be few left who couldn’t answer that question…
Previews for Tomb Raider III took place again at E3 and ECTS. This time model Nell McAndrew filled Lara’s boots for photoshoots and live appearances. Eidos also choreographed a custom stage presentation where fans could talk directly to Lara and ask her questions; her voice actress Judith Gibbins was squirreled away backstage to answer the queries. McAndrew would proceed to take Tomb Raider on tour for several months, visiting Europe, Australia, and stops all over the United Kingdom.
It was at events like these (specifically E3, held in Atlanta at the time) which Producer Troy Horton recalls most fondly. In the “pre-social media days” shows had extra weight and importance. “Those are the kind of moments you realize you are working with a really fantastic team on a really amazing product. You face the customers, see people playing it and hear their feedback directly. You live in a bubble at a studio, especially a small one. Back then there was no social media, email had only come into use a year or two before.”
Tomb Raider III sold massively — the best to date at the time of launch, although lifetime sales were eventually overtaken due to re-releases of the original two titles. The studio continued to invest in the future, satiating the desire for yearly Tomb Raider releases while keeping an eye on new technology and opportunities just over the horizon.
20 Years of Tomb Raider, a 360 page hardback recounting Lara Croft’s greatest moments across video games, comics, movies, and pop culture, is out on October 25. Written by Meagan Marie, Senior Community Manager, Crystal Dynamics, it will be available at select retailers.