Since its September 1995 U.S. debut, Aussie import Bananas in Pajamas has built a steady following with preschoolers. The Sachs Family Entertainment (SFE) syndicated series has been supported by a developing licensing program centered on the key categories of toys, home video, publishing and apparel.
Bananas in Pajamas, which evolved from a 1972 novelty song, follows the comedic antics of twin bananas named B1 and B2. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) developed a live-action series that debuted in 1992, which kids went, well, bananas over.
U.S. syndication and licensing rights were sold in 1994 to SFE and Total Licensing Services (TLS), respectively. Tomy signed on immediately as the master toy licensee.
A successful foreign program d’es not always translate into a domestic hit. ‘This property has some very exportable qualities,’ says TLS president Sid Kaufman. ‘But the only way we could convince licensees that this property was going to work was through performance.’
Kaufman concentrated first on toys, with test runs in four markets, before expanding into a national roll-out. ‘Our strategy was very modest,’ he says. ‘We felt that this property needed to develop a market before we went into the marketplace with a critical mass of product.’
Over the past year, he has added core licensees of home video (Polygram), publishing (Golden Books) and apparel (J.C. Penney Co.). Overall, there are about 30 licensees. ‘We’re not focusing on the number of licenses, but the right companies that make the right product,’ Kaufman adds.
A critical component to building Bananas as a brand is reaching out to its audience at the local level. The Bananas are currently on a 10-city mall tour with JCPenney stores, their second tour in two years.
Bananas in Pajamas airs in over 35 countries and has over 100 worldwide licensees. Here’s a look at its U.S. licensing activity:
1992: The live-action Bananas in Pajamas debuts on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). It becomes a preschool sensation.
1994: ABC consultant Fred Gaffney makes a deal with SFE to syndicate the show in the U.S. Total Licensing Services and toy manufacturer Tomy come in as partners.
September 1995: The syndicated series debuts on 117 stations.
Late 1995: Plush toys from Tomy are tested in four markets to establish product performance; national distribution begins in January 1996.
March 1996: The second phase of the licensing program begins when home video partner Polygram releases its first two titles.
April 1996: Local Bananas promotional appearances include the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
September 1996: Publishing licensee Golden Books ships its first set of coloring and picture books.
October 1996: A major apparel program with JCPenney stores launches with a 10-city mall tour.
Late 1996: New activity includes a significant line extension from Tomy focusing on plush, an album from Capitol Records, and a puzzle license with Milton Bradley. In the works is a January promotion with a national consumer-products company.