Trendmasters, a St. Louis, Missouri-based licensing company, is using the launch of War Planets, a series based on a line of its licensed toys, as a way to extend the sci-fi brand.
Last year, major retailers across the U.S., such as Toys `R’ Us and Walmart, began carrying the company’s line of action figures and planetary play sets. The toys were user-friendly, but lacked characters that young boys could identify with. In order to extend the brand, Trendmasters has partnered with Mainframe Entertainment of Vancouver, Canada to develop an animated series.
The Canadian company is the creator of the highly successful computer-generated series ReBoot and Beast Wars, and has already made a name for itself by creating kids sci-fi series.
Mainframe bought the series rights from Trendmasters earlier this year, while Toronto, Canada-based Alliance Atlantis Communications has secured the worldwide distribution rights. Leisure Concepts International in New York owns the international merchandising rights.
The 26-episode, digitally animated series-entitled War Planets in the U.S., and the less pugnacious Shadowraiders in Canada-is scheduled for fall syndication. In the U.S., War Planets is slated to blanket over 90% of the country, with 50 of the top television markets airing the series. Mainframe will also work on 14 additional episodes scheduled for production in 1999.
‘We’ve partnered with Trendmasters on several aspects of this project,’ says Helen Chapman, director of communications at Mainframe. ‘We are sharing ideas on both storyline and the kinds of licensed toys that can come from that.’ According to Chapman, the two are linked.
War Planets is a sci-fi adventure about one man’s struggle to unite the tribes living on four nearby planets-Fire, Bone, Rock and Ice. It’s only when protagonist Graveheart of the Rock discovers the evil Beast Planet that the other planetary residents realize they must join forces to survive. Storylines revolve around the battles between good and evil.
The original toy line focused on interactive play sets and vehicles for young boys that combine the excitement of playing ‘army’ with the adventure of the unknown space frontier.
With over 20 play pieces per planet, the items can be taken apart, transformed, and are interchangeable with toy parts from the other planets.
The six play sets-Bone, Rock, Ice, Tek, Fire and Remora-with over 20 pieces per set, open to reveal command centers, poseable warriors and attack vehicles. There are also six Shadowraider moon space battle stations that attach to the play sets and include weapon launchers, vehicles and figurines.
Planet Beast, the largest set, has a light-up battle planet that opens up to swallow smaller planets. It includes an arsenal, detachable battle cruiser, a people-eater cruiser, as well as the Dark Lord character. These sci-fi sets are found in all major department and toy stores, and retail for US$7 to US$20. Trendmasters is adding figurines and vehicles that will range from $US6 to $US30, and will include identifiable characters Jade, Pyrus, Blokk and Beast Drone.
‘We are also working with Trendmasters on the licensing of apparel, activity books and restaurant premium promotions,’ says Chapman. ‘An extended line of War Planets items should be on the shelves by the middle of next year.’ Leisure Concepts International is currently in negotiations with an unnamed list of licensees which will be made public by year’s end.
A CD-ROM game called War Planets, Age of Chaos will be out on store shelves this fall. ‘Outer space is very hot right now,’ says Karen Morris, director of marketing and promotions at Trendmasters. ‘War Planets looks and feels different than anything else out there due to the richness and variety of the playsets’
Mainframe is equally optimistic about how the existing licensed line and new series will be mutually beneficial.
‘We think that the concept is solid and with the interest in science fiction that is out there, the property will have real appeal with young boys,’ says Mainframe’s Chapman. ‘We want the series and the toys to work together for the brand.’