The ABC is attempting to infuse new life into the Bananas after it hits the coveted 10-year mark in 2002.
From a programming standpoint, ABC is currently in production on 20 new five-minute episodes including new character Thomasina the Tortoise, to be available in February 2001, and has recently released a new style guide to give the lovable yellow fruit a simpler look.
Licensing activity will move forward in all the ABC categories. Three new titles will be available in the second half of 2000 from ABC Books, along with five new activity titles from Pancake Press of Melbourne for next year, and five more planned for 2001. Australia’s The Book Company will produce two new novelty books, and Melbourne-based Hinkler Books is producing three new book and tape sets (which are extremely popular in Australia) for 2000.
‘If you don’t have a strong publishing base, you don’t have a good property,’ says Grassby. ‘You need that to drive the merchandise.’
ABC Video has just released Bananas video Surprise Party, and just in time for September’s Olympics, the division will come out with It’s Games Time. In April, ABC Music will launch The Very Best of Bananas In Pyjamas Live in Concert, which will include clips from some of the live events. ABC Events has a new live Bananas show planned for April, including singing, dancing and a national tour. A new toy licensee, Camsons Trading of West New South Wales, has acquired the former Playcorp Bananas line for immediate distribution. The former licensee’s agreement expires at the end of 1999. Camsons has also been appointed distributor of the Applause gift and plush line in Australia, along with the Bear in the Big Blue House and Sesame Street lines.
The food category is being actively explored by Gaffney International Licensing for other Bananas products. Its first agreement was inked with Chiquita Banana earlier this year, and another with Melbourne-based Paul’s Yogurt followed.
‘The policy we have is it has to be traditional, healthy, age-appropriate food,’ says Ed Medica, managing director of Gaffney. He plans to expand licensed food opportunities, especially in the supermarkets, where Bananas product will be aimed directly at mothers. He says there is plenty of room for more licensed food products in Australia such as milk, cheese and fruit bars. As long as they’re healthy, he reasons, moms will buy them. Gaffney is also the licensing agent for Energee Entertainment’s upcoming film The Magic Pudding and is currently negotiating for a range of product that includes pudding and cake. Gaffney is in the process of signing 10 licensees for the film, which is due to be released in December 2000
In Argentina, food licensing is one of the most important categories says Judith Hofman, licensing director for Exim Licensing Group. It took three years, but Bananas is now quite hot there thanks to licensees in the candy category. The property is also gearing up in Germany. The series has begun airing there on Kinderkanal, and a deal is currently in the works for a book series by a Munich-based pubco, although no deals had been signed at press time.
The entire process is hoped to make Bananas a classic brand. Looking towards its 10th anniversary in 2002, the Bananas movie will be the main platform on which to exploit the property’s 10 years.
‘We want to keep in the face of children,’ says Terese Mudgeway, licensing manager at ABC. The company will also invest in market research to find out what kids and parents want from Bananas, and at the retail level, ABC will launch a new look in its packaging and branding for September 2000. The licensing department is looking for ways it can increase promotion between licensees and also between licensees and retailers.