When Japanese artist Masaru Houri drew a little panda character with angel wings four years ago, he could not have foreseen that the doodle’s success in Asia would spawn a global rollout. Now, New Jersey-based Bradford Licensing hopes to transpose the popularity of Panshel onto North American turf, offering up the ursine character as a potential Pokémon successor.
The art-based property was expanded for the upcoming summer release of the first book by Shoudensa to include a whole cast of 3-D characters. Easily identified by the color of their wings, the new crew includes mischievous angels called Pandevils and a girlfriend character named Panshelia. For the next spate of Panshel books, Houri has even added fairies and babies into the mix.
The property took off in Japanese licensing circles when Houri sold it to giftware manufacturer Marimo Craft to be featured on a mirrored compact.
‘From there, licensees came to him,’ says
Desiree Collazo-Soto, a Bradford Licensing account executive.
Although the Japanese program has now grown to include over 36 licensees in publishing, apparel, footwear and beauty products, Collazo-Soto says Bradford is ‘not being that aggressive with the licensing program.’
Currently, a limited amount of ‘test’ merchandise (including T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats) is being sold via the Web, a catalog and one outlet store. However, this skimpy U.S. distribution web could expand if they get an animated Panshel series off the ground. At the moment, a production company is in place to render the series, but deals with a distributor and broadcaster are still being hammered out. If all goes as planned, the series could launch by fall 2001, with licensed product rolling out to stores in the U.S. no later than this fall.