Owner: Kodansha of Japan
Licensor: Nelvana has North American distribution, home video and merchandising rights for 70 half hours of the 2-D series produced by Kodansha.
Description: Another anime property, but with a girl lead character.
Demo: According to Sid Kaufman, Nelvana’s exec VP of worldwide merchandising, the property is aimed at girls and boys ages five to 12, although others in the industry peg it as a tween-and-younger girl property.
Concept: The anime series centers on a girl character, her friends and the mythical monsters like The Windy that are released after she inadvertently opens a magical book. The girl has to capture all the cards, hence the name Cardcaptor.
The latest: Although not officially announced at press time, industry sources say that Kids’ WB! recently signed on as broadcast partner and will begin airing the series in the fall in the slot after Pokémon, and that Trendmasters has secured the master toy license.
Anime properties have so far shown nary a slowdown in terms of ratings potential. Along with the top-rated Pokémon, newcomer Digimon, which airs on Fox Kids at 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays, is gathering steam. According to Nielsen Galaxy Explorer, the series recently beat out WB’s Batman Beyond and Nick’s Hey Arnold! during the week of February 26, 2000, receiving a 32% share of boys six to 11 as opposed to Batman Beyond’s 20% and Hey Arnold!’s 12%. The ratings potential for a girl-based property airing directly after Pokémon is extremely good.
‘We definitely believe there is a core fan appetite,’ says Kaufman. Cardcaptor has been airing on Japan’s NHK since 1996, and a feature film and video were released there in 1999.
Kaufman says there are no signs of the wheels of anime slowing down, especially due to more acceptance in the European market. He adds Nelvana is betting on ‘long-term opportunities for the property.’ Patience will be the key to growing Cardcaptor’s merchandising success. Deals expected to be announced soon include video and publishing along with apparel, accessories and stationery items.
Kaufman is also looking at interactive products based on solid sales of digital merch in Japan. MGA Entertainment is negotiating with Nelvana for electronic toy rights.
The property should translate well to collectibles because the story features a slew of creatures, but Kaufman adds there will also be licensing potential for the fashion-based story line, the social interaction between the protagonist and her friends, and the magic, which could translate into magic toys and accessories. Virginia O’Connor, a licensing manager at MGA, also mentions the possibility of tarot-style trading cards, which would definitely appeal to the kid and tween girl demos.
Market Reality Check:
Temperate to toasty, according to comic retailers and distributors.
Brian McGeehan, brand manager at Maryland-based Diamond Comic Distributors, says although the series has similarities to Pokémon, it’s significantly different enough to be successful in the collectible and hobby market. He adds that although mass market retailers are less likely to take in an unknown property like Cardcaptor, the fact that the lead is a female is appealing, while the property will ‘still entice the classic anime fan.’ McGeehan also sees real potential in the apparel and accessories area for the property.
Mike Moses, assistant manager of Toronto-based comic retailer Silver Snail, says he would carry trading cards based on the property if they were done by Wizards of the Coast, but says in general, the anime craze is dying down a little. ‘You really wonder how much the market can take.’
However, Peter Dixon, owner of Toronto’s Paradise Comics, says although the Pokémon craze has slowed somewhat since Christmas, he doesn’t believe the thirst for anime is waning yet. He sees the Cardcaptor property as promising because the female lead will allow more collectibles for girls, something he says the market is thirsting for.
Owner/Licensor: American Greetings
Description: A collection of animated characters with different personalities (including Cool Dude and Hug and Disco Diva), which were created by a team of designers from Carlton Cards U.K.
Demo: American Greetings is positioning it as an aspirational property with appeal for girls and boys in their tweens and up.
Concept: series of six main and 23 secondary characters-all brightly colored and stick-figure-like, with distinct characteristics. The property taps into the alter-ego craze wherein kids wear different shirts depending on mood
The latest: Viacom Consumer Products has signed on as licensing agent and will spearhead the licensing and merchandising program. Several licensees have already been signed in key categories, and there is talk of an animated series or a comic strip.
The Bubblegum property will fit a finicky tween niche that hasn’t really been fulfilled, says Mike Brown, VP of licensing for American Greetings. Launched in the U.K. in 1996, it has since racked up 20 licensees in 15 categories. Its Web site, www.bubblegumonline.com, has snagged nine to 10 million hits a month since its November launch. Brown sees the program starting with novelty, gift, stationery and apparel, with a big push for back-to-school 2000. New licensees include: New York’s Giant for apparel; Florida’s Play Along for novelty plush and PVC figurines; San Rafael, California’s Cedco Publishing for journals, student planners, etc.; Pennsylvania’s Plymouth for portfolios, school supplies and notebooks; and Chicago’s M&D Industries of for Mylar balloons.
Terri Helton, senior VP of domestic licensing for Viacom Consumer Products, says that because the property will likely have more girl appeal, Viacom may develop a boy character to appeal to the male buyer. Brown adds that with retail shelves crowded with preschool offerings, the market is ready for a tween property, as long as it doesn’t pander to kids and tell them what’s cool. To him, Bubblegum is all about attitude.
Market Reality Check:
According to Gary Caplan, a Los Angeles-based licensing consultant, the property has potential, depending on how it is positioned.
‘Bubblegum has an opportunity to fill a void in marketing products for girls. It would depend on American Greetings being able to build exposure and affection through their expert marketing skills. They’ve done it before.’ American Greetings created other original properties like Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears, which became licensing sensations.
Woody Browne, also a consultant and principal of New Jersey-based Building Q, says he likes the property (although he is involved since his client is Giant), because it’s got a niche opportunity. Plus, it’s sliding into the marketplace quietly, ‘not like the Second Coming.’ He predicts it will skew more girl, but will be popular because of the unique look of the characters.