Berlin-based ITP is planning the international launch of Benjamin Blömchen, a talking elephant that boasts a 96% recognition among three- to 12-year-old children in Germany. Benjamin first appeared on audio cassette in Germany in 1977 and has now sold 50 million units. After a brief spell on video in the `80s, his adventures were turned into a 13 x 30-minute animated TV series for ZDF in 1991, achieving an audience share of 20%.
According to ITP head of TV and merchandising Andrea Bannert-Droof, ITP is now making 52 new episodes of Benjamin with a view to exporting him overseas. Although the character is mostly known in German-speaking territories, she expects neighboring European territories such as France, Benelux, Scandinavia and Italy to be receptive in the short term. She also has ambitions to introduce Benjamin to the U.K. and U.S. At home, two broadcasters are in the final stages of negotiating rights to the show.
For the new version of Benjamin, ITP has dropped the name Blömchen and added more slapstick humor. There are also a few design changes; he now walks on two feet, has smaller ears and has had his teeth removed. In due course, Bannert-Droof expects the original 13-part series to be withdrawn from circulation in Germany, though it might be made available overseas. While maintaining Benjamin’s presence in Germany is a priority, Bannert-Droof stresses the importance of selling the brand overseas. She is optimistic that the nonviolent classic animation style will travel, which is why ITP has committed to a total of 52 episodes.
The fact that Benjamin has already done well in Germany is seen as a marketing benefit. ‘We can show buyers the success we have had in a highly competitive TV market. We also have experience in developing and managing a major licensing and merchandising program for the character.’ To date, 500 product lines have been developed around Benjamin. At MIP-TV, there will be five episodes completed for buyers to view.