Cuddly Japanese monster looks to invade Western world

Property: Booska...
July 1, 2000

Property: Booska

Description: The original black-and-white, live-action TV show was created in 1966 by Tsuburaya Productions as a 47 x half-hour series (47 eps is a full season in Japan) about a monster that looks like a cross between a Teletubby and a bear

Owner/Licensor: Tsuburaya Productions of Japan

The latest: Booska has been relaunched as a full-color, live-action series of 38 half hours, and licensed merchandise that abounds in Tokyo is popular among teen girls as well as kids. Tsuburaya is negotiating to sell the series in Hong Kong and abroad.

Demo: preschool to 11

Concept: The wacky show centers on the adventures of the Tonda family and friendly live-in monster Booska. Originally intended to resemble an iguana, Booska gets juiced up with Boo Energy superpowers from the knob on top of his head (his Boo Kan). The monster is created from super-powered skateboard fuel by 11-year old Yusaku Tonda. The cuddly-looking creature can fly, lift up to 100 tons and make himself disappear, but he’s a bit bumbling and na-ve.

Potential: The bonus is that since the Booska character has been licensed regularly since its inception in the mid-1960s, tons of merch already exists. The product portfolio is so bountiful, in fact, that Japan’s primary shopping district Harajuku houses a dedicated boutique that sells Booska merchandise exclusively. The most popular items in Japan include toys, T-shirts (which have proven especially appealing to teen girls), pyjamas and knick-knacks like keychains, toothbrushes and piggy banks. Current Booska merchandising licenses have been picked up by various manufacturers in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Brad Warner, director of international public relations for Tsuburaya, has seen many signs that the international market is ready to embrace the property. Warner says Booska recently appeared on the CD cover of the latest Beck album, as well as starring in a book of photos by French-Japanese photographer Alexander Imai that depicts Booska in famous places from around the world-including Auschwitz. Booska goods have already been imported into the U.K. by avid collectors.

Warner believes that since the TV series tends to attract only young viewers, the Booska property could be more successful in some markets as an older-skewing independent character license, unsupported by the launch of the TV series. ‘The goods appeal to a wide variety of age groups, while the shows tend to appeal only to the very young.’

Market Reality Check:

Lisa Shapiro, director of entertainment licensing for U.K.-based The Licensing Company, says a music- or apparel-based Booska program could work in Britain if it generates teen interest via distribution in some exclusive independent stores, music outlets and popular clothing franchises like Urban Outfitters. ‘There’s definitely a buzz about things coming out of Japan at the moment, but success all depends how you drive the property.’

Because the U.K. retail scene centers around large chains rather than independent stores, and because Brit retailers are a little more receptive to properties coming out of the U.S. than those from Japan, Shapiro adds that launching the Booksa series on a net like GMTV or BBC1 would help drive merch sales. ‘It’s going into a very crowded market. It definitely needs a driver. It definitely needs a focus.’

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