Scholastic goes Hollywood with Smith book deal
Rapper-turned-thespian Will (2K) Smith will soon add the title of writer to his resumé. The star of Independence Day and a string of other blockbuster actioners recently signed a multibook deal with pubco Scholastic. The agreement, which also names the star’s wife-actor Jada Pinkett Smith-as a principal, will initially see Smith develop two series and individual picture books. The first title, a picture book called Just the Two of Us (US$16.95), is based on a song Smith wrote for his son chronicling a father and son’s relationship from birth to adulthood. Other books will also draw on the content of Smith’s songs and some original ideas that Jada has proposed, says Jean Feiwel, editor-in-chief at Scholastic. For the retail release of Just the Two of Us, due out next May, Scholastic is assembling a marketing campaign that will play off a Father’s Day theme, possibly including select in-store readings from the star. With the Scholastic deal, Smith joins a growing list of actors (Jamie Lee Curtis, John Lithgow and Julie Andrews, for example) who have also turned their talents to the potentially lucrative business of authoring children’s books. At press time, Curtis’s book Where Do Balloons Go? was ranked third on the New York Times Best Selling Children’s Picture Book list. But Feiwel insists that Scholastic, which also publishes a book series by entertainer Bill Cosby, is not trading on Smith’s star status. ‘We think everything Will stands for is great. Capitalizing on his celebrity is not really what this deal is about for him or for us,’ he says.
Penguin gets Greenlight for Grimm deal
Penguin Australia has signed a multinational deal with German-based Greenlight Media to produce books based on its animated TV show SimsalaGrimm. In addition to Australia, the deal gives Penguin pub rights for the U.K. and New Zealand, with options to extend to other territories. As per the agreement, Penguin is permitted to develop a range of book formats based on nine tales from the show, including activity packs, hard cover story, mini story, coloring games, bumper color and activity books. Based on stories by the Brothers Grimm, the 2-D cel-animated TV show currently airs in 127 countries. Though the series has yet to appear on TV State-side, at press time, Greenlight was pursuing a deal with a U.S.-based studio to distribute both its show and a US$30-million animated SimsalaGrimm theatrical feature, which is expected to head into production in early 2001. According to a company spokesman at Greenlight, any U.S. publishing deal will remain on the back burner until both the TV and film distribution agreements have been secured.