A dancing mouse with international aspirations

Property: Angelina Ballerina...
February 1, 2001

Property: Angelina Ballerina

Owner/Licensor: HIT Entertainment

Description: Based on the book series by Katharine Holabird (illustrated by Helen Craig), which have sold over 2.5 million copies in the U.S. alone. Now a television series from HIT Entertainment slated for U.K. delivery in fall 2001 on ITV, Angelina has been acquired by ZDF in Germany, with a U.S. sale in the pipeline.

Concept: From the moment this fiesty mouse could walk, she has practised her pliés and pirouettes in front of her bedroom mirror. The series follows the little mouse as she pursues her dream to be the greatest ballerina in Mouseland, grappling with the hopes and disappointments that pave the road to greatness.

Demo: Girls three to seven

The latest: As of press time, the ink was still wet on new U.K. deals with Aykroyd & Sons (sleepwear) and Rainbow Productions (character costumes for public appearances), with a publishing deal near completion. In the U.S., master toy licensee Pleasant Company has already rolled out a range of Angelina books and toys. The books, which went to reprint prior to going on sale in September 2000, had already sold 270,000 copies as of October 2000.

Potential: Although the licensing program for Angelina is still in its infancy, HIT is banking on the property becoming an evergreen in the U.K. given the shortage of girl-skewing properties in that market. ‘Angelina is a very beautiful girls property with a pedigree and a history attached to it,’ says Katie Foster, director of licensing at HIT. ‘I think the fact that Angelina’s a ballerina and ballerinas are fairly timeless, makes it a property that doesn’t really date.’

Already, the property has attracted the attention of licensee hopefuls in diverse categories. At press time, HIT was in negotiations with licensees for puzzles/games, food products, outerwear, stationery/toiletries and bags, and was gearing up for the 2001 round of British spring trade fairs, beginning the British International Toy and Hobby Fair (January 27-31). Licenses for accessories, ancillary toys, general crafts and other apparel categories are currently open, though Foster was hopeful that new deals would arise at the trades.

HIT will be looking for licensees that deal with all of the major U.K. retailers and, more importantly, are able to interpret the style of the property. ‘It’s a very intricate style of animation, so we’re looking for people with the creativity to take the look of Angelina and translate that into a product that’s relevant to little girls today,’ says Foster.

HIT plans to position Angelina product in what the Brits would consider mass market since, unlike the U.S., the U.K. tends not to have a tiered retail structure. Foster expects the merchandise will be seen in larger retailers like Marks & Spencer, Next and Woolworth’s, as well as in the majority of licensed areas-apparel, toys and gift. ‘I think the property lends itself beautifully to gift,’ says Foster. ‘But if we aimed exclusively at gift, I don’t think we’d get the sort of distribution we’d like to see for Angelina.’

As for future plans for its aspiring dancing mouse, HIT believes Angelina will be in all targeted foreign-language markets by 2002. According to Tim Collins, director of HIT’s U.K. consumer products division, agency appointment in Germany is imminent. And as of press time, HIT was in discussions for Angelina launch plans with Australia’s Gaffney International Licensing. According to Gaffney’s managing director Ed Medica, HIT and Gaffney will be finalizing an agreement over the next month or two. Future territories in which broadcast sales and merchandising will be a HIT priority include Benelux and Scandinavia.

Market reality check: According to Anthony Harvey, VP of Licensing at Aussie firm Licensing Works, Angelina’s success in Australia and New Zealand depends upon a number of factors. First, HIT will have to sell the series to a free-to-air and, if possible, a pay-TV Australian network, with the local network(s) providing strong, regular and on-going scheduling in an appropriate timeslot. Secondary to broadcast sales is a strong local publishing program. ‘Publishing would probably be reliant on taking already developed product from [licensees such as] Pleasant Company and finding a suitable distribution partner in Australia and New Zealand,’ says Harvey.

Harvey says that successful licensed merch programs in territories like the U.K. and U.S. not only provide a base of product for distribution in Australia and New Zealand, but give local retail buyers confidence to support the program locally. To ensure Aussie market success, Harvey would look to add jewellery and fashion accessories in addition to toys, publishing and video as key elements of the program for its intended demo.

The general Licensing Works consensus is that U.K. properties transfer well into Australia and New Zealand. ‘We are still very close to the U.K. in many ways and tend to appreciate the U.K. sense of humor,’ says Harvey. ‘We sit somewhere between the U.K. and U.S., and therefore most television programs and licenses translate well into our culture.’ Examples of British licenses that are well accepted in these territories include: Bob the Builder, greeting card property Bubblegum, Maisy, Mr. Men & Little Miss, Teletubbies and Thomas the Tank Engine.

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