Property: The Fantastic Flying Journey
Licensor (U.K.): Saban Consumer Products UK
Description: Based on the same-name book by author/naturalist Gerald Durrell, The Fantastic Flying Journey is the first animated series from U.K.-based Two Sides TV–the prodco behind puppet series Bug Alert and preschool series Animal Antics and Little Antics. The 13 x half-hour show debuted in July on CiTV, and co-producer TV-Loonland holds all rights in France and French-speaking territories, Germany and German-speaking territories, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Benelux. Two Sides TV retains rights in all other territories, including the U.S. and Canada, with sales handled by Minotaur. At press time, distribution deals had been signed in Canada (Sextant International), Hong Kong (Asia Television), Singapore (Television Twelve) and Taiwan (Public Television Service).
Concept: Animal-lover Perceval Dollybutt has created a magic powder enabling humans and animals to communicate. Perceval travels the world in a hot air balloon with his family and pet dog Buster, but the group is chased by evil industrialist Lucretia Moore and her bumbling bodyguard. Lucretia is set on patenting the powder’s secret ingredients herself in order to sell it to pet owners around the world.
Demo: Kids five to nine
The latest: At press time, Saban was in discussions with music companies about using the series soundtrack to create a themed CD. Beginning next month, Fantastic Flying Journey will appear as a comic strip in CiTV’s monthly mag Telly Tots through a recent deal inked between Saban and the U.K. caster.
Potential: The fact that The Fantastic Flying Journey is based on a book by Gerald Durrell–a well-known children’s author whose books are on the national curriculum in the U.K.–was a key influence in Saban Consumer Products UK’s decision to sign on as agent for the property. ‘We think this will give a parental endorsement to the series and the merchandise, as well as a very big, positive tick in terms of awareness and interaction with the kids audience,’ says managing director Ian Downes.
It also offered Saban a contrast to some of its other kid properties. While Digimon and Power Rangers have a high-tech, futuristic style, the feel of Fantastic Flying Journey is softer and more traditional–something Downes hopes to build into classic status over the long term.
The property also has enviro-cachet through its connection to Jersey-based Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, founded by Durrell in 1959 to help protect and improve conditions for endangered species. At press time, Saban was working to formalize an awareness-building partnership with the foundation. With that association in place, ‘the property automatically operates on another tier because there’s a feel-good factor,’ says Downes.
Since the series is about exploring new places, Downes is plotting to tap into this theme in unique consumer promotions. ‘We could link with a travel supplier–an airline, a train or bus company,’ Downes enthuses. ‘Or we could have a sweepstakes that might involve linking POPs to a collectible passport that allows people to enter.’
In terms of merchandising, the first phase of the program will focus on publishing (the original book by Durrell will be reprinted), stationery, collectible prints, posters and gift ranges (figurines, gift plush) for introduction in Q1 2002. Additional categories Saban will explore include apparel, toys and games (puzzles, activity kits) and interactive products (educational CD-ROMs).
Retail strategy will focus on specialty and gift outlets, rather than mass merchants. Mail order and dedicated booksellers will also be targeted since ‘there’s an opportunity not only to sell books, but to build on that by selling gift merchandise, stationery and other paper products.’
At press time, agency representation was yet to be determined in the other territories over which Two Sides TV presides.
Market reality check: While Canada was the first international territory to snag distribution rights to the series, it may be a tougher sell there for merch.
British concepts tend to work well in Canadian crossover, but Richard Stamper, president of Canadian licensing agency Royal Marketing Solutions, questions the amount of equity that Durrell’s books have outside the U.K. ‘I think too many licensors are trying to develop programs when there just isn’t enough consumer interest in the properties from a merchandise perspective.’ The solution? Let The Fantastic Flying Journey live as a TV series until it has built up some equity, and then assess the viability of a licensing program.
According to Stamper, the property’s conservation ties provide a unique vehicle to drive interest through a partnership with a Canuck wildlife organization, like the Canadian Wildlife Federation.