Property: Sheira and Loli’s Dittydoodle Works
Licensor: Rogar Studios/WLIW New York
Description: Currently airing daily as music video interstitials on New York public broadcaster WLIW, Dittydoodle Works follows the adventures of ragdoll twins Sheira and Loli, who run a factory that produces fun. The pair is joined by a rag-tag ensemble cast including Professor Eeky Eeky Kronk, purple crayon Doodles and two furball Funkins named Pink-a-dink and Bluedles. Introduced on WLIW in late 2000, the property’s tri-state popularity has spawned a full-length special, local mall appearances drawing more than 2,500 kids and parents, a fan club and a website (www.dittydoodle.com) that launched last September.
Concept: At press time, Rogar Studios and WLIW New York were in the final throes of negotiating funding, and expected to begin production on a full series of 13 to 26 half-hour episodes–written by Rogar Studios president Cory Rosenberg and Sesame Street veteran Mark Saltzman–as early as this month. The new format will expand on subject matter touched upon in the interstitials, with the first new episode tentatively slated to air on WLIW in March. Rogar Studios and WLIW plan to present the series to public TV stations across the U.S. this spring, aiming to roll the show out nationwide between fall 2002 and winter 2003.
The latest: At press time, launch product from plush licensee Commonwealth Toy & Novelty and video/audio product from Rogar Studios (through distributors Valley Media and Alliance Entertainment Group) was prepped to be shipped to select FAO Schwarz stores. Video and audio product was expected to hit tri-state area Toys ‘R’ Us, Barnes & Noble, Nobody Beats the Wiz and Best Buy locations in time for Christmas.
Potential: Working under the tag line ‘It’s like vitamins for a child’s imagination,’ the long-form version of Dittydoodle Works will focus on ‘socially conscious, life skill lessons, rather than the ABC, 1-2-3 type of education,’ says Rogar Studios president Cory Rosenberg. Thus, the half-hour series will deal with subject matter that touches on self-esteem issues and creativity, taking serious topics and working them into situations palatable to preschoolers.
Rosenberg’s licensing vision for the property lies in translating Dittydoodle Works’ on-air messages and concepts to high-end educational product. ‘We have certain characters and contraptions in our programming that we plan to expand on, so obviously there will be toy links there,’ says Rosenberg. ‘But the real mandate is to nurture the property so we don’t blow it out.’
To that end, Rosenberg is working with toy inventor consultants to create toys with play patterns that mimic the property’s programming agenda–namely creative, right-side-of-the-brain development. Other product categories on Rogar’s agenda include apparel, home furnishings, juvenile furniture, electronic toys and music-centric play items.
Asked whether agency representation is on the horizon for Dittydoodle Works, Rosenberg maintains that the plan is to manage the program in-house, at least domestically. Plans to shop the series abroad are in the works, however, with English-speaking Europe, Australia and Asia as initial targets. In each territory, Rosenberg will look to sub out merch rights to local agents.
Market reality check: Jerome Houle, president of Massachusetts-based licensing agency Bliss House, loves Dittydoodle Works’ interstitial concept–’bright little vignettes that bounce in and out of the TV schedule’–but notes that a half-hour show is much more difficult to sustain.
And although Houle believes that a national PBS audience and an appropriate time slot could help Dittydoodle Works attract a large audience, he is quick to point out that a national TV presence is no longer a guarantee of merch success. ‘A program has to break through and touch the audience,’ says Houle.
As someone who has spent a great deal of time in the puppet/walk-around character realm (as former VP of marketing for Jim Henson’s Muppets), Houle feels the Dittydoodle characters (in walk-around form) could be the greatest stumbling block to the property’s success on a national level. ‘These characters look like we have seen them before–they are reminiscent of Sid and Marty Kroft’s work or the Ronald McDonald characters,’ says Houle. ‘I would suggest fine-tuning the characters to make them more unique and endearing, enhancing their eye contact with the audience.’ Houle likes the direction of the Dittydoodle Works website–with animated versions of the characters leading kids through sing-alongs and arts and crafts activities–far more. ‘We [at Bliss House] like the drawing style and whimsy exhibited there–if that is the future of Dittydoodle Works, then we are more hopeful.’