Why start your own company now, when market conditions are so daunting?
Itsy was a way to introduce ideas into the market. The ideas haven’t stopped–for example, I’ll be cooking in my kitchen and come up with a concept based on spoon characters. The ideas keep bubbling up, and I need an outlet to express them. Yes, the market is awful, but the timing is good to bring in new concepts that reflect what audiences are looking for–material about sharing, healing and love. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Mother Theresa, but it makes good business sense to be trying to make the world a better place right now… there’s a lot of money to be made from that approach.
What pitfalls will you be trying to avoid this time?
I’d like to resist the pressure to bring in third parties too early. I’ve got the financing to take these concepts pretty far on my own so that when another party comes in, they’ll understand what I’m doing and will have more reasonable terms and expectations.
How affected are you by industry expectations?
There are benefits and liabilities to people knowing who you are. I’d like to believe that because I’ve had successes in the past, people will be receptive. But everyone should remember that I didn’t create the Teletubbies, I just marketed the property. Having said that, I’ve made huge ground in kids entertainment. Nini’s Treehouse is the top kids show in the U.K., and The It’s itsy bitsy Time block broke new ground when it debuted.
How involved will you be with the projects Kenn Viselman Presents undertakes?
If you really believe in your ‘thing,’ you have to control it. How do I see my role in this company? There’s absolutely no room for misunderstanding: I’m the conductor. I have never worked on a project that others immediately viewed as an important one. The reason the ideas worked is solely because of my convictions.
I’m really an agent, a creator and a producer–whatever I need to be in order to get the project done. Everything I’m working on right now is stuff I’ve created myself, which feels more risky–like walking the high wire without a safety net. Everyone’s trying to find the next Harry Potter, but I’m not going that way. I’m not looking for a property with a sales history. I’m more concerned with its relevance to today’s consumer. Caregivers of kids two to 11 have different needs and desires for their kids right now, a different set of requirements, so the material I’m developing is really about needing to give your kids a hug today.
Apart from that, I don’t really want to be classifiable. I may be certifiable, but…
Do You Know How Much I Love You?
This is the first installment in a series of books that Viselman is aiming to have published under the I Love You Bunches brand by the end of the year. Featuring a huggable monkey named Bunches, the book is scribed and designed by Viselman, who debuted the concept at Toy Fair last month and continues to shop for a publisher. (Although if he doesn’t find one soon, he’ll publish it himself.)
Little Pet Hospital
A merch property in development, Little Pet Hospital features injured plush animals that are intended to teach kids about healing and nurturing. The toys come with a note explaining how the animals hurt themselves and tags claiming ‘all they need is a little extra love.’ Viselman only showed soft toys (which are being manufactured in Hong Kong) at Toy Fair, but he suspects other toy lines will quickly roll out.
A collectible toy line featuring characters that look like tiny kangaroos with mohawks. Color variations make each figure unique, and Viselman’s design calls for the toy to light up in response to some kind of kid stimulus–whether it be a tummy rub or heat transfer from the child’s hand. Viselman showed the concept to a few folks at NATPE, resulting in a handshake deal to pursue series development.