The overwhelming popularity of book-turned-blockbuster Shrek has left kid market doors open to the ‘anti-hero with heart’ genre, and the timing couldn’t be better for Raymond Briggs’ book Fungus the Bogeyman, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
Fungus may share Shrek’s green and gross attributes, but there’s enough depth to his character and world to avoid a me-too property label when merch agent Copyrights Group begins to look beyond the domestic U.K. market for opportunities. ‘In Fungus, Raymond created a wonderful mix of the disgusting, the funny and the gentle,’ says Copyrights president Nicholas Durbridge. ‘He’s not just a scary character–there are a lot of other dimensions to him.’
A hardworking bogeyman, Fungus lives in the tunnels of Bogeydom–a subterranean world in which gross is good–and travels to the surface each night to wake sleeping babies, make things go bump, and generally terrorize surface-dwelling humans. Copyrights (which also represents other Raymond Briggs literary properties, including The Snowman) acquired Fungus merch rights in 1984, and has since enjoyed sporadic success in the U.K.’s student market with various ranges of stationery, bedding and gifts.
‘Licensing of a single book title tends to come and go because the level of exposure is not enough to take it to the broader audience that normally interests product manufacturers,’ says Durbridge. Excursions into the toy realm were limited without media exposure, but that’s about to change as U.K. prodco Indie Kids heads into pre-production on three one-hour episodes of Fungus the Bogeyman for prime-time broadcast on the BBC next year.
Drawing heavily on the character and the world of Bogeydom, the series will be a mix of CGI and live action, which might seem to be a strange style choice given that Briggs’ illustrations would translate nicely to a 2-D treatment. Says Indie Kids founding partner and creative director Dan Maddicott: ‘Fungus goes into the real world to scare, and we think the combination of the live-action real world and the CGI Bogeydom will be fascinating.’
Entertainment dimensions will allow Copyrights to drive the property down to kids ages six to 10 while simultaneously reinvigorating the tween/teen program. Toys (plush, activity toys, games and puzzles) will be a primary focus, along with apparel, stationery, gifts and novelties.
At press time, Copyrights was in pre-contract negotiations with several partners. Product will be introduced at the British spring fairs in 2003, with a retail launch coinciding with the series’ BBC debut. Phase two categories under consideration include home furnishings, bedding, confectionery and other food products. Copyrights has already opened talks with a number of potential promo partners in the arenas of retail, QSR and packaged goods.
No word yet on where the series or the merch program will travel to next, but Indie Kids was negotiating with a distribution partner at press time. Copyrights holds international merch rights to Fungus, and programs will roll out in tandem with TV sales, though Durbridge expects English-speaking markets to follow quickly behind the U.K. Publishing rights are maintained by Penguin, which will release a special-edition hardcover book this November, with potential for new titles in 2003.