Entertainment licensing accounts for 42.7% of the U.K.’s US$227-million business (according to results of the LIMA-sponsored Harvard/Yale Study released in June), and the make-or-break preschool merch sector continues to offer licensors the greatest upside. So it’s no surprise that October’s Brand Licensing London show was a virtual parking lot for preschool brands.
This year’s crop of powerhouses-in-the-making capitalized on a vehicle trend driven by Busy Buses, Brum and Dream Street. Just prior to the show, British toyco Vivid Imaginations nabbed master toy rights to CGI series Tractor Tom, the first project to come out of The Contender Entertainment Group’s new TV division. The series is set to air early next year on CiTV, supported by a simultaneous video, book and comic launch.
Granada Enterprises showcased stop-motion series Engie Benjy (launched on CiTV in September) and announced its starting lineup of licensing partners (which include Martin Yaffe, Racing Champions, Dekkertoys and Somerbond).
Just-formed creative hotshop Blitz Productions debuted two vehicle-centric TV concepts at the show: Hurry Harry Taxi, following the adventures of Harry the Taxi and news reporter Scoop; and Mick the Mechanic, about a car nut and the colorful characters who visit his garage.
And the vehicle trend didn’t stop at preschool. Arguably one of the coolest new show entries, BC Battlers is a CGI-animated boys action project that’s already attracted an RC toy partner and has master toy licensees and international broadcasters clamoring for a piece of the pre-production action.
Developed by toy industry consultancy Vision 3 Productions, the story opens with a cargo of artificially-intelligent military vehicles mysteriously disappearing en route to a desert test facility. The trucks somehow fuse with dinosaur fossils, and two breeds of dino-machines evolve – one evil, with a new plan for global domination in each ep; one good, always saving the day in the nick of time.
‘The attraction was in the look of it, so rather than have it sit in a drawer, we thought we’d get a toy partner and see if we could attract investors to help produce a TV series,’ says Vision 3 chief executive Gareth Shaw. With funding from a private investor for 26 half hours now in place, Vision 3 is deciding if it will expand its in-house production capabilities to produce the series or hand the concept over to a broadcaster in a co-pro deal.
In the meantime, Impact International’s BC Battlers RC line will debut at the British toy fair in January, with Vision 3 in talks for a publishing deal at press time. All other categories should roll out in tandem with the TV series, which is expected to go into production in February for delivery late in 2004.
The fledgling hotshop is already looking ahead to next year’s Brand Licensing Show, where it plans on launching at least one new property. ‘We have a number in the bag,’ says Shaw. ‘It’s just a matter of which one rears its ugly head first.’