WBCP glams up its Japan popstar property
Taking a run at the fashion brand market, Warner Bros. Consumer Products is shopping for partners to accessorize its program for Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi, a live-action/animated show for girls that launches in December on Cartoon Network. The series taps into tween girls’ fantasies about achieving popstar status by telling the stories of real-life Japanese girl rockers Ami and Yumi. And Karen McTier, executive VP of domestic licensing, says the girls have the kind of sassy attitude and sizzling fashion sense that should translate easily into merch. Naturally, apparel will be one of the core categories of the program, whose graphic direction will draw on both the animated and live-action elements of the show. McTier is also looking for licensees to make accessories and toys, and she intends to go deep into health & beauty, stationery and room décor later on. Every branch of the program is open right now, and McTier is planning a teaser retail rollout in the beginning of 2005, before shifting into a higher gear for 2006.
The partner register is just as wide open for programs based around Kids’ WB! series Xiaolin Showdown and Cartoon’s Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and Megas XLR.
In addition to its raft of new properties, WBCP is working on breathing new life into Batman, which is being licensed as an all-encompassing brand for the first time ever. Licensees can now sign a one-stop deal to secure rights to produce SKUs based around classic Batman, 2005 feature film Batman Begins and new animated series The Batman, which is set to debut on Kids’ WB! this fall.
ShoPro introduces demons and gives preschool a whirl
Looking to diversify its property slate a bit, San Francisco-based ShoPro Entertainment is taking a run at the preschool market with a unique Japanese show called Deko Boko Friends. A 100 x 30-second toon series that has been airing on NHK in Japan since 2002, Deko Boko features a cast of 12 animals, plants and imaginary creatures, each with a unique personality quirk. They take turns walking through a door that helps them overcome these quirks. In one episode, for example, you see the painfully shy character pick up a set of maracas and do the cha-cha. When the characters are done, they politely thank viewers for watching and leave through the same door.
It’s a weird concept that might have trouble finding its footing in the U.S., so the ShoPro team is taking it to Licensing Show primarily to get a bead on its potential. But given its flexible format, ShoPro sees Deko Boko Friends fitting in a number of preschool time slots and is working on nailing down broadcast commitments before planning the merch program.
A more typical ShoPro venture is Zatch Bell, a 104 x half-hour anime series that launched in Japan last year and is currently one of the country’s top-10 animated shows. ShoPro is shopping the concept to U.S. broadcasters and would like to lock in core category licensees in toys, CCGs, interactive games, publishing and home entertainment at Licensing Show. VP John Easum describes Zatch Bell as an edgy Pokémon meets Harry Potter, in which a cast of demons descend upon Earth every 1,000 years to do battle. This millennium, demon Zatch Bell and his human friend Corey work together to win the ultimate battle and restore peace to the world.
Multi-platform boys property a Riot
Watch for former TV Guide editorial director Jay Gissen and his team of TV and magazine execs to make a splashy entrance with ambitious tween boy brand Riot Media. Financed by New York-based investment bank Ad Media Partners, Gissen is putting US$10 million into the project, which encompasses a magazine, website, comic book, consumer products line (including a linchpin trading card game) and TV show that will all share a common back story.
With a decidedly X-Files feel to it, the Riot concept revolves around a small town that’s visited by an evil circus run by strange and terrifying clowns who have the power to alter people’s perception of reality and drive them insane. A circus chimp named Riot – Gissen calls him a tween boy surrogate – switches sides to help the townsfolk drive the circus away. At press time, Gissen expected to have his publishing deals in place by the start of Licensing Show, and the books, consumer product program and website should be in the market by spring 2005.
Scholastic’s Maya & Miguel program in ‘vamos’ mode
Scholastic Entertainment has most of its partners for Maya & Miguel squared away, with Mamiye Brothers taking the lead as master apparel licensee in a program aimed squarely at girls six to 11. Fruit of the Loom (underwear), ABG (cold weather accessories), Accessory Network (backpacks, stationery), ES Originals (footwear) and Waterbury (pajamas) will contribute to the first phase of products scheduled to begin hitting retail in spring 2005, after the animated show has had a chance to build an audience on PBS. Scholastic senior VP of marketing and consumer products Leslye Schaefer says she’s still looking for licensees to make Maya & Miguel jewelry, hair accessories, health & beauty products and cosmetics.
JTMG plans a monster debut for toy property
Joy Tashjian Marketing Group is bringing a new toy property from Chicago’s Glick Entertainment to life in the licensing world. Monster Zappers starter kits contain everything a child needs to get rid of those scary monsters that lurk under beds and in closets, including zapping fluid and a bonafide monster-zapping character. The direct-to-consumer line is currently only available through a 1-800 ordering service, but there are plans in the works to take Monster Zappers to mass by spring 2005.
Glick has the financing in place to produce a
2-D animated TV series based on the property for 2006. Tashjian wants to use the show to introduce the property, so the field is wide open for licensees at the moment. Primary categories Tashjian will be looking at off the bat include action figures, playsets, trading cards, publishing and interactive games, with apparel and other soft goods rounding out the program in phase two. She’s aiming to have some initial merch at retail for fall 2005.
Vivid to sow Fifi’s toy seeds in the U.K.
British toyco Vivid Imaginations is going with the power of creative pedigree, signing on as master toy licensee for Fifi and the Flowertots, the new preschool series from Bob the Builder creator Keith Chapman. A 52 x 10-minute stop-motion series being co-produced by London’s Chapman Entertainment and Cosgrove Hall Films, Fifi and the Flowertots is set to debut in Channel 5′s Milkshake block next spring, and Nick UK has also picked it up for a second window.
Vivid’s toy line will roll out in summer 2005, followed by book, comic and home entertainment entries later that year. Greg Lynn, Chapman’s managing director, was lining up partners in these categories at press time, and he’ll be looking at apparel and footwear next. While Fifi’s strong preschool girl hook will be reflected in the initial range of product, a cast of male sidekicks including Fifi’s best friend Bumble could give the merch program legs with preschool boys later on.
Rebranding and restocking
In line with an across-the-board rebrand effort that kicked off on the broadcast side in February, Fox Kids Europe Consumer Products will be reborn at Licensing Show as Jetix Consumer Products. The unit still handles all FKE properties, as well as managing home video rights for a catalogue that houses more than 6,500 episodes.
On this side of the pond, MGM Consumer Products has signed on to exclusively represent U.K. preschool property Tiny Planets for Pepper’s Ghost. MGM is looking at bringing the show’s spacey stars Bing and Bong to U.S. retail shelves, and all categories are open, including toys, apparel, home furnishings and publishing.
Canada’s CBC starts up merch division
Canada’s national broadcaster the CBC is borrowing a page from international counterparts like the BBC (U.K.) and ABC Australia, setting up an in-house licensing unit. The division will primarily represent CBC properties including Hockey Night in Canada and David Suzuki’s science series The Nature of Things. (At press time, CBC was finalizing a deal for an educational kids game based on the show.) But it’ll also act as Canadian agent for third-party properties on its air, including preschool series The Save-Ums! (Decode Entertainment). Licensing manager Marissa Binstock says CBC’s retail arm also plans to roll out three new stores by year’s end. To date, the caster operates an e-commerce site (www.cbcshop.ca) and one bricks-and-mortar store in its Toronto broadcast HQ.
What’s in The Cookie Jar?
Hitting licensing circles with its new name in place for the first time, Montreal, Canada’s The Cookie Jar (formerly Cinar) is taking the licensing program for flagship preschool property Caillou in a new direction to help boost consumer products sales. Kelly Elwood, the company’s VP of licensing and marketing, is on the hunt for licensees that can create products involving home-based activities centered around the kitchen, garage and backyard. She’s envisioning products like Caillou-branded measuring cups and spoons a child could use to help prepare meals. Caillou generated US$76 million at North American retail in 2002.
Sesame’s smart baby
With babies on the brain, Sesame Workshop will hit Javits touting new brand offshoot Sesame Beginnings. The infant-learning extension features pint-sized versions of core Sesame Street characters, and learning tips for parents will be printed on all its products. Licensees signed up so far include Crown Crafts (bedding), Fisher-Price (infant toys), BBC (footwear), Children’s Apparel Network (layettes, infant apparel) and Hamco, BlueRidge, Baby Boom and AD Sutton (various infant products). Director of marketing Heather Hansen says the Workshop is now looking for a partner to cover off the infant health & beauty product category.
Building out its U.S. Plaza Sesamo program, which has been experiencing double-digit sell-through at Mervyn’s since its March launch, Sesame is also looking to hook up with manufacturers working in home entertainment, toys, games and packaged goods.
Nelvana spins a web for Miss Spider licensees
Toronto, Canada’s Nelvana will be on the hunt for international licensing deals for Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Friends, a TV series that has been sold to Channel 5 in the U.K., France’s TF1 and Cartoon Network Latin America. Executive VP of worldwide merchandising Sid Kaufman says he’s in discussions with North American master toy licensee Fisher-Price to take its toy line to the global stage. TF1 controls the merch rights in France, and Calloway Arts & Entertainment handles all publishing rights, but everything else is up for grabs. Kaufman is interested in finding partners for home video, apparel, accessories, gardening products, outdoor activity sets, interactive games and home furnishings. Despite the property’s feminine name, the merch program will be aimed at three- to five-year-olds of both sexes because Kaufman sees a lot of potential for boy-skewing items centering around the show’s bug hook.
PBS on a consumer products growth spurt
With PBS Kids products from master toy licensee Small World Toys set to hit specialty retail in October, the broadcaster is looking to venture into new categories. VP of marketing and consumer products Tracey Beeker says she’s looking at merchandise that would complement the toy line’s focus on learning, literacy and developing children’s imaginations. Board games, arts & crafts, science-based playsets and publishing top Beeker’s list at the moment.
Decode brings merch creative in-house
Toronto, Canada-based kids television producer Decode Entertainment is launching an in-house division called Decode Consumer Products that will be headed up by Decode partner Beth Stevenson and creative director Kim Hyde. The unit will continue to work with licensing and brand management firm The Sharpe Company, but plans to produce merch creative – including property style guides – in-house. Stevenson says the first order of business is to lock down master toy deals in negotiation for Franny’s Feet and The Save-Ums!, as well as carving out a limited program in music, apparel and publishing for live-action series Radio Free Roscoe, which airs on The N in the U.S.