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KidScreen’s Virtual Showroom

Despite retail constriction and its trickle-down affect on the industry, our respondents seemed to be a little more receptive to this year’s bunch of fledgling properties – indicating that either ...
June 1, 2004

Despite retail constriction and its trickle-down affect on the industry, our respondents seemed to be a little more receptive to this year’s bunch of fledgling properties – indicating that either business is up or the quality of new properties hitting the market has improved. Assessments were quite positive on the whole, with most participants rating the properties’ potential in the ‘fair’ to ‘very good’ range; there was nary a ‘poor’ vote cast.

TV (32%) and brands (30%) were pegged as the genres that are most lacking in solid licensable properties and quality merch. Interestingly, respondents say girls are the most underserved gender in TV (63%) and brands (55%). And it looks like a full 64% of our pollsters would like to see more options for 11- to 14-year-olds and the 14-plus set.

Alien Racers

Owner/licensor: MGA Entertainment

Territory of origin: U.S.

Description: MGA Entertainment, creator of doll phenom Bratz, enters the boys action market with this original R/C and action figure property. The initial toy lines set to debut in Q3 will feature remote-control vehicles Skrash, Grog, Ultrox and Gnarl, with accompanying alien driver characters.

Concept: To prevent an all-out intergalactic war threatening to erupt on a planet that houses an unlimited source of energy, several alien civilizations vie for its control by putting forth their most skilled champions to take part in an epic race. In their strange, fantastical vehicles, these Alien Racers pull out all the stops to best each other. A TV series is in the works for 2005.

Demo: Boys ages seven to 12

Domestic and international categories open: Everything except for toys, room décor, electronics and sporting goods. Program will also focus on apparel, footwear, accessories, publishing and food.

Proposed international agents: TBD

For licensing opportunities, please contact: Marcy George

818-894-2525 x6101 for North America; and Diana Luna 818-894-2525 x6112 for international

At-a-glance temperature read

Overall potential in respondents’ product categories: fair

Would respondents consider adding Alien Racers to portfolios: yes (25%),

no (75%)

Best potential category beyond toys: video games/software

Desired retail channel for merch launch: mass (50%), mid-tier (50%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

Marketing muscle is sure to go a long way, but panelists still seem to have some doubt as to whether L.A.-based MGA Entertainment will be able to replicate Bratz’s success on the boys side of the market. Ranking Alien Racers’ overall chances as fair, many are keen to see how the TV series in development at the toyco’s entertainment arm pans out.

That said, Morgan Ward, licensing manager for apparel manufacturer Mighty Fine, believes the toys may be enough to reel boys in. ‘Leading with the toys allows boys to relate to the property and give more life to each of the characters,’ she explains, adding that ‘video games would perform the same task, but require a greater investment.’ In this case, Ward would put apparel at the tail end of the merch program to allow the property to build some fan-led nostalgic appeal.

‘It can be difficult to go from toy to apparel, and in this instance, it seems likely that apparel would work even better after a number of years – once it has the feel of a retro property,’ says Ward. ‘I would be concerned as a parent that the images may be too violent for a young boy to wear to school. But for a young man who grows up with the property and rediscovers it, it might work very nicely.’

Atomic Betty

Owner/licensor: Atomic Cartoons, Breakthrough Animation and Tele Images

Territory of origin: Canada

Description: Atomic Betty is a 26 x half-hour 2-D animated series co-produced by Canada’s Atomic Cartoons, Breakthrough Animation and Paris, France-based Tele Images. Broadcasters to date include Teletoon Canada, Teletoon France, M6 (France), ABC Australia, Cartoon Network US, Cartoon Network International (U.K., Italy, Southeast Asia, Asia-Pacific, Australia, Italy, Malta, Ireland, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Poland, Romania and Hungary). LUK International distributes in Spain, Portugal and Andorra. Breakthrough Entertainment distributes throughout the rest of the world and is currently entertaining offers from video distributors.

Concept: Atomic Betty is a little girl with a big secret. To her friends and family, she’s the sweet and brainy girl next door, but when the galaxy beckons, she sheds her humdrum persona and becomes ‘Atomic Betty, Galactic Guardian and Defender of the Universe.’ While the citizens of Earth carry on with their everyday lives, Betty zips across the galaxy on daring and valiant missions, rescuing space monkeys and kidnapped ambassadors alike.

Demo: Kids six to 12

Domestic and international categories open: Master toy, book publishing, apparel, video games and home entertainment.

Initial territories of interest: Worldwide

For licensing opportunities, please contact: Joy Tashjian, JTMG, 925-377-8040,

trdemrkmgt@aol.com

At-a-glance temperature read

Overall potential in respondents’ product categories: very good

Would respondents consider adding Atomic Betty to portfolios: yes (83%), no (17%)

Best potential category: apparel

Desired retail channel for merch launch: mass (50%), mid-tier (25%),

specialty (25%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12% (50%), 10% to 18% (50%)

Atomic Betty attracted the most attention in this year’s Showroom by a landslide. There’s a lot of heat brewing around this property, and according to our participants, it’s merited. Betty’s potential assessment across the board was ‘very good,’ and many of our panelists were impressed by her worldwide Cartoon Network broadcast deal. There also seemed to be a general consensus on how the property’s merch plans should play out.

‘Atomic Betty strikes me immediately as an Astro Boy for young girls,’ says Ty Simpson, president of Florence, Kentucky’s Ty’s Toy Box. He suggests a focus on party and stationery items, apparel and toys, followed closely by accessories including sunglasses, beach towels and watches, and would like to see this merchandise hitting specialty channels three to six months after the series launches.

‘Apparel leads the way for properties aimed at this age group,’ says Terry Hess, director of marketing for New York-based licensee consulting agency Building Q. Girls properties are hot right now, and Hess thinks Betty might have the stuff to secure a major presence at retail. He would follow apparel with toys, accessories, publishing, footwear and video games.

Julie Jurrjens, creative director at Troy, Michigan’s apparel manufacturer Trevco, is attracted to Betty’s ‘cute art and dynamic theme of an empowered female character.’ She says apparel is the natural merch lead, launching three to six weeks after the show goes on air. (She’d like a minimum of 52 eps.) However, Jurrjens is reserving final judgment until she sees the show. ‘Right now, [Betty] looks a little retro for a lot of kids, and I’m concerned that she might be playing a bit too much to the adult audience – kids will see through that.’

Peppa Pig

Owner/licensor: Contender Entertainment and Astley Baker Davies. Contender is the licensor.

Territory of origin: U.K.

Description: Peppa Pig is a 52 x five-minute animated series produced by Contender Entertainment Group and Astley Baker Davies. Peppa hit British airwaves on Channel 5 last May and is also slated to air on Nick Jr. in the U.K. later this year. Internationally, Peppa has been snapped up by ABC Australia, Canal J (France), TV3 (New Zealand), NRK (Norway), Nickelodeon (pan-Scandinavia), C4U (Korea) and SVT (Sweden). Since first appearing in the Virtual Showroom in mid-April, Peppa has landed additional broadcast deals with TVO, TFO and The Knowledge Network (Canada), Nickelodeon (Benelux, Eastern Europe), RTV (Slovenia) and SC4 (Wales).

Concept: This preschool series showcases a cheeky and slightly bossy young pig who lives with her little brother George, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig. Each episode centers around a different family-oriented situation, including playing games, dressing up, helping mummy and daddy, and jumping in muddy puddles. Her adventures are always fun and end happily with loud snorts of laughter.

Demo: Kids two to five

Domestic and international licensees: U.K. master toy licensee (Character Options), U.K. publishing (TBA)

Domestic and international categories open: All others.

Initial territories of interest: Australia and Europe

Proposed international agents: ABC Australia; Global Licensing in New Zealand; and Mega Merchandising in Scandinavia

For licensing opportunities, please contact: Mike Smith, head of

licensing and merchandising, Contender Entertainment,

44-207-907-3797, msmith@contendergroup.com

At-a-glance temperature read

Overall potential in respondents’ product categories: fair

Would respondents consider adding Peppa Pig to portfolios: yes (33%), no (67%)

Best potential category: toys/games

Desired retail channel for merch launch: mid-tier (100%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

The outlook was a little less rosy for Peppa Pig, reflecting what many see as an overabundance of preschool properties in the market, particularly in the U.K. Mike Barrett, director of food licensee consulting firm Beacon UK, says that Britain is rife with preschool programming, and it’s very difficult for smaller players to compete with shows getting airtime on larger terrestrial broadcasters like the BBC. In his field of food & beverage, Barrett says Peppa would encounter obstacles. ‘It’s not even on my radar screen compared to other properties out there,’ he says.

In the U.S., respondents felt that Peppa might make a go of it if she could land a broadcast deal with PBS or Nick Jr. and deliver a minimum of 52 episodes. As for merch plans, Cameron Smith, a principal at Emeryville, California-based agency Inkmonster, says landing a publishing licensee should be priority number-one.

Smith says due to its family orientation and short-story feel, Peppa Pig could gain a much stronger foothold in publishing, rather than rushing headlong into North America’s competitive preschool toy and apparel market. Further to this, he’d launch the program at mid-tier retail in conjunction with the series launch.

The Mole Sisters

Owner/licensor: London, England-based Screentiger

Territory of origin: Canada/U.K.

Description: A 78 x five-minute 2-D animated series co-produced by London’s Screentiger and Canada’s Funbag Animation. TV rights have been sold in Canada (Treehouse TV), France (Euro TV), Germany (KI.KA) and Italy (RAI), and the show is currently airing on Discovery Network in the U.K. A deal with a terrestrial U.K. broadcaster is in negotiation.

Concept: Based on Canadian author Roslyn Schwartz’s picture books, The Mole Sisters tells the tale of two insatiably curious little moles and their exploration of the world around them. Each episode is structured as a mini-adventure in which the furry sisters discover something new within their environment.

Demo: Preschool

Domestic and international licensees: Hammering out a U.K. publishing deal.

Domestic and international categories open: All others. U.K. licensing agent Keyline will initially be exploring licensing opportunities in the nursery and preschool sectors, as well as the adult gift market.

Initial territories of interest: The U.K. and France

International agents: Signed so far are Keyline Licensing in the U.K. and IPL in France. Agents for other territories are currently being sought.

For licensing opportunities, please contact: Keyline Licensing, 44-172-785-6638, info@keylinelicensing.com

At-a-glance temperature read

Overall potential in respondents’ product categories: good

Would respondents consider adding The Mole Sisters to portfolios: yes (25%), no (75%)

Best potential category: toys/games

Desired retail channel for merch launch: mass (50%), mid-tier (25%), specialty (25%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

Again, respondents were a bit more skeptical about The Mole Sisters’ chances because there are already too many preschool properties on the scene. Another sticking point is that the series doesn’t have a U.S. broadcast deal in place yet, a crucial element for a North American licensing program. Participants ranked Nick Jr., Disney and PBS as the most desirable broadcasters for the program and would like to see it stripped daily.

Matt Wexler, director of global licensing for Toronto, Canada-based toyco Spin Master, says one way to make The Mole Sisters stand out in in a crowded preschool market would be to focus on its publishing roots. ‘Book retailers often set up in-store boutiques to support a property in its new medium,’ he says. ‘It would be the same with greeting cards and stationery goods – a retail partner like Hallmark would be great for this property.’

W.I.T.C.H

Owner/licensor: Disney

Territory of origin: Europe

Description: Content includes magazines and a full assortment of books. A TV series is in development at SIP Animation and scheduled to launch in 2005. In the U.S., the show will air as part of the Jetix block on ABC Family and Toon Disney, and international broadcast berths have been secured on Super RTL in Germany and France 3.

Concept: A hip, fashionable comic book property chronicling the lives of five girls who have been given special powers to help save the world. W.I.T.C.H. is an acronym for the names of the five heroines: Will, Irma, Taranee, Cornelia and Hay Lin. The girls are good friends coping with the daily trials and tribulations of middle school. Each has a distinct personality and elemental gift: Will controls energy, Irma commands water, Taranee has power over fire, Cornelia controls earth, and Hay Lin

dominates air.

Demo: Girls nine to 14

For licensing opportunities, please contact: Disney

Consumer Products, 818-567-5944

At-a-glance temperature read

Overall potential in respondents’ product categories:

very good

Would respondents consider adding W.I.T.C.H. to portfolios: yes (75%), no (25%)

Best potential category: video games/software

Desired retail channel for merch launch: mass (50%),

mid-tier (50%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

AS for the latest offering from the House of Mouse, respondents were very enthusiastic about the supernatural aspect of W.I.T.C.H.’s girl protagonists, reporting that the concept should play well on TV.

But unlike the Showroom’s other girls action offering Atomic Betty, participants did not envision W.I.T.C.H. leading off its merch program with apparel. ‘Interactive play brings the fan into the world of W.I.T.C.H.,’ says Nancy Golden, VP of creative/licensing at U.S. bedding manufacturer WestPoint Stevens. She would quickly follow a line of video games with apparel, health & beauty products and accessories. Toys and games ranked quite low on Golden’s list.

Trevco’s Jurrjens says W.I.T.C.H. will appeal most strongly to ‘bookish tween girls who identify with the characters,’ and sees its current publishing program, followed by interactive games and software, as the way to make inroads with this group. But she doesn’t rule out the property’s chances at making a go of it in fashion apparel. ‘If the toy category has a strong doll program, it could take on more significance in tween fashion.’

About The Author
Lana Castleman is the Editor & Content Director of Kidscreen and oversees all content for Kidscreen magazine, kidscreen.com and related kidscreen events. lcastleman@brunico.com

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