Royalty revenues were down US$26 million (-0.4%) in 2003, but that didn’t seem to put a damper on anyone’s spirits at this year’s Licensing Show. Human traffic clogged the aisles, despite the fact that floor space increased by 14% from last year, and key players such as Disney, Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon made a splash with big booths that a number of industry players said seemed a little flashier than 2003′s models.
As for trends, it’s pretty clear that direct-to-video (DTV) releases are becoming a significant part of the licensing program strategy for properties based on toys or media outside of the film/TV realm. Not only did Hasbro announce a major partnership with Paramount Home Entertainment for the production of DTVs based on just about all of its properties – including GI Joe, Transformers, Tonka, Secret Central and Weebles – but MGM (Pink Panther Pals), King Features (Popeye), Classic Media (Peter Cottontail) and American Greetings all announced plans for DTVs in 2005/2006.
American Greetings, in particular, is looking to its recent retro hit Care Bears, which is on track to pull down more than US$500 million at retail this year and has a CGI DTV in production with Nelvana, as the model for upcoming revivals of Holly Hobby and The Get Along Gang.
Holly Hobby licensing agent Nickelodeon Consumer Products is taking a two-tiered approach to the property’s re-introduction. Classic Holly Hobby products will hit shelves in spring 2005, with a focus on home accessories and dolls for adult collectors. But Holly will be made over to appeal to the sensibilities of today’s three- to seven-year-old girls in 2006, starting with a DTV feature being produced with Paramount Home Video. Similarly, Debra Joester, president of The Get Along Gang licensing agent The Joester Loria Group, says the new, urbanized group of animal friends will make their debut via a DTV release targeted at preschoolers in fall 2005.
Tween girl properties garnered considerable attention, too. The debut of DIC’s Trollz – and perhaps the sight of DIC senior execs Nancy Bassett, Andy Heyward and Brad Brooks in giant Trollz wigs – made a big impression with show-goers. DIC added Mamiye Brothers as master apparel licensee in the lead-up to launching the fashion prong of its Trollz program in fall 2005.
Also picking up steam is KidScreen’s Virtual Showroom favorite, Atomic Betty, the Atomic Cartoons/Breakthrough Entertainment/Tele Images co-pro debuting on Cartoon Network this fall. Licensing agent Joy Tashjian walked away from the show with a number of key deals signed. Playmates Toys (master toy) and Penguin (publishing) will have product out for January 2005, to be followed in fall ’05 by merch from Kids Headquarters (girls sleepwear), Ripple Junction (T-shirts), SBH (girls intimate apparel), Sara Lee (underwear), Wiesner Products (footwear) and A.D. Sutton (backpacks). Tashjian says she’s now on the hunt for master apparel, room décor and bedding licensees.