So what did it take to convince Dav Pilkey to abandon his stance against the commercial exploitation of his creations? The Captain Underpants author was so impressed by a two-minute clay-animated short modeled on his book series Dragon, that he handed over carte blanche rights – including merchandising – to the producers at Cité-Amerique on the spot.
The resulting preschool series, which the Montreal, Canada-based studio ended up co-producing with Germany’s Scopas Medien and Korea’s Image Plus, is already airing in Australia (ABC), Canada (Treehouse TV), Germany (ZDF) and Korea (EBS) and revolves around the comic adventures of Pilkey’s hapless yet charming blue dragon. And with New York’s Big Tent Entertainment on-board as an agent, the property is ready for some licensing action.
The star character started out as a doodle on a birthday card that Pilkey drew for his girlfriend. According to Big Tent CEO Rich Collins, there was something in Dragon’s eyes that made Pilkey want to know more about him, and that quality eventually compelled the author to start penning books about the character in the early ’90s.
The TV show, says Collins, is infused with the same kind of humor as Captain Underpants, only tailored to preschool viewers. Pilkey has script approval, but the J.D. Salinger of children’s publishing hasn’t seen a finished episode yet – he says he’s waiting for Dragon to debut on U.S. airwaves.
As for the licensing program, Collins says he’ll start modestly with master toy and master publishing licenses, and he plans to have product on shelves in the four countries broadcasting the show by fall 2005. U.S. and U.K. berths haven’t been locked down yet, so Collins expects that late 2006 would be the earliest point at which Dragon merch could appear in those countries. However, he feels that books based on the TV series are strong enough to hit the U.S. market prior to broadcast.
At press time, Collins hadn’t finalized his toy or publishing deals, but he’s envisioning plush, playsets and electronic plush as the lead toy products and adds that electronic and sound books and ELA-type devices will be a big part of the publishing effort. Once those are in stores, Collins plans to ramp up the secondary program with licensees for puzzles, games, activities, crafts and home videos.