When Daniel Cohen, former manager of Disney’s cel animation studio in Orlando, Florida, was busy working with his animators on films such as Lilo & Stitch for the mouse house, it didn’t occur to any of them how much their jobs actually had to do with licensing. After all, it was often their work that went into making style guides for properties as they moved into the realm of consumer products. But a little more than a year since the division was shuttered in March 2004, Cohen and a handful of former Disney animators have found a place in the art licensing world under the shingle c.e.l.m.a.t.e.s.
When Cohen received word in fall 2003 that Disney was closing its animation studio, he decided it might be prudent to take a trip to Brand Licensing in London to investigate possible apps for his own art. Cohen was pleased to find ‘an amazing outlet’ in the world of art and design licensing. Once back in Orlando, he immediately began singing the industry’s praises to his animators, prompting several to hand over their portfolios.
Fast forward to June 2004. After securing a booth at Licensing Show in New York, Cohen says he was a little surprised by the attention the company garnered at the show – particularly from European wireless companies looking to jazz up their applications. In fact, the first company to step up to the plate was Swiss-based Jamba!, penning a deal for animated segments featuring c.e.l.m.a.t.e.s. artist Kellie Lewis’s Winston the Dog character. The 30-second spots will launch across Europe in the fall.
As for his own portfolio, Cohen decided to turn the spotlight away for now, and instead focus on acting as agent for c.e.l.m.a.t.e.s.’ group of eight artists. With a bit more experience under his belt now – and a better understanding of how the licensing world works – he’s helping his artists create potential brands, and not just one-off drawings.
This year, his first priority is testing the waters for retro brands Hey Poodle and Posh Betty. In the kids space, Hey Poodle creator Pierro Studios is also the force behind the Bee Babies – a collection of cute bee children that Cohen says has already attracted interest from the TV world. And Joe Shepherd’s Little Tundra, which features a penguin, a polar bear and little boy is also one to watch.