Hail, hail the Nick gang’s all here
For the first time ever, Nickelodeon, Nick Movies, Comedy Central, Spike and Paramount properties will be represented at the Show in one booth by one entity – Nickelodeon & Viacom Consumer Products. Formed in late ’04 under the leadership of Leigh Ann Brodsky, the company is looking to do a whack of business this month. On the Nick side of the portfolio, a merch program built around the net’s new comedy-adventure toon Avatar is also something of a departure for the group.
Avatar debuted on Nickelodeon in February, and senior VP of global marketing and planning Jim Davey says as one of Nick’s first action hero properties, it should help the net build its cachet with boys. As for the consumer products program, merch will center around 12-year-old lead character Ang and the Kung-Fu-meets-magic art of bending he and his friends use to manipulate the four elements and fend off the bad guys.
Upper Deck will launch a trading card game in January ’06, followed by a home video release from Paramount and ciné-manga from Tokyopop in the spring. A full launch is scheduled for fall 2006, with Fisher-Price creating a range of action figures and playsets targeting boys five to 10. At Licensing Show, the team will be looking for packaged goods, housewares, home décor, gift, accessories, sporting goods, activity toy and additional publishing partners.
Nick is also starting to license tween live-action show Zoey 101, which stars Britney’s baby sister Jamie Lynn Spears, but the plan is to build the girls lifestyle property slowly. Everything will kick off with an apparel program led by Mamiye Brothers at a major department store chain for holiday 2005, and the team is on the lookout for accessories licensees.
A modernized Holly Hobbie, star of a 2-D animated DTV series due out next year, rounds out Nick’s debutante list. The company inked a deal with American Greetings to revamp and license the property for four- to nine-year-old girls last year. And Maureen Taxter, senior VP of new brands and retail, says she expects to announce partners soon in home décor, toys and apparel, categories that will lead the fall 2006 mass-market program.
Why Warner Bros. is quite keen on kyptonite
The big news for Warner Bros. Consumer Products is the much-anticipated reunion of the Man of Steel with the silver screen on June 30, 2006 in Superman Returns. Karen McTier, executive VP of domestic licensing and global toys, publishing and themed entertainment, says the division has continued to run a core apparel and accessories program based on the iconic S-shield, but is now really ramping up for the movie, especially in the boys category. For the first time in several years, Mattel will be rolling out two lines of Superman toys – one movie-based and one classic – including a large number of role-play items. Along with apparel, these toys will form the foundation of the boys program, but there’s still a lot of opportunity for licensees to get on-board.
At Licensing Show, McTier and her team will be looking for product partners specializing in plug-and-play games, ride-ons, trading cards, arts & crafts, youth electronics, costumes, sport toys, seasonal toys, candy, clocks, gifts, furniture and amusement toys. It’s worth noting that in categories where it makes sense, licensees will be granted rights to the classic property, the DC comics and the movie franchise.
And in other movie news, WBCP will be unveiling Happy Feet, a November ’06 CGI comedy about a sonically inept penguin named Mumble whose only saving grace is that he can dance like Fred Astaire. McTier is envisioning a very strong plush, apparel and stationery program targeting girls ages three to seven, and says the slate is currently wide open for potential licensees.
LazyTown bounces into action
It’s been a big hit in its native Iceland for the past decade, but LazyTown is just starting to make waves around the world. Magnus Scheving, who created the live-action series to get preschoolers off the couch and eating right, says the show will be sold into 78 countries by year’s end. And to maximize that penetration, Scheving and his team are currently looking for licensing agents to represent the property in France, Italy, Spain, South America and Eastern Europe.
In the meantime, in the U.S., where the show has been airing on Nick since last summer, merch including an activity toy line from Fisher-Price, home videos from Paramount and books from Random House will roll out at mass retail in the fall. Nickelodeon & Viacom Consumer Products, which handles all U.S. licensing rights for the property, is looking for additional licensees in outdoor sporting goods, housewares, domestics, packaged goods and electronic learning aids.
Angelina opens her dance card
While HIT Entertainment copes with reorganizing its management team following a buyout by investment firm Apax last month, the company’s U.S. arm is moving full steam ahead to get ready for Licensing Show. This year, the spotlight shines on Angelina Ballerina, who is opening up her dance card to mass-oriented licensees. Jamie Cygielman, senior VP of consumer products, says strong sales for Angelina books and videos over the last few years have indicated that there is a consumer appetite for additional product in this retail channel. But HIT also plans to extend and support Angelina’s specialty programs because moms tend to shop regularly in both tiers.
Sababa Toys (toy & games), Penguin Young Reader’s Group (publishing), Wormser (sleepwear) and Pecoware (housewares) have already signed on to release product this fall in tandem with the launch of Angelina’s first full-length DTV, Angelina’s Princess Dance. And Cygielman is hoping to find apparel (especially dancewear), jewelry, domestics and accessories licensees at the Show.
Fox plows ahead on ’06 films despite exec shake-up
With the April departures of both Peter Byrne and Jennifer Robinson and the appointment of Elie Dekel as executive VP of licensing and merchandising at Twentieth Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising last month, it would seem that big changes are afoot. At press time, Dekel wasn’t quite ready to talk about his future plans for the division, but it doesn’t look like Fox is slowing down any while he strategizes.
Big hopes are riding on Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, which hits theaters on March 31, 2006. The first film turned out to be a blockbuster, but had little merch play. This time around, says executive director of licensing Lora Cohn, Fox is going broad. Mattel has signed on as master toy, and products from Vivendi Universal (home video) and HarperCollins (publishing) will round out the tentpole categories. (To find out which other licenses are up for grabs, check out ‘Virtual Showroom’ on page 84.)
Fox is also opening the books on Eragon, another 2006 pic that hits the big screen next summer. Based on the bestselling sci-fi fantasy book that spent 61 weeks on top of the New York Times bestseller list, the film will be a live-action/CGI combo. Cohn expects its merch program to be a modest one because this is only the first film in a planned trilogy, and the division will need to gauge consumer demand. Right now, landing apparel, novelty, collectible and game licensees are the team’s priorities.
New Line and Scholastic team up
The fantasy kidlit genre is still burning so strong that New Line Cinema and Scholastic Entertainment have teamed up to produce, distribute and license the first movie based on Brit author Philip Pullman’s best-selling His Dark Materials trilogy. The Golden Compass is slated for release sometime in 2007, and New Line and Scholastic will be giving potential licensees a sneak peek at Licensing Show.
Scholastic is managing North American licensing rights, and New Line will look after international territories. It’s early days yet, but Leslye Schaefer, senior VP of marketing and consumer products at Scholastic, thinks the darker nature of the books and their parallel universes full of folklore, shape-shifting animals, witches and angels will inspire products that appeal to older kids. She says interactive, along with a toy range that includes electronics, plush, collectibles, board games, card games and strategy games, will be the two pivotal components of the merch program. Schaefer’s counterpart at New Line, senior executive VP of worldwide licensing and merchandising David Imhoff, agrees with her prognosis and says the two companies are negotiating master interactive and toy deals.
Sony goes Big to appeal to little kids
Sony Pictures Consumer Products is diving into the competitive world of preschool TV licensing, picking up the rights to manage all merch activity for It’s a Big, Big World, a new 40 x half-hour show from Bear in the Big Blue House creator Mitchell Kriegman that will debut on PBS Kids in January ’06.
According to Juli Boylan, SPCP’s senior VP of consumer products, the series takes place in the ‘world tree,’ from which kids can check out geographical wonders from all around the world. A giant sloth named Snook will teach them more about the places they see, weaving in subtle science and geography-based lessons along the way. Big, Big World’s patented ‘shawdowmation’ process, which integrates puppet animatronics with CGI, lends the property a very distinct look and feel.
Boylan is aiming to lock in licensees for key longer-lead categories such as interactive games/software, toys and publishing first, and will then focus on introducing the property to other prospective licensees. An initial product offering for three- to seven-year-olds will hit shelves in fall 2006, with a broad mass rollout planned for fall 2007. ‘We want to make sure [It's a Big, Big World] has found its home and experienced success before opening up the program,’ says Boylan.
The SPCP team has also declared open season on Sony Pictures Animation’s debut film of the same name. The merch program for this September 2006 CGI buddy comedy about a hapless moose and a domesticated bear who get lost in the woods together before the start of hunting season has Ubisoft signed on for interactive games and HarperCollins lined up for publishing, and Boylan says a toy deal should be announced at Licensing Show. In the meantime, she’s looking for apparel, accessories and sporting goods licensees to round out a merch range that will target boys and girls ages three to seven.
Habbo takes Big Tent into teen territory
Along with bringing preschool properties such as The Koala Brothers and Dragon to the market, Big Tent Entertainment is getting into the teen game with Habbo Hotel, a property based on an on-line web community of the same name. The site currently has 1.2 million U.S. members ages 13 to 18, and its Finnish parent company Sulake runs Habbo sites in 15 other countries.
Senior VP of marketing Rich Maryyanek says U.S. teens spend US$13 a month on average on the site, using the funds to customize the virtual hotel rooms that serve as on-line meeting places for their custom characters. In the works are three-minute animated TV Habbosodes based on hotel inhabitants.
As for licensing, Big Tent’s first order of business is to lock in a publishing partner and a home video deal for the Habbosodes in order to have product on shelves by early ’06. Then, he says, accessories and apparel that play up Habbo’s design elements will follow.