Virtual Showroom

Perhaps the flattening retail market and ever-present shelf space issue are starting to wear on industry players, because this year's survey respondents seemed to be in a tentative mood. All four properties scored an overall 'good' rating, but there were very few 'very good' or 'excellent' votes cast.
Brands (33%) and TV (32%) were deemed the areas most in need of an injection of new properties that can support substantial merch programs. And boy- and girl-skewing IPs seem to be equally in demand for more than half of our respondents. The most coveted age demo - the 11 to 14 set - is also the hardest to pin down when it comes making licensed goods. A full 38% of participants are on the lookout for the next big thing for tweens.
June 1, 2005


Owner/licensor: Cuppa Coffee Studios

Territory of origin: Canada

Description: Bruno recently made his debut in a series of 50 x one-minute interstitials that are airing in more than 80 countries worldwide, including the U.S. (Nickelodeon and Noggin) and Canada (CBC). A spin-off 26 x 11-minute series is in production and should launch internationally later this year. Bruno and the Banana Bunch will feature Bruno and his animated friends interacting with real kids in a live-action setting to fuel more imaginative adventures.

Concept: Meet Bruno, a playful little monkey with a big sense of fun. With his quirky sense of humor and childlike wonder, Bruno is an age-appropriate learning partner for preschoolers. Along with his friends, he explores colors, numbers, shapes and sizes, while also learning bigger life lessons like responsibility and friendship. Bruno weaves these important learning concepts into fun and imaginative activities and adventures using reinforcement and repetition.

Demo: Preschool

Domestic and international licensees: Looking for partners worldwide

Domestic and international categories: Toys, apparel/footwear, publishing, stationery, stickers, party goods, bedroom décor, home entertainment, snack foods/breakfast cereals and juice

Initial territories of interest: The U.S., Europe and Asia

For licensing opportunities, please contact: Lalitha Poonasamy, 416-340-8869 ext. 230,; or Charlie Day,


At-a-Glance Temperature Read

Overall potential in respondents’ product categories/territories: good

Would respondents add Bruno to their portfolios: yes (46%), no (46%), n/a (8%)

Best potential product category: toys & games

Desired retail channel for merch launch: high-end/specialty (35.8%), mass (35.7%), mid-tier (28.5%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

Cuppa Coffee’s wee primate generated the most page views in our on-line survey, and interest among respondents was generally quite robust, with most assessing his licensing potential as ‘good’ or ‘very good.’ He certainly scored high marks on his graphic appeal, with one agent even suggesting that Bruno had the potential to succeed with older consumers shopping the high-end specialty market, in the way that Paul Frank products do.

In fact, the majority of participants pegged specialty and mid-tier channels as the best retail homes for Bruno. ‘Preschool properties are great for our specialty products,’ says one toy exec. ‘Bruno is visually stimulating, and the content is simple and on-target for that age group.’ Another toy player felt that the property’s ‘original and unique, one-of-a-kind design’ would make it a natural sell in those outlets.

Respondents picked toys & games as the lead category for the property, but publishing ran a close second, with apparel, domestics, infant products and furniture coming in not too far behind.

While Bruno’s overall product prognosis was healthy, respondents did have some concerns: chiefly with the existing TV show’s interstitial format. Because preschool series need constant repetition to build an audience – and ‘mom awareness,’ as one toy brand manager puts it – a few felt that the short episodes and current broadcast scenario weren’t ideal. One U.K.-based licensee was quite blunt about Bruno’s chances in his market, which is over-saturated with preschool properties right now. ‘Preschool not produced in the U.K. has failed miserably here to date.’

That said, one agent was quite confident and advised Cuppa Coffee to ‘be patient and let the audience find the show.’

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown

Owner/licensor: Twentieth Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising

Territory of origin: The U.S.

Description: Manny the woolly mammoth, Sid the sloth, Diego the saber-toothed tiger and the hapless prehistoric squirrel/rat known as Scrat return from the hit 2002 CGI flick Ice Age, which grossed more than US$380 million worldwide.

Concept: Helmed by Chris Wedge and the Blue Sky team that created Ice Age and Robots, Ice Age 2: The Meltdown takes place as the Ice Age is coming to an end. While most of the animals take great delight in the melting water park that is their new world, our heroes soon discover that their paradise is getting a little too watery – a huge glacial dam is about to break, threatening the entire ecosystem. Their only chance for their survival lies in making it to the other end of the valley, so the gang embarks on a peril-filled mission across an ever-changing and dangerous terrain.

Demo: Boys and girls ages three to 12 (for the licensing program)

Initial territories of interest: Worldwide

Domestic and international categories open: Food & beverage, novelties, gifts, housewares, party goods, stationery (the U.S.); food such as ice cream, ice packs, bottled water, yogurt (the U.K.); bath & beauty, food & beverage, jewelry (Canada)

For licensing opportunities, please contact: Lora Cohn (domestic licensing), 310-369-2243,; Rita Prosyak (domestic theatrical promos), 310-369-3125,; Carl Lumbard (European licensing), 44-207-314-7079,; Gary Krakower (Canada, Pacific Rim, Latin America, Asia/India licensing), 310-369-5681,

At-a-Glance Temperature Read

Overall potential in respondents’ product categories/territories: good

Would respondents add Ice Age 2 to their portfolios: yes (77%), no (23%)

Best potential product category: toys & games

Desired retail channel for merch launch: mass (86.7%), mid-tier (13.3%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12% (80%), 10% to 18% (20%)

When Ice Age made its theatrical debut in 2002, it was an unknown commodity that turned out to be a huge hit. Fox intends to capitalize on the sequel’s merch potential with a broad program, and our survey participants couldn’t agree more with this strategy.

‘Despite shelf space concerns right now,’ says one on-line retailer, ‘I think mass retail will welcome the sequel, based on the success of the first movie.’ He added that he’d like to see Fox execute licenses for some higher-end specialty items.

On the whole, respondents deemed toys & games as the program’s driving category, with video games, novelties and apparel providing a good support system, and merch should hit retail a few weeks before the film’s release date. Winter apparel including caps, gloves and scarves was also suggested as a category worth pursuing.

Our panel was quite positive about the sequel’s chances, with a full 77% saying they would add Ice Age 2 to their portfolios. As to why, one toy exec pointed out that its ability to draw adult and kid viewers make it a much stronger merch proposition.

Kid Ninja

Owner/licensor: Kid Ninja Productions

Territory of origin: The U.K.

Description: Kid Ninja is a 52 x 11-minute CGI/2-D animated series that’s currently in development. British animation houses Asylum Entertainment and Absolute Digital Studios will take care of production, while London’s Cake Entertainment works on raising funding on the international market.

Concept: This comedy/action series stars Jet, an average 12-year-old suburban kid – at least until he learns that an ancient ancestral prophesy has pegged him to become an elite ninja charged with keeping a small statue that’s been guarded by his family for centuries out of the clutches of the evil Dragonmaster and his sumo guards. The spirit of one of Jet’s warrior ancestors finds a home in Kuma, his seemingly innocuous walking, talking teddy bear. Kuma is Jet’s Sensai, teaching him martial arts moves and how to channel his inner animal spirits to morph into various creatures (such as a strong gorilla and a lightning-quick cheetah) to fight Dragonmaster.

Demo: Boys six to nine

Domestic and international categories open: Cake is currently hunting for master toy, publishing, video game and home entertainment partners

Initial territories of interest: Europe, Japan and the U.S.

For licensing opportunities, please contact: Genevieve Dexter,


At-a-Glance Temperature Read

Overall potential in respondents’ product categories/territories: good

Would respondents add Kid Ninja to their portfolios: yes (64%), no (36%)

Best potential product category: video games

Desired retail channel for merch launch: mass (83%), mid-tier (17%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

Judging from our panel’s feedback, solid properties for boys six to 10 are still in high demand. And Kid Ninja seems to fit this bill, with its potential being assessed as ‘good’ to ‘fair,’ and the majority of respondents expressing an interest in adding it to their portfolios.

As one apparel company president puts it, Kid Ninja would face a lot of competition from existing superhero and NASCAR licensed goods, ‘but we always have a need for new boys licenses.’

In terms of U.S. broadcast scenarios for the series, it looks like a daily spot on Cartoon Network would be ideal for the property. Merchandise – led by a video game, then action figures/toys and apparel – should follow at least three to six months after the show’s launch.

However, several respondents were concerned about Kid Ninja’s ability to stand out against a number of like properties already in the market. One brand manager at a trading card manufacturer says he would be interested in picking up Kid Ninja, but wondered if it wasn’t too ‘similar to properties like Jackie Chan, Xiaolin Showdown and Codename: Kids Next Door.’ Another panelist says he would hold back to see if the project’s story lines were strong enough to differentiate it from similar shows and noted that ‘the Ninja concept is a bit over-used, as are attempts to grab some ‘Japan-appeal.”


Owner/licensor: Nelvana

Territory of origin: Canada

Description: 6teen is a 26 x half-hour series with a retro-modern 2-D animated aesthetic. The show hit Canadian airwaves in 2004 on Teletoon, and Nelvana has recently sold it to international broadcasters including Cartoon Network Latin America, France 3, Canal+ Cyfrowy (Poland), Fairmead (Africa), LUK (Spain) and NOGA (Israel).

Concept: This tween sitcom follows the minimum wage adventures of six teens working in the most sacred of adolescent hangouts – the mall – and leaning on each other for support and friendship. Surrounding them are typical shopping mall denizens like prank-playing preteens, menacing rent-a-cops and overbearing bosses.

Demo: Kids six to 11

Initial territories of interest: At this early stage in 6teen’s life cycle, Nelvana is waiting for the show to find a global audience, which will in turn stimulate brand-building initiatives. Nelvana is already fielding interest in key international territories.

For licensing opportunities, please contact: Marie Laure Marchand (Europe), 33-1-4271-0828,; Mark Northwood (North America), 416-530-2820,; Graham Saltmarsh (the U.K.), 44-207-439-6400,; Lily Yan (Latin America and Asia Pacific), 416-530-2836,

At-a-Glance Temperature Read

Overall potential in respondents’ product categories/territories: good

Would respondents add 6Teen to their portfolios: no (53%), yes (39%),

maybe, depending on TV placement (8%)

Best potential product categories: apparel and accessories

Desired retail channel for merch launch: mid-tier (43%), high-end/specialty (36%), mass (21%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12% (83%), 10% to 18% (17%)

Also generating a lot of page views, 6Teen’s merch potential was generally acknowledged as ‘good,’ and many respondents seemed intrigued by the property. One toy exec says, ‘It seems like a G-rated combination of the movie Mall Rats and the Broadway play Rent, both of which have a strong cult fanbases among tweens through to adults.’ Another respondent declares, ‘This property is interesting. There is a character for everyone to identify with.’

What most panelists noted right off the bat is that the show’s unique animation style and tween-skewing subject matter calls out for a lifestyle-oriented merch program led by apparel and accessories, and moving into youth electronics and home décor in phase two. And because of this, mid-tier and high-end specialty were pegged as the property’s best distribution paths. In terms of broadcast strategy, our panel felt that a weekday evening slot on a broadcaster such as Cartoon Network would be ideal.

But many respondents also pointed out that tweens are fickle, and as one agent puts it, there’s already ‘fierce competition for the demo from existing design properties.’ Another warns that ‘lifestyle programs can be the toughest to launch.’ In short, Nelvana’s licensing execs would have their work cut out for them to stay on top of tween trends to make the most out of the property’s merch potential.

What licensees dream about

Well, they could be dreaming about winning the lottery or becoming famous, but this is a business magazine, so we asked licensees to tell us what’s on their property wishlists. Here’s what they said:

‘A girls property for ages two to 11. Solid girls properties are too few and far between.’

director of licensing

‘Licenses for both boys and girls that aren’t Disney or Nickelodeon.’

VP of marketing

‘Long-life brands that have the potential to turn into evergreens alongside movies.’

director of marketing

‘Obviously, we want to find that grand-slam brand. Who doesn’t? And we are also looking for brands that can negotiate a ‘test’ of sorts – perhaps not a traditional licensing deal upfront; more like finding the right retailer and developing a few SKUs as a private label with an option to sign on for more afterwards.’

director of business development and licensing

‘Dual-gender licenses and good preschool concepts, as well as solid boy and girl entertainment properties.’

licensing manager

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


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