Bite-sized bits from Licensing Show ’06

Cartoon Network's not just monkeying around
June 1, 2006

Cartoon Network’s not just monkeying around

In the year since separating from Warner Bros. Consumer Products, Cartoon Network Enterprises has been steadily adding to its property lineup. In addition to talking up Ben 10 and Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends, senior VP John Friend will be introducing hijinks-laden My Gym Partner is a Monkey and The Class of 3000 at the show.

Planning for a 2007 product launch, Friend says Gym Partner’s program will definitely target CN’s core boys six to 11 audience, with toys and games acting as category drivers. He believes 3000, thanks to hip-hop star Andre 3000′s active involvement with both the November-launching series and consumer products plans, should have somewhat broader appeal. ‘Music and fashion will be the key driver because of Andre. He has amazing creative ideas,’ he says. As for specific strategies, Friend says it’s early days yet on both counts, adding ‘we’re open for business.’

DIC says let them license Cake

While gearing up for the fall launch of its Saturday morning block on CBS, DIC’s on the hunt for licensing partners for two shows making their network debut. First off, there’s Cake – a new live-action series with a 13-year-old host who embodies the craftiness of Martha Stewart mixed with the hip grrrliness of Gwen Stefani. The tween audience will learn how to make cool versions of everyday items such as t-shirts, lampshades and CD cases. DIC’s hoping to land craft & activity, fashion accessories, and room décor licensees to create product for an initial spring ’07 merch wave. It should be followed that fall by apparel, footwear, domestics, interactive, and gift & novelty goods.

Also on the company’s dance card is Horseland. The toon sprang from the virtual equine-trading site, which currently has more than 2.4-million registered members. A tween-girl targeted program for spring 2007 is in the works and key categories will include toys, apparel, publishing, mobile and collectibles.

Disney focuses on feisty Fairies and tweens

The Mouse House’s consumer products arm is turning its attention to the magical world of Tinkerbell and co. at this year’s show. Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg hit retail last fall. Aimed at girls six to nine, the novel explores the famous fairy’s background. And now Disney Consumer Products is focusing on the full-blown Disney Fairies merch launch for 2007. A new toy line from Costa Mesa, California’s Playmates Toys hits stores this fall and the ’07 DTV Tinkerbell and the Ring of Belief will help drive the program. Mary Beech, VP of franchise management, says there are a number of licensees already onboard, but the company’s still looking for partners.

On the tween front, That’s So Raven is getting some company. Hannah Montana debuted on Disney Channel this past spring. The live-action comedy series centers around Miley Stewart, who’s a regular tween by day and a big-time pop star by night. Beech says product will tap into tween girls’ desires to be a pop star. Apparel, health & beauty and electronics products should start rolling out for this year’s holiday season. Retail plans are currently being hammered out and DCP’s still on the lookout for licensees to bolster the program.

All hail Shrek the Third

While DreamWorks Animation will be talking up Bee Movie, an original CGI film slated for Q4 ’07, the bigger focus will be the third installment of the mighty Shrek film franchise. Rick Rekedal, head of licensing and retail marketing, says the program’s demo and distribution for Shrek the Third is going broad. Mass-market, toy, grocery and drug retailers should be awash in merch sporting the likeness of his giant greenness come summer 2007. Van Nuys, California-based MGA snagged the master toy license earlier this year and is working on a lineup of action figures, fashion dolls, plush, board games, animatronics and room décor to roll out in tandem with the sequel’s release. Meanwhile, Rekedal says he’s actively seeking licensees in all other categories right now.

Springfield gets ready for its close-up

Rumored for some time, it looks like The Simpsons Movie is making its way to the multiplex next summer and Twentieth Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising is planning a Homer-sized merch program. Plot details are under wraps at the moment but you can expect the series regulars to spend 90 minutes or so riffing on pop culture in their first theatrical outing. At the show, Fox will be unveiling a broad program targeting adult and kid fans in key categories including toys, apparel and food & beverage. The property’s 600-plus licensees will likely get a crack at the action.

Ovadia plans to pin licensees for the three-count

In his second Licensing Show outing under his own shingle, Al Ovadia, CEO of Al Ovadia & Associates, is looking to lock down deals for New York-based Animation Collective’s new series of shorts, The Thumb Wrestling Federation. It’s a spoof on pro wrestling with knock-down, drag-’em-out bouts between feisty (and sometimes downright evil) thumbs. The show was slotted into Nicktoon’s Monday night sked this spring, and after two weeks on air, the net picked up a second season with some weekend bouts. Devout fans can also catch up on the action at

The planned merch program is aimed squarely at the boys seven to 14 demo, but Ovadia says the property has reach and is garnering interest from the college-age crowd as well. He’s currently aiming for a 2007 specialty/mid-tier merch launch, with trading cards, publishing (think the official rulebook) and back-to-school categories in the poll position. Right now, ‘TWF is wide open’ on the licensee front, he says.

Monster Warriors and space marshals invade Jetix

Jetix Consumer Products moves into Javits with two new properties in tow. Monster Warriors (a 26 x half hour co-pro with Canada’s Coneybeare Stories) is currently rolling out across Jetix Europe’s channels and Canuck broadcaster YTV. While Toronto, Canada-based Bejuba! Entertainment is taking care of North America, JCP holds European rights to the live-action fantasy series about a teenage gang of makeshift monster fighters who battle B-movie inspired creatures. Sizing up potential master toy licensees and promotional partners is top priority for Richard Woolf, director of international licensing. He’s also looking to fill publishing, interactive, mobile gaming, apparel, accessories, and stationery categories for the core kid-targeted program.

JCP, and Paris, France-Based prodhouse Marathon is establishing the foundation for a broad, mass-market European program for new toon Team Galaxy. The action/adventure comedy aimed at the six to 11 set will hit Jetix Euro, YTV in Canada and Cartoon Network U.S. this fall. Marathon and North American agent MGM Consumer Products will be announcing a global master toy partner at the show, and Woolf will be on the lookout for home entertainment, games, stationery and apparel licensees. Product could roll out as early as spring 2007, but the primary push will be during the back-to-school sales season.

Feature films top WBCP slate

With Superman Returns set to fly into theatres at the end of the month, Warner Bros. Consumer Products is turning its attention to its upcoming crop of feature films. CGI-animated Happy Feet will be at the show with Thinkway Toys (toys), Hallmark (stationery) and Penguin (publishing) onboard. The program for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth installment of the series about everyone’s favorite boy wizard, continues to shape up. The merch is geared at the core-kid and tween set and WBCP executive VP of domestic licensing and worldwide marketing Karen McTier says deals for collectibles & gifts, games, stationery, apparel and accessories should be finalized at the show.

Finally, Warner Bros. has picked up film and merch rights for Where the Wild Things Are, a CGI/live-action film version of Maurice Sendak’s 338-word classic children’s book slated for a 2008 release. McTier says the supporting products will primarily cater to the tastes of three- to eight-year-olds, while a secondary push for adult merch is in the works to capitalize on nostalgia for the book. Right now McTier and her team are on the lookout for apparel, collectibles and gift licensees.

Expect WBCP to be touting new small screen toons from Kids’ WB!, which are set to bow on the WB/UPN hybrid net The CW this fall. Legion of Super Heroes, based on DC Comics hero Superman, Monster Allergy from Italy’s Rainbow and Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue! lead the pack.

Elmo and the gang make room for Pinky Dinky Doo

Gund is onboard as master toy & gift licensee, so Sesame Workshop is set to propel Pinky Dinky Doo into the consumer products spotlight. The animated series, produced with New York’s Cartoon Pizza, debuted this spring on Noggin in the U.S. and garnered a berth on Canadian pubcaster CBC. Maura Regan, executive VP and GM of global licensing, says the preschool audience so far is split 50/50 boy/girl, but the plan is to position the gentle series as a girl’s property in the merch realm.

Gund recently started a girl’s division and Regan says it fits well with the Workshop’s strategy to target girls between the ages of two and five. Figuring out what attracts older preschoolers can be the challenge, she says. ‘They want to be big… but they’re still little kids.’ Gund’s currently working on a line of toys and accessories including plush, fuzzy notebooks and cute novelty pens for a 2007 launch at retail. Meanwhile, Regan and her team are on the hunt for board games, stationery, party goods, apparel, and accessories licensees to augment the program.

SamSam swoops in on Taffy

Taffy Entertainment, the distribution and brand management arm of California’s Mike Young Productions and Paris-based Moonscoop, will introduce its new 3-D preschool superhero SamSam to North America. The high-def, CGI series of the same name is based on a decade-old French comic book character who readily jumps into his SamSaucer to fight monsters that represent his childhood fears. Toronto, Canada’s Spin Master has already scooped up the North American and U.K. toy rights and will go out with action figures, plush, role-play, activity toys and foam furniture for the four to six set after the series’ planned 2007 delivery. Axel Dauchez, CEO of Moonscoop Group, says he’s looking for video game and publishing licensees to complement the Spin Master lineup.

New Line delves deeper

into kid-centric fantasy worlds

While The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a tough act to follow, New Line is hoping the addition of several kid-friendly fantasy films to its portfolio will weave merch magic that Frodo and friends continue to enjoy. Accompanying last year’s debutante The Golden Compass (the 2007 film based on the first novel of the bestselling Phillip Pullman series), is Inkheart.

The studio is producing a live-action/CGI version for a 2008 release inspired by Cornelia Funke’s popular middle-school novel about a girl whose father has the ability to make fantastical characters leap from the storybook page and into real life. David Imhoff, senior executive VP of worldwide licensing and merchandising, says he’s introducing the property at the show to lure long-lead licensees, including interactive and toys. He adds games (electronic, board and trading card) is going to be the driving category.

Meanwhile both New Line, which holds international rights, and North American licensor Scholastic Entertainment are continuing to build the tween- and adult fan-targeted Golden Compass program. Imhoff says the pair is close to announcing global interactive and toy licensees, and Scholastic is on the lookout at the show for collectibles, apparel, accessories, domestics, social expressions, stationery and novelty licensees.

Imhoff will also be teasing the remake of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. The film is being produced with Walden Media, and Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic is onboard for special effects.

Nickelodeon opens up for innovators

Lest you think Nickelodeon & Viacom Consumer Products’ partner slate is full, president Leigh Anne Brodsky says she finds the show is usually an excellent opportunity to take meetings with licensees sporting new products and ideas. ‘We’re always open to exploring new categories and product that could be breakthrough,’ she says. On the Nick side, her team’s priority will be rounding out the programs for boy-skewing Avatar, and preschool hits Go, Diego, Go! and The Backyardigans, which all debuted on Nick airwaves last year.

In terms of up and coming properties, New York-based Little Airplane Productions’ operatic preschool series WonderPets should get potential licensing and retail partners talking. The show, about super heroes Linny, Tuck and Ming Ming saving endangered baby animals all over the world, debuted this past spring. Following Nick’s long-standing practice of giving new shows time to build a following before licensing them, product won’t hit shelves until sometime in 2008 – providing it with a little more time to hammer out the licensing strategy.

Sony’s going on a surfing safari

Sony Pictures Consumer Products made a splash at Toy Fair with upcoming Sony Pictures Animation’s Surf’s Up and now senior VP of consumer products Juli Boylan is looking to fill out the program for the CGI film. The ink is drying on a master toy deal that should be announced at the show and merch is scheduled to launch in spring 2007, just a few weeks before the mockumentary-style toon about the surfing circuit hits theatres. Licensees for housewares, gift & novelty, apparel, and accessories categories are in Boylan’s crosshairs now.

King Features wants to SeeMore partners

King Features Syndicate, home of spinach-munching sailor Popeye, has added SeeMore the Safety Seal to its roster. The SeeMore’s Playhouse protagonist aims to teach kids ages two to six about playing it safe and leading a healthy lifestyle. Blending puppetry with live action and animation, the series has been picked up by American Public Television for domestic TV distribution, with plans to roll the series out to public stations starting in September. Products for toddlers and their parents that reinforce the show’s messages will form the heart of the program. The company is on the hunt for toy manufacturers that create educational products focused on child development. Nisreen Shocair, director of marketing, says she’s hoping to augment the program with publishing, interactive software and games, food & beverage, footwear, and health & wellness licensees. Product is expected to launch at specialty retailers in 2007 before moving to mass.

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