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Word on the street is that it's becoming increasingly difficult to launch a new license. Not only are retailers reticent to hand over shelf space to an unknown, it looks like licensees are becoming incredibly risk averse. This might explain why this year's group of properties met with a somewhat lukewarm reception. The panel cast nary an 'excellent' vote, and a sense of 'been there, done that' pervaded responses. Not surprisingly, participants' needs remain virtually unchanged from last year's survey. Respondents continued to peg TV (38%) and licensed brands (33%) as the areas in dire need of a new hit, with demand for boy- and girl-skewing properties running neck-in-neck.
June 1, 2006

Word on the street is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to launch a new license. Not only are retailers reticent to hand over shelf space to an unknown, it looks like licensees are becoming incredibly risk averse. This might explain why this year’s group of properties met with a somewhat lukewarm reception. The panel cast nary an ‘excellent’ vote, and a sense of ‘been there, done that’ pervaded responses. Not surprisingly, participants’ needs remain virtually unchanged from last year’s survey. Respondents continued to peg TV (38%) and licensed brands (33%) as the areas in dire need of a new hit, with demand for boy- and girl-skewing properties running neck-in-neck.

EDGAR & ELLEN

Owner/licensor: Star Farm Productions

Territory of Origin: U.S.

Description: Premiering as 12 x two-minute animated shorts on the Nicktoons Network last Halloween, Edgar & Ellen is a 26 x half-hour animated series in development that takes a page from a kid’s practical joke book. Nickelodeon UK and ABC Australia have now also signed up for the shorts, so Chicago, Illinois’ Star Farm Productions is ramping up to make a full-series, with Canadian and European presale discussions underway. Books are currently published in the U.S. by Simon & Schuster and distributed in 66 countries and in 12 languages. Meanwhile, Mattel has signed up as worldwide games and puzzles licensee.

Concept: Edgar and Ellen, twin pranksters, stick out like sore thumbs in their idyllic community of Nod’s Limbs. The two 12-year-olds live to wreak havoc upon its goody-goody inhabitants, but they always get their comeuppance by the story’s end. Humorous plots focus on the twins’ pranks (which always fail), but larger themes develop when they explore the history of their towering mansion and discover dozens of juicy secrets about their seemingly perfect town.

Demo: kids eight to 12

Initial territories of interest: Star Farm is fielding international and domestic inquiries for video games, DVDs, mobile, novelty toys, candy, stationery and apparel, among other categories

For licensing opportunities contact: Maureen Dilger, maureen@starfarmproductions.com or 312-226-7130

At-a-Glance Temperature Read

Overall potential in respondents’ product categories/territories: fair

Would respondents add Edgar & Ellen to their portfolios: no (50%),

n/a (30%), yes (20%)

Best potential product category: stationery, novelty & gift

Desired retail channel for merch launch: mid-tier (50%), high end/specialty (38%), mass (13%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

Our respondents said interest in the children’s horror category is growing at a rapid clip, and is especially important in attracting consumers during that vital Halloween/pre-holiday time frame. So, the overall consensus for Edgar & Ellen was it would make for a good seasonal property.

While many respondents commented positively on the illustrative look of the evil duo, some questioned how its animation could translate to product without losing E & E’s storybook feel. There were also concerns surrounding the property’s overall dark tenor, which some felt might be too old for the intended core-kid demo. If Star Farm intends to keep it young, our respondents said the prodco will need to demonstrate growth to the target demo, raise local market awareness, and establish the property in core categories before attempting a roll out. ‘Retailers want ‘new,’ but they are also less willing to take risks,’ one participant said.

Our panel posted some interesting product ideas for the brand. One software licensee suggested launching the licensing program with a series of handheld games to test the program’s interactive potential. A licensing agent said books with joke kits would draw in the core-kid demo and all of the respondents agreed the rollout should start three to six months after the series launch.

THE IMP

Owner/licensor: Red Kite Animations

Territory of origin: U.K.

Description: With nods to Film Noir and graphic novels, the first 13 of 65 one-minute shorts have been created for Disney Japan and Cartoon Network US’s Sunday Pants block. The darkly humorous series features the voices of Stephen Mangan and Julian Rhind-Tutt from the BAFTA award winning series Green Wing.

Concept: The Imp really really wants to be evil – but his stacks of self-help books and overly dramatic plans to bring about hell on earth keep getting in his way. His brother and roommate, Bob, is just trying to keep things in order and lead a calm domestic life. And The Imp’s incessant attempts to bring about the apocalypse and over-compensate for his own inadequacies make normalcy a simply impossible state to achieve.

Demo: kids eight to 12 (and up)

Initial territories of interest: All of the categories are open for North America, Japan, South Korea, Europe

For licensing opportunities

contact: Ken Anderson and Sueann Smith, Red Kite Animations, 44-131-554-0060 or info@redkite-animation.com

At-a-Glance Temperature Read

Overall potential in respondents’ product categories/territories: fair

Would respondents add The Imp to their portfolios: yes (40%), no (27%),

n/a (33%)

Best potential product category: apparel, novelty & gift

Desired retail channel for merch launch: high-end/specialty (70%), mid-tier (15%), mass (15%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

Although The Imp’s overall potential in respondents’ product categories and territories was rated as only fair, this series generated the highest number of responses and comments. Almost half of the participants would add the property to their portfolios, pointing to the evil protagonist’s distinct and stark look. One respondent even exclaimed: ‘Finally, something a little different!’

But our panel suggested the property looks and feels grown up, so Red Kite may want to consider upping the target to an older demo from its intended eight to 12 age range. However, the panelists noted angling for licensing deals in the tween and teen market would unfortunately open the door to a lot of stiff competition for shelf space.

All is not lost, though. One participant said a viral approach to seeding the market would not only maintain the property’s overall underground feel but also inspire demand from this finicky demo. Many of the respondents pointed to mobile as a great promotional tack to take. As for when to launch, the majority felt the licensing program should hit retail in conjunction with the TV series, while several said Red Kite might want to consider making a product push a year to six months before the program broadcasts.

IRON KID

Owner/licensor: BRB, MANGA,

DAIWON

Territory of origin: Spain/Korea/U.S.

Description: Premiering this summer on South Korea’s KBS network, the 26 x half-hour action/comedy is slated to debut later this year on TVE and Jetix in Spain, Portugal’s TVI, RAI in Italy and other networks in the Middle East and Latin America. A feature film based on the series is in pre-production, and a publishing deal is in final negotiations.

Concept: When a young boy is lucky enough to get a bionic arm, little does he realize it will also turn him into the cyborg heir of the legendary Eon, the heroic victor of the Robot Wars. With the help of his comical pet, Buttons, Marty is now charged with protecting his fellow citizens from a renewed robot threat.

Demo: kids eight to 12

Initial territories of interest: With all categories currently open, BRB is eager to speak with licensees worldwide. Proposed international agents include LOSANI for Latin America, CTM in Germany, Benelux’s Telescreen and The Licensing Factory in Italy.

For licensing opportunities, please contact: Jesús Díaz, 34-917-711-400

or jesusd@brb.es

At-a-Glance Temperature Read

Overall potential in respondents’ product categories/territories: fair

Would respondents add Iron Kid to their portfolios: no (40%), n/a (40%),

yes (20%)

Best potential product category: toys & games

Desired retail channel for merch launch: mass (67%), mid-tier (33%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

Any hesitation about Iron Kid’s licensing potential centers solely on the competition factor. The panel said action/adventure series are seemingly everywhere, and one participant added the real challenge will be in convincing ‘retailers why THIS show will resonate MORE with kids than the others.’

Several respondents were also concerned about Iron Kid’s ability to stand out considering, as one apparel licensee put it, ‘competition from the big-spending properties.’ That said, a South American-based participant said there’s a lot of opportunity for new boy properties with strong characters in territories such as Mexico. ‘It looks like it will have lots of action and the merchandise will look great on the shelves,’ the licensing agent said.

All of the participants agreed product rollout should occur three to six months after the series launches, but only if the ratings prove strong, especially with more development-intensive categories. A video game exec said the best course of action is to show a slow ratings build and have the series in as many territories as possible. ‘We need to see a new property behave successfully on TV with its target demo and possibly in toy and comic book first, before taking it on in the costly, long-lead, game development [category],’ the exec said.

WILLA’S WILDLIFE

Owner/licensor: Nelvana

Territory of origin: U.S.

Description: This 52 x 11-minute animated series, produced by Nelvana, is based on the book An Octopus Followed Me Home by Dan Yaccarino, author of Oswald. It debuted at MIPTV 2006 with a U.S. sale to Discovery Kids Channel in tow.

Concept: This preschool program follows the adventures of Willa, an unforgettable little girl who brings home stray penguins and rabbits instead of cats and dogs, much to the chagrin of her understanding but conventional father. Her animals are not just her friends, they offer Willa counsel, giving her their unique and often humorous takes on problem-solving. Like a young Lucy Ricardo, Willa finds herself in comical predicaments that escalate as she fumbles her way towards finding solutions.

Demo: preschool

Initial territories of interest:

At this early stage in Willa’s life cycle, Nelvana is waiting for the show to find a global audience, which will in turn stimulate brand-building initiatives. The prodco is fielding interest in key international territories.

For licensing opportunities, please contact: Marie-Laure Marchand (Europe), 33-1-4271-0828, mlm@paris.nelvana.com; Mark Northwood (North America), 416-530-2820, mark.northwood@corusent.com; Graham Saltmarsh (the U.K.), 44-207-439-6400, grahams@nelvana.com; Lily Yan (Latin America and Asia Pacific), 416-530-2836, lily.yan@corusent.com

At-a-Glance Temperature Read

Overall potential in respondents’ product categories/territories: good

Would respondents add Willa’s Wildlife to their portfolios: yes (46%), no (23%), n/a (31%)

Best potential product category: Apparel, accessories

Desired retail channel for merch launch: mid-tier (50%), mass (40%),

high end/specialty (10%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

Willa, and her retro-inspired house filled with animals, took top marks among our respondents, with 50% deeming the property’s licensing potential as good or very good. The key concern expressed by most who answered the questionnaire, however, had to do with the über-competitive nature of the preschool environment right now. It’s no secret the field is very crowded, and many suggested Nelvana needs to find Willa’s clear point of differentiation in order to score points with retailers. ‘The preschool market is overrun with little kids and animals,’ said one respondent. Another said Willa’s palette is too soft and the bold hues attached to other preschool properties would overshadow her at retail.

PBS, Discovery Kids, BBC, Sprout, and Nickelodeon were all mentioned as possible broadcast homes for the series. More importantly, as one participant noted, the series needs to be stripped daily and accompanied by a strong on-line presence to reinforce the brand with its intended core audience, if its products are to pop at retail.

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