AS he turns 86, British icon Rupert Bear may just be entering the prime of life. Since London-based Entertainment Rights picked up the property a few years ago, it’s been hard at work building a two-tiered merch strategy that will deliver Rupert to young fans and adult collectors.
For those on this side of the pond, Rupert Bear has been the star of a self-titled comic strip running in the U.K.’s Daily Express every day for the past 85 years, and this fall he’s taking a turn on Five’s Milkshake block in a new 52 x 10-minute CGI preschool series, Rupert Bear – Follow the Magic.
Director of consumer products Claire Shaw believes there’s an opportunity for two distinct licensing programs. Tocoy Martin Yaffe and publisher Egmont are driving the program designed for this generation of preschoolers. Product will be inspired by the new TV animation and Shaw says the partners are striving to infuse the resulting playthings and books with the magical elements of the series. For example, a playset version of the series’ central locale, a treehouse, will have a lot of hidden and interactive elements to keep kids engaged. And Shaw and her team are currently on the hunt for apparel, game and puzzle and stationery licensees to round out the first wave of the program that will see product at U.K. mass retailers next fall.
The program will target those adult collectors who’ve grown up with Rupert. There is some successful licensing with a series of annuals that ER will continue to keep in print, but Shaw is actively looking for gift and collectibles licensees to kick this specialty tier into high gear. She believes there is a possibility for some category crossover and plush immediately comes to mind. However, ER is envisioning the collectible plush will resemble the classic teddy bears of the early 20th century, while the preschool plush will be modeled on the new CGI animation. LC