Nick filling out mass programs for Ni Hao and iCarly
Nickelodeon & Viacom Consumer Products is giving new preschool entry Ni Hao, Kai-lan a major market push this year. The group is playing up the show’s Chinese-inspired elements in a character-driven program that starts rolling out across US and Canadian specialty retail outlets in spring 2009 with toys (Fisher-Price), publishing (Simon & Schuster) and apparel (Kids Headquarters) leading the way. Though he’s engaged in conversations with core partners about contributing to the mass program, SVP of global marketing and retail development Jim Davey also wants to round it out with other licensees in extended apparel, accessories and soft lines for fall 2009 in the US, and worldwide in spring 2010.
An initial wave of product for iCarly is gearing up to hit department and specialty retail this year, but Nick is working on a mass-market phase that will roll out in the latter half of 2009. Since technology is a major component of the TV series, Davey says the team is naturally looking for ways to match that focus in its CP strategy for the property, particularly in electronics, gaming, music, toys and publishing. The mass program will debut in the US and Canada first, with global distribution planned for 2010. Nick is targeting a broad six to 12 girls demo, with toys appealing to the younger end of this range and categories like youth electronics hitting a bit older.
Fremantle getting into OPP (Other People’s Properties)
FremantleMedia is making a much bigger splash at Javits than in previous years, holding court in a booth that’s twice the size, representing two new kids properties, and prowling for more. WordWorld fills the preschool gap in Fremantle’s portfolio, and SVP of interactive and consumer products David Luner wants to extend the property’s current program into more crafts, electronics and games with a style guide that plays up its strong characters and educational merits. He’s also looking to add value and interest to the existing 42-SKU product range (largely consisting of DVDs, puzzles and crafts), thinking along the lines of infusing plush product with interactive features. WordWorld currently has a retail exclusive with Target in place until the end of next year, and Fremantle hopes to augment this pillar account with a stronger presence in North American specialty channels by spring 2009. Airing on PBS, the series averaged a 2.7 rating in its first season, and it’s the channel’s highest-rated show after the PBS Kids morning block.
Rebecca BonBon is a dog of a different color entirely, giving Fremantle an entrée into the tween fashion market. An art brand created by Hello Kitty genius Yuko Shimizu, Rebecca is a French bulldog born in Paris and living in Manhattan. Luner is looking for fashion-oriented manufacturing partners in apparel, accessories, jewelry, back-to-school and stationery, and all categories are open at the moment. The team is in talks on retail exclusives in mid-tier and higher-end channels, aiming for a global spring 2009 launch.
The Licensing Shop shows some skin with Almost Naked Animals planogram
With producer 9 Story Entertainment just weeks away from announcing a US broadcast partner for Almost Naked Animals, The Licensing Shop is launching the pre-TV phase of its program for the cheeky short series. Chief strategist Nancy Fowler is looking to seed the market with images of the property’s quirky, underwear-clad characters on t-shirts, greeting cards, underwear (naturally) and trading cards for early 2009. She’s negotiating for specialty, department store and mid-tier distribution and won’t roll anything out at mass until late 2009 or early 2010, when the series starts airing. At that point, Fowler hopes to expand the program with a soon-to-be-announced toy partner, and is open to talking with licensees in apparel, publishing and video games. Based in Toronto, Canada, The Licensing Shop is repping Almost Naked Animals worldwide, except in Germany.
DreamWorks preps three film properties for 2010
With Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa hitting theaters in November and a sequel for Kung Fu Panda strongly hinted at, SVP of consumer products Kerry Phelan says DreamWorks is still focusing on building global kids film franchises. Meanwhile, the evergreen ogre that started the whole strategy is stomping on with Shrek Goes Fourth due out in May 2010 (product target: kids four to 12), joined by new film How to Train Your Dragon in March (boys eight to 12) and a project with the working title Mastermind (boys six to 12). Phelan says all categories for DreamWorks’ three 2010 kid pics are wide open, with the exception of video game rights, which have already been locked down by Activision (Dragon, Shrek) and THQ (Mastermind).
The studio is gearing up on an initiative to re-release some of its existing 2-D animated movies as CGI offerings, beginning in March 2009 with Monsters vs. Aliens, so Phelan will be looking for innovative licensees skilled at translating 3-D aesthetics into merch lines.
Scholastic lays foundation for next Harry Potter
Pegged by the New York Times as the next Harry Potter, The 39 Clues is Scholastic’s number-one priority this year. The upcoming publishing franchise tells the story of siblings Amy and Dan Cahill, who travel around the world in search of 39 clues that will reveal the secret of their family history. Beginning this September, 10 books for kids ages eight to 12 will be released quarterly over the next two and a half years, packaged with collectible cards to extend the narrative experience. Scholastic is also investing in a content-rich website that will host a long-range contest centering around a family mystery similar to that featured in the books; the clever reader-cum-sleuth who solves it walks away with a cool US$100,000 prize.
Interactive products and video games will be the key drivers of a kick-off consumer products program for fall 2009, with toys, apparel, board games, puzzles and impulse items that may double as clues in the overarching mystery contest. Scholastic Media’s SVP of consumer products and marketing, Leslye Schaefer, also sees opportunities at mass and book retail outlets for clever promotional tie-ins that play on the themes of adventure, secrecy and history that are the property’s core values.
Granada builds web-feeding program for Bella Sara
With more than 50 million Bella Sara trading cards sold through worldwide, and key deals already in place for toys (Sababa), publishing (HarperCollins), partworks (Hachette) and console games (Codemasters), Granada Ventures is hoping to round out the first phase of its program for this horse-centric property with housewares, apparel, accessories, health & beauty and promotions. L&M director Melanie Beer wants partners to develop products that drive girls back to the virtual community that’s at the heart of the brand, which has 2.5 million registered users worldwide. To enhance the hub’s appeal, Hidden City Games, which owns the rights to the property, is currently building more interactivity into BellaSara.com with social networking apps and an expanded character set.
The company is also working on a program for Britannia High, a brand-new family-targeted talent series that Beer describes as a cross between High School Musical and Fame. It launches on ITV in the UK this fall, and Granada is actively looking for licensees. Product targeting girls 10-plus will naturally play on the musical bent of the show when it starts rolling out in Q1 2009, so phase-one categories currently being pursued include musical electronics and toys, apparel, accessories, publishing and console games.
Cookie Jar takes Johnny Test for an L&M drive
With Johnny Test airing on Cartoon Network five times a week in a prime after-school slot, broadcast exposure is strong enough that Cookie Jar is starting to look for partners in all categories, working towards locking down toys and interactive first for a mass program. John Gildea, the studio’s SVP of consumer products, is planning a style guide that targets boys six to 11 with product embodying the wacky, crazy humor of the series. And since Johnny and his dog adopt multiple personas in each episode, there’s a natural entrée to build collectibility into the program as well. Gildea is also planning to talk to partners specializing in playsets, food, confectionery, apparel, accessories, interactive and video games for a spring 2010 rollout in North America.
American Greetings makes a wish on Maryoku Yummy
AGP isn’t waiting on entertainment delivery to move ahead with its strategy for girl-skewing graphic-led brand Maryoku Yummy. And consumer products SVP Tamra Knepfer expects the property’s development to follow a path similar to the one Hello Kitty has taken. While the upcoming TV series (roughly slated for a 2010 delivery) will target preschool girls, Knepfer is constructing a program for the seven to 12 set that plays on making and granting wishes. AGP hopes to secure partners in plush, apparel and accessories (particularly jewelry – think wish necklaces and charms), stationery and bedtime (pajamas and slumber party sets) to hit mid-tier and specialty channels in spring 2009. At press time, AGP was about to announce a retail exclusive for the property.
Olivia to hog Chorion’s spotlight at Javits
With a much-anticipated animated series developing beautifully and set to premiere on Nick Jr. in early 2009, Chorion’s evergreen publishing piglet Olivia will take center stage for the company at Licensing Show this year. The CP team, led by VP of licensing Pamela Ferris-Muller, is hoping to sign master toy and apparel partners at Javits to meet its goal of having product out in the US mass market by mid to late ’09. Once these critical categories are wrapped, Ferris-Muller would like to lock up partners for a second wave in late 2009 or early 2010. She expects Olivia’s imagined adventures in places like outer space and the African Savannah will play well in accessories, paper goods, stationery, party goods, playsets, costumes and role-play.
Big Tent debuts Geo Cross
Geo Cross, Big Tent’s new animated series for boys six to 10 about teams of kids racing around the world on high-tech eco-powered vehicles, is open for licensing business. The show is on track for an August 2009 delivery, and CMO and partner Rich Maryyanek is in talks with trading card and toy partners. Collectibles, action figures and R/C vehicles will figure prominently into the program, with boy-skewing products such as apparel, backpacks and outdoor sport activities to join in for a spring or fall 2010 mass launch.
Kamen Rider zooms into the US
Cinematic live-actioner Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight is close to picking up a US broadcaster, so producer Adness Entertainment is coming to Licensing Show to start a dialogue with State-side partners on the consumer products front. Designed for boys six to 14, the series has been running for more than 35 years in Japan, centering around a teenager who transforms into Kamen Rider Dragon Knight and must use his powers and lead a team of other Kamen Riders to save his father from an evil army in another dimension. It’s reminiscent of Power Rangers, but with production values more in line with the Transformers movie. (Editor’s note: Watch out for this one, folks. It has the potential to be big.)
Worldwide master toy partner Bandai is prepping its initial range of SKUs for a Q3 2009 release, and Adness licensing director Takeshi Okajima is on the hunt for additional licensees in apparel, accessories, interactive, costumes, back-to-school, publishing and footwear to follow up in Q4 with product that embodies the action, vehicles and tech featured in the show.
Cartoon Network makes a boys action double-play
CNE is banking on Secret Saturdays, an action-adventure series about a family of secret scientists that launches in October, to be its next big opportunity with boys six to 11. DC Comics kicks off the CP program with a comic book series this month, and a mass-market effort in North America will be led by toys, publishing and interactive, with soft lines, novelty, gift products and youth electronics to follow in phase two.
As for wildly popular boys action property Bakugan Battle Brawlers, which is on track to do US$100 million at retail this year for co-owner and master toy partner Spin Master, CNE is looking to expand the program with a US-centric soft lines program in apparel, sleepwear and accessories.
HIT sprouts Fifi and Shaun
With Chapman Entertainment’s Fifi and the Flowertots cultivating US exposure on PBS Kids Sprout, HIT is planning to roll out a limited range of product targeting girls two to five for spring 2009, encompassing toys (Zizzle), apparel (Kids with Character), DVDs (Lionsgate) and publishing (with a soon-to-be-announced partner). The goal at Licensing Show will be to find licensees in room décor, accessories, social expressions, ELAs and platform-based games for a late 2009 expansion. In the meantime, SVP of consumer products Jamie Cygielman says the company has been previewing Fifi on recent HIT DVD releases, as well as building profile for the brand through banner advertising on parenting and kids websites, and by giving away DVD samplers to customers on the online HIT Shop.
HIT is also representing Aardman’s Shaun the Sheep, which debuted on Disney Channel last July. The plan is to build a junior/tween soft lines program for specialty channels that incorporates fun, tongue-in-cheek lines from the show, such as, ‘What are you looking at? Ewe.’ Categories Cygielman is exploring include interactive and novelty plush.
Marvel sinks claws into Wolverine
Digging into its strategy of focusing on multi-year brand plans for its core properties, Marvel is aiming to make 2009 the year of Wolverine. The prequel feature film X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which follows along as Logan/Wolverine uncovers the mystery of his past, is slated for a May 19, 2009 release, coinciding with the debut of a family-friendly Wolverine and the X-Men animated series on Nicktoons. Paul Gitter, Marvel’s North American president of consumer products, still has back-to-school, accessories, sporting goods, outdoor play and some apparel categories open, and would like to see a first wave of products hit retail in spring 2009 (with additional launches in the fall and in time for the holidays). He’s really looking for partners to focus on the role-play and superhero potential of Wolverine and his claws.
Universal babies George and intros circus freaks
Entering into the next phase of its aggressive Curious George program, Universal is looking to position the little monkey to an even younger audience over the next four years. Cindy Chang, VP of global business development, and Debbie Luner, VP of global marketing and brand management, feel there’s an opportunity in the infant and toddler space to appeal to young moms who grew up with the property. They’re approaching licensees in baby apparel, soft lines, health & beauty and food & beverage with a style guide that hinges on elements of fun and imagination.
In terms of new stuff, Cirque du Freak is making its market debut under the studio’s wing this year. Universal has snapped up the rights to all 12 books in the series by Darren Shan, and is working on a lead-off fall 2009 pic (based on the first three books) in hopes that it will lead to a film franchise for the eight to 13 set. The CP team is looking to lock down apparel, accessories, gifts, collectibles, novelty, back-to-school, social expressions, stationery, trading cards, keychains and iPod accessories for all channels of retail, particularly book stores. It’s still early to talk much about design direction, but Chang and Luner are envisioning a heavy dose of character art featuring the film’s vampires, Bearded Lady and Snake Boy.
Fox’s Roald Dahl pic is a blank licensing slate
With six family-targeted films in the pipeline, including a Night at the Museum sequel (May 2009), the third installment of Ice Age (July 2009) and a follow-up to Alvin and the Chipmunks for March 2010, Twentieth Century Fox L&M is already in discussions on key categories for many of its properties. But one that’s completely open is Fantastic Mr. Fox, a November 2009 pic based on the Roald Dahl book about a wily fox who outsmarts three dimwitted farmers. Virginia King and Lora Cohn, VPs of US licensing, say they’re looking to create a specialty program centering on collectible figures, plush and social expressions.
Giochi launches subsidiary to bring hot toy property Gormiti to the US
Italian toyco Giochi Preziosi has done more than US$200 million at European retail with its Gormiti collectible action figure line this year. And with Marathon in production on an animated series for fall 2009, the company is keen to build on all this momentum and get into new territories. As a first step into the North American market, Giochi has opened US subsidiary GP Toys in Irvine, California under the purview of president John Sinclair. He’s looking for partners in toys, video games and trading cards to build a program that centers around nature, imaginative play and the good-versus-bad theme epitomized by the battling tribes of Gorm. The toys will target boys five to eight, featuring more than 320 characters rendered as 1.5- to two-inch figurines, more than 65 million of which have sold through to date.