KidScreen‘s quasi-formal celebration of the year’s best efforts in international kids entertainment returns this year with a twist. The nominees that follow were chosen by you, our readers. Read on to get the lowdown on the achievements of the shortlist of candidates competing in six categories – Producer, Distributor, Broadcaster, Licensor, Licensee and Licensing Agent…of the Year.
As for who will reign supreme, we’re leaving it up to you to choose the winners. KidScreen has set up a voting page at www.kidscreen.com/bestof. So please jump online and take a moment to fill out a ballot (one per reader, of course). The winners will be announced in our January issue, streeting on January 12, 2008. Happy voting!
Known for its unique 2-D animation aesthetic and smart scripts that keep tweens coming back for more, the Toronto-based studio is now in its fourth season with 6Teen. And Total Drama Action, the follow-up to hit toon Total Drama Island, is rolling out in 2009. Both series were created for Canuck broadcaster Teletoon as original productions, and TDI in particular has gone on to garner record-breaking ratings on Cartoon Network US. (The sale was brokered by the studio’s London-based distributor, Cake Distribution.) A third season, Total Drama: The Musical, is also heading into production.
In the virtual world, the orignal TDI is making a splash with an online environment that allows fans to play and compete on episode-inspired challenges. The site has more than three million registered users and 18% of cable TV online market share in the US. Earlier this year, Teletoon also commissioned 52 episodes of Fresh’s latest production, Stoked!, an animated surf comedy about a group of teens that heads to the West Coast to follow dreams of surf and sun. And the development pipeline is stuffed with new projects including: My Babysitter’s a Vampire! (Teletoon Canada), a CGI/live-action comedy horror feature; In Maya’s Opinion (YTV), a CGI/live-action sitcom; and an animated comedy about campus life called The Zoo (Teletoon Canada).
The Paris-based production company has had a banner year, led by its monster hit, Monster Buster Club. After airing for only a month on TF1, the series ranked third in the ratings race with four- to 10-year-olds in France (according to Nielsen ratings) and has been settling in on channels across the globe, such as Toon Disney (US) and YTV (Canada). MBC is making its way shortly to Super RTL (Germany) and 12 Jetix Europe feeds. And MBC is branching out into the MMOG space with an elaborate online game co-produced with TF1 currently in the works.
Plus Totally Spies!, which has aired globally since 2002, is currently getting a feature film redux. Marathon has inked a deal with Studio 37 and has presold the big-screen offering to Films de l’Elysée in Benelux, Mikado in Italy and SPI in Eastern Europe. The US$12-million production is expected to be delivered sometime in 2009.
Looking to keep the momentum going, Marathon broke out The Amazing Spiez!, a new 52 x 26-minute series from the creators of Totally Spies!, at MIPCOM Jr. this past October, where it ranked fourth in the screenings. And the much-anticipated Gormiti: Lords of Nature (52 x 26 minutes), based on the best-selling toy line from Giochi Preziosi, made its debut on Italian TV in October.
In the past year, Marvel Entertainment has gone from zero to 60 in the TV animation world. The company has made good on its goal of creating animated series to complement each of its tentpole live-action feature films in very short order. Marvel’s 2009 TV lineup includes Marvel Super Hero Squad and The Black Panther as well as the all-new Iron Man: Armored Adventures and Wolverine and the X-Men. Broadcast deals include berths on Nicktoons in the US, Teletoon in Canada, BBC, France 3, Disney Latin America and ABC Australia to name a few.
Behind the scenes, 2008 was also a major planning year for the new team of Simon Philips, president of worldwide consumer products, animation and interactive entertainment licensing, and Eric Rollman, president of Marvel Animation. The pair most recently announced the production of an all-new Thor animated series slated to follow the release of the live-action feature in 2010, plus 26 half-hour episodes of The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to follow the 2011 Avengers feature film. As well, the studio has started production on a slate of Marvel anime series being produced in Japan scheduled to debut in 2010.
In the meantime, there’s new home entertainment in the pipeline. Marvel Animation is releasing two direct-to-video animated features annually through its partnership with Lionsgate. Next up is Hulk Vs. in January 2010, followed by Thor: Tales of Asgard later that year.
There are three words that sum up Shaftesbury Films’ 2008: Life With Derek. Although the live-action juggernaut has just completed its final season, bringing the number of eps to an impressive 70, sales of the series continue around the globe. This year, Super RTL (Germany) picked up season one and two, while season four has been shipped to France 3, Boomerang UK, Nick Australia and New Zealand and Disney US, Germany, Italy, UK and Portugal.
The series has also branched out with a consumer products deal with iToys that will see new lines of merch introduced to retail early next year. Penguin Books has signed on to produce chapter novels for the series. To top it all off, LWD won the prestigious Shaw Rocket Prize in May.
Moreover, new HD live-action production Aaron Stone, from the company’s Shaftesbury Services II division, has been tapped to lead the charge on new boys net Disney XD, which launches in February. Shaftesbury has also had a measure of success with its new 13 x half-hour live-actioner Overruled!, which was delivered this year to Family Channel in Canada and Disney Channel US. And if it seems like the Canadian prodco is developing an expertise in crafting tween live-action comedies, its next series Connor Undercover shouldn’t disappoint. The co-pro with fellow Canuck studio Heroic Films is set to air in 2010 on Family Channel.
The name Wildbrain is now synonymous with cross-demo hit series Yo Gabba Gabba!, which debuted in August 2007 on Nick Jr. in the US. The Emmy- and BAFTA-nominated show continues to attract a hip lineup of Hollywood celebrities as its second season goes to air.
This year, the prodco launched a two-pronged consumer products program based on the preschool series that’s also proving to be very popular with the college-age crowd. Kidrobot, Wildbrain’s retail subsidiary, first put limited-edition apparel and toys on shelves, and then master toy licensee Spin Master rolled out a mass-market toy line this fall. There will be more Gabba to look forward to as Wildbrain recently confirmed that a feature film is in development. The company also recently signed a development deal with Paramount Pictures’ Nickelodeon Movies for a series of features that showcase Kidrobot’s world of vinyl collectible toys.
On the short-form front, the studio is courting broadcasters for The Aquabats, a live-action/2-D animated comedy series by the Gabba creators that centers on the antics of the bizarre and theatrical real-life indie band of the same name.
The distribution arm of New York-based 4Kids Entertainment posted a strong performance in 2008 with robust sales for some of its best-known series and new market entries. Chaotic chipped in with sales to Jetix (US), Teletoon (Canada) Network Ten (Australia), RTBF (Belgium), SIC (Portugal), MNet (South Africa) and Kids Central (Singapore). Viva Piñata continued to score high-profile deals with YTV (Canada), France 3, Canal J pay satellite TV and RTL2 (Germany), among others.
Perhaps the overriding highlight was the re-imagining of iconic IP Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The new series, TMNT: Back to the Sewers, certainly did not fall into the brink, with major deals to Cartoon Network (Australia, New Zealand, India, the Philippines) plus many other channels in the Asian and European markets.
New on the scene was Dinosaur King, which made an impressive debut on a myriad of nets including Mediaset (Italy), RTL2 (Germany), France 3 and Jetix (UK, Scandinavia and Spain).
On the heels of breaking into the US market with the sale of Skunk Fu! to Kids’ WB! in 2007, London-based Cake Distribution made some major inroads with Cartoon Network US in 2008. In addition to landing 52 x 13-minute Skunk Fu! from Irish prodco Cartoon Saloon on CN US, Cake also sold Fresh’s Total Drama Island to the net’s US, Latin American, Scandinavian, Central and Eastern European and Middle Eastern and African channels. That doesn’t mean the heat cooled on Skunk Fu! To date, it’s been sold into more than 100 territories worldwide, including landing placement with broadcasters such as France 5, CBBC, Disney Channel Latin America and Super RTL in Germany. The martial arts comedy series and Elliot Kid, another toon in Cake’s catalogue, were also nominated for Best Animation BAFTAs this year. However, the cherry on top of it all thus far was Cartoon Saloon/Cake’s win at the Irish Film and Television Award ceremonies in Dublin this year, with Skunk Fu! taking home the Best Animation trophy.
Owner of the world’s fourth-largest independent children’s content library, with more than 1,000 separate TV license deals and 200 customers worldwide, Decode Enterprises could have sat on its laurels this year. But then it wouldn’t be in the running, would it? This year, sales highlights include Franny’s Feet scoring berths on PBS Kids Sprout and Disney UK; Bo on the GO! landing at France 5, CiTV, RaiSat, Disney Spain and Cartoon Network Asia; and The Latest Buzz getting picked up by Nickelodeon Spain and Cartoon Network Latin America and Germany. All three shows were commissioned for a third season in 2008.
The company has also expanded its third-party distribution business this year, picking up series such as Heroic Film Company’s How to be Indie, marblemedia’s Adrenaline Project and Adastra Creative’s Grandpa in My Pocket, CBeebies’ first comedy-drama for preschoolers. Also swelling its distribution roster are series co-produced by sister company Decode Entertainment, including Super Why!, dirtgirlworld and Waybuloo.
After only one year of operation, Studio 100 has drummed up enough business to earn its spot as a finalist for our Distributor of the Year Award. Chief among the many moves made by the company was the acquisition of EM.Entertainment’s children’s catalogue and a number of territory deals sealed for puppet preschool series Big and Small, a co-pro with Kindle Entertainment, BBC, Treehouse in Canada and 3J’s Production. In addition to bowing on CBeebies this fall and readying for its 2009 debut on Treehouse, the series has been picked up by Germany’s Telepool along with IPTV and VOD rights throughout Europe.
The fledging company is further adding to its sales slate with a volume deal signed with CBBC earlier this year to produce format-ready live-action series The Slammer, Trapped and Beat the Boss. It will also co-produce what may be the market’s first preschool quiz show, Kerwhizz, with CBeebies’ in-house team.
Other successful ventures include acquiring the rights to the 52 x 13-minute series Balloontoons and Amberwood’s HD series Super Mega Hyper Pets. And with an eye towards the digital realm, the company signed a deal with iTunes to make all of its content available for sale on iTunes Germany.
Great ratings greeted many of the series on Taffy Entertainment’s distribution slate in 2008. In Germany, Dive Olly Dive! (a.k.a. Tauch Timmy Tauch!) was the highest-rated new show on Ki.Ka, and the second highest-rated show on the network overall. In the US, Olly debuted in PBS Kids Sprout’s weekend lineup in June. Within a few months, Sprout extended the show’s run to seven days a week. Additionally, Growing Up Creepie debuted on Nicktoons UK and instantly became the fourth-ranked show on the network this year. Taffy also completed a number of big deals for series that will begin debuting worldwide in 2009. Co-produced with American Greetings and India’s DQ Entertainment, Twisted Whiskers was snapped up by the UK’s CBBC and France’s Canal+, and co-pro deals with France’s M6 and RAI in Italy were secured for the anticipated toon Geronimo Stilton, an Atlantyca Entertainment/Moonscoop co-production.
To cap it all off, Taffy won an Emmy Award this year for I Got a Rocket, which debuted on its online/VOD network, Kabillion, marking a first for both Kabillion and the series.
Besides rolling out several new hit series on Cartoon Network feeds around the world, which broadcast to 166 countries and 230 million homes, the net spent this year setting up a new scheduling strategy State-side to pump up ratings after a bit of slide in recent years. The network focused on Thursdays as a go-to night for comedy, anchoring Har Har Tharsdays with network original Chowder, new acquisition Total Drama Island and new production The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. Fridays, meanwhile, gave way to action-adventure with a hard-hitting lineup that now includes new series Ben 10: Alien Force, The Secret Saturdays and the hotly anticipated Star Wars: The Clone Wars CGI series from LucasFilm Animation, the first ep of which went down as the most-watched series premiere in network history.
CN also launched an in-house hub called Cartoonstitute for hatching new series and nurturing talent. The initiative is in the midst of sussing out comedic animated shorts from up-and-coming writers and animators, with the goal of shepherding promising concepts into full-fledged series.
On the cross-platform front, the net launched a free real-time Ben 10 MMOG and announced a deal with kid cell phone service kajeet to bring CN to the pay-as-you-go mobile market. On the development slate, the network and Warner Premiere are starting production on Scooby-Doo: In the Beginning, a new live-action prequel that will debut on CN in fall 2009.
Disney Channel Worldwide
Following hot on the heels of its enormous success with High School Musical II (watched by 293 million viewers around the globe), the House of Mouse rolled out its latest feel-good musical movie, Camp Rock. More than 82 million sets of eyeballs worldwide tuned in to make it the most-watched original movie premiere ever with key demos on Disney Channel in France, Poland, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and Canada. Seventeen renditions of the songs from the movie have been recorded in several languages as part of Disney’s mission to connect with kids on a local level.
Disney Channel is also investing more than ever in European production, setting up a London-based long-form animation hub and growing its Italian short-form development center. In the EMEA, it has doubled its distribution in just three years, and this past summer, it launched free-to-air on digital terrestrial television in Spain – a global first for the business. In Singapore, Disney Channel launched As the Bell Rings, its first original, made-for-mobile short-form series. And Hong Kong Disneyland set the stage for >o?High School Musical: My School Rocks 2008, a region-wide inter-school dance competition that premiered on Disney Channel Asia.
New legislation in France putting strict limits on advertising for public broadcasters created quite a stir when it was announced last spring. The publicly funded France Télévisions saw reforms that merged all of its channels into a single enterprise. In October, children’s programming activities on France 3, France 2 and France 5 banded together to form one main kids unit, France Télévisions Jeunesse. France 3′s head of children’s programming, Julien Borde, was promoted to the position of children’s and youth program director, overseeing the new centralized organization of co-production, acquisitions, programming for all kids content on air and on-line on France Télévisions channels and services.
France 3′s broadcast slate, in particular – 15% of which is devoted to kids – is forging ahead in meeting its annual goal of commissioning and/or acquiring 10 animated series. The net’s lineup will also soon be enriched by two strong new shows based on highly popular properties Gaston Lagaffe and Saint-Exupéry’s classic tale The Little Prince, as well as new shorts Léon Terreur de la Savanne from Studio Hari and TV-Loonland. The channel amped up its web service in October, making the content on Toowam available all day.
In the last year, Nickelodeon brought its worldwide channel count up to a grand total of 50, with the launch of Nick Jr. in Latin America and Nickelodeon in Poland, Africa and Arabia. The net now reaches a total of 287.6 million households in 162 territories worldwide. Regional successes across the globe include: Nick UK’s third consecutive year in the number-one spot in the competitive Brit kids cable market, achieving its best ratings ever in the first half of 2008; Nick Germany’s double-digit ratings gains since relaunching in 2005, with a historic ratings high scored this past July; and a 71% increase in ratings at Nick India. The broadcaster has also created nine fully localized versions of its iconic Kids’ Choice Awards.
Of further note is the net’s digital efforts, with the launch of its global vertical site, icarly.com to complement the series of the same name; it hit the one-million mark in international unique visitors per month in June. In September, the second Avatar Global game rolled out in 81 markets and 10 languages.
Coming down the pike, next year will see a globally co-ordinated effort to make the most of SpongeBob SquarePant’s 10th anniversary across every channel and line of Nick business.
After taking a chance as commissioning network on Toronto-based studio Fresh TV’s sassy tween animated series 6teen and Total Drama Island, the Canuck net has signed on for the second season of the latter, Total Drama Action, which bows in January. The two shows have done a great job of wooing toon-shy tween girl viewers. The net has also maintained its strong boy draw as the Canadian home of Ben 10: Alien Force. And just recently, it inked an exclusive deal to become the Canadian broadcast home to Marvel Animation’s catalogue. In spring 2009, the net will begin airing the likes of Iron Man, The Avengers and Spider-Man. The deal also grants rights for additional platforms, including broadband, VOD and mobile.
On the interactive front, teletoon.com took home the Promax/BDA Silver Award for best consumer website and plays host to over 1.5 million visits and 2.5 million game plays per month, with average time spent on the site sitting at 15 minutes.
It’s no surprise that BBC Worldwide made the list for a second year in a row, having witnessed a 17% increase in profit over the previous 12 months, with revenues spiking 13% to a cool US$1.8 billion. Its popular In the Night Garden licensing program continued gaining traction, and four INTG products from master toy partner Hasbro were enjoying their status on the UK top-20 bestseller list at year’s end. But BBCW hasn’t stopped there. The kids division, renamed Children’s and Licensing, is in the midst of a restructure under the direction of new MD Neil Ross Russell. He’ll have plenty to work with as Little Airplane’s 3rd & Bird! (below) and Harry & Toto from Handle & Spout are on deck. BBCW is also on a roll internationally as sales outside the UK shot up by 56%.
Cartoon Network Enterprises
CNE has had a breakthrough year, thanks to the growing success of Ben 10 (left) on the licensing and merchandising front. It’s the licensing arm’s first boys action property, and it’s made some real noise internationally in the last 12 months, cracking NPD’s top-five toy licenses list in the UK and bringing its licensee roster up to 30 in the territory.
CNE also got into third-party distribution in February and wisely snapped up worldwide licensing rights outside of Canada to Spin Master/Nelvana Enterprises/Sega Entertainment’s Bakugan. Spin Master’s related Bakugan Battle Brawlers toy line is on track to do US$100 million at retail this year. Secondary product just rolled out, and CNE is planning a second merch wave for spring 2009. Meanwhile, CNE’s tough and doe-eyed female superheroes The Powerpuff Girls celebrated their 10th anniversary with commemorative merch on tap to launch in Asia-Pacific, Japan, India and select European territories.
It’s been a fine year for Chapman Entertainment, thanks to the widespread success of its preschool powerhouses Fifi and the Flowertots and Roary the Racing Car (below). Roary zoomed 155% above forecasts in apparel sales this past Q2, and Fifi apparel was up 53% from the same quarter last year. Both properties continue to attract licensees. More than 22 million units of product across all Fifi categories have sold through, while Roary has kept pace, moving 1.4 million toys for UK master toy partner Vivid Imaginations. Licensing rep HIT Entertainment has been busily inking deals to round out the Fifi program in the US, Canada and Japan, while Haven Licensing launched Roary toys and DVDs Down Under this past fall.
Since creating Chorion Brand Partners to drive growth in brand promotions earlier this year, the licensor wasted no time in signing a deal with British Airways to make its 50-year-old Paddington Bear character the face of the airline’s children’s travel packs. The company has also been rapidly expanding its international presence, tapping Exim Licensing Group to rep Mr. Men & Little Miss in Latin America, the Caribbean and Hispanic Puerto Rico, and appointing Gorian Consumer Products for Noddy in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Its strength with publishing properties held up when one of its newer additions, the Princess Poppy series, hit the one-million unit sales mark in the UK. Discussions for an L&M program for a Q4 2009 launch are already underway. With expanded publishing programs for Mr. Men & Little Miss with Penguin Young Readers Group and Egmont UK inked this year, Noddy’s 60th anniversary and a burgeoning program for Olivia (right), Chorion is well on its way to raising the bar further in 2009.
Now under the leadership of CEO and president Jeff Dunn, HIT continues to exercise its role as a leading licensor by getting into the third-party rep game in the US, rolling out a program for Fifi and the Flowertots and a tween-targeted merch strategy for Aardman Animations’ Shaun the Sheep. As for its own stable of evergreens, HIT is moving full steam ahead with plans for Thomas the Tank Engine’s 65th anniversary next year, having launched a new global program for the untapped infant demo with a softer look and subtle branding this past fall. And according to industry researcher The NPD Group, Thomas is now the number-one preschool property in its native UK. Meanwhile, Bob the Builder (left) is approaching an anniversary of his own, turning 10 next year, and HIT has kicked off the celebration with a new album and DVD.
D3Publisher of America
Video games are a great way to bring kids into the heart of a property, and D3Publisher of America has done a superb job maximizing its licensed slate this year. The company is selective about its licenses and has taken advantage of the immersive opportunities the category has to offer, from its Shaun the Sheep DS title incorporating mini-games that bring Shaun’s quirky character to life, to Ben 10: Alien Force giving players the opportunity to change into Ben’s myriad aliens. D3 continues to make headway into the kids space, having released a couple of Naruto titles this fall, while prepping for its January release of a title based on Universal’s animated feature Coraline in January. It will also be releasing an Astro Boy game to coincide with the new animated movie in Q4 2009.
Bandai has come a long way since it launched Tamagotchi back in 1997, the egg-shaped virtual pet that sold 40 million units worldwide. Boys action properties are where this licensee excels, and the toyco has been a strong longstanding partner for Disney’s Power Rangers, which just celebrated its 15th anniversary last year. The latest PR iteration, Jungle Fury, launched this past fall, complete with an extensive range of action figures and role-play items. And the 2008 line for Ben 10: Alien Force yielded some way-cool toys, including the Alien Creation Chamber and Ultimate Omnitrix, really making the fans feel like they’re part of Ben’s world. That was enough to grab the attention of Adness Entertainment, which signed Bandai as global master toy licensee for its hot new boy-skewing TV show and property, Kamen Rider Dragon Knight.
Certainly the in-house portfolio of the world’s second-largest toyco is nothing to sniff at, and Hasbro’s strong performance heading into the last quarter of 2008 has largely been driven by the likes of Transformers, My Little Pony and Littlest Pet Shop. However, licenses have had a significant role to play in Hasbro’s 2008 success. The five-year master toy deal struck with Marvel in 2006 continues to bear fruit – even as Spider-Man came down from the highs of its last movie-driven year – thanks to reluctant hero Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man (right). With US$600 million at worldwide box office and counting, the surprise hit film Iron Man has propelled Hasbro’s line of related playthings to bestseller status. And with new films in the pipeline each year through 2012, including Iron Man, you can expect more Marvel action from Hasbro. Speaking of action, the company also had a hit on its hands with the latest iteration of Star Wars toys based on the Clone Wars. To accompany the debut of the series on Cartoon Network, Hasbro and other licensees managed to claim Toys ‘R’ Us in the name of the Force through in-store exclusive boutiques that opened at the retailer’s outlets across the country last summer. Finally, on the international front, Hasbro UK’s In the Night Garden line moved from strength to strength, with items based on the series moving up the bestseller charts and onto ‘hot holiday toy’ lists across the region.
Founded in 2007 on the notion that there was a viable business in licensing episodic TV properties that might be overlooked by the big studios for the home entertainment market, NCircle’s model is bearing fruit. The Bonita Springs, Florida-based licensing division of Alliance Entertainment Corporation, which manufactures in-store fixtures for home entertainment products and is a leading CD and DVD wholesaler, has distribution at more than 5,000 stores across the US. And for that reason, it’s been steadily getting placement for the slew of titles it has licensed over the past year, including WordWorld, Will & Dewitt, Pocoyo and Skunk Fu! The company has also been pursuing unique retail opportunities and promotions for its licenses, notably the Perfect for the Car grocery channel program launched this summer in which NCircle priced titles at US$6.99 each and packaged them in POS displays promoting their suitability for entertaining kids during long car rides. This month, the company is offering a 2.5-hour Front Row Fun DVD featuring segments from its licensed titles, distributed as a gift with purchase at US Toys ‘R’ Us stores.
This Toronto-based company has been busy this year in its effort to maintain the title of fastest-growing toyco in North America. One might think feeding the frenzy surrounding its own property, Bakugan, and its related Bakugan Battle Brawlers toys would be enough to occupy Spin Master’s time. But solid in-bound licensing programs have put it on the Licensee of the Year list. The innovative approach taken to create the Yo Gabba Gabba! line is a prime example. The toyco had the preschool series’ creative team involved from the get-go to produce a music-based toy line that truly reflected the bright, energetic and non-traditional qualities of the show. The resulting playthings have gained recognition as one of the top new preschool lines to hit mass-market retailers this year. Spin Master has also had success with bringing boys back into toy vehicle aisles with the collectible skateboard line, Tech Deck. Its success has largely been driven by a licensing strategy of obtaining the rights to reproduce mini versions of boards and accessories from leading skateboard manufacturers to maintain the line’s authenticity.
In just under two years, London-based Bulldog Licensing has gone from startup to up-and-coming indie agency, amassing a solid portfolio of entertainment and art-oriented properties in fairly short order. Key pick-ups last year included Animation Collective’s Thumb Wrestling Federation (repped globally by Al Ovadia & Associates), infant-targeted and pun-laden IP Goochicoo and collectible-driven GoGo’s Crazy Bones, for which Bulldog has built a roster of 16 licensees since July. Currently, TWF is prepared for lift-off as product from Random House UK and toy licensee Sambro land at high street retailers this month to capitalize on the heat the short series has been generating on BBC airwaves. Meanwhile, Bulldog founder Rob Corney has developed a reputation for being able to mobilize and get product on-shelf quickly. The company has also been steadily building an international network of agencies for the company’s portfolio, and has landed representation in Eastern Europe, France, Germany, North America, the Middle East and Australia.
The past 12 months have proven to be the best year ever for Carole Postal’s 11-year-old agency. Jim Benton’s groundbreaking tween property It’s Happy Bunny, which CopCorp launched at retail in 2000, moved past the US$500-million mark in global retail sales and won the coveted LIMA Award for Best Character Brand Program of the Year. And in addition to signing dozens of new licensees to the property’s global partner list, CopCorp was also tapped for a special Merit Award for Licensing Creativity from LIMA for the innovative ‘Drug-Free Bunny’ service program created for the public school system in Texas. And despite the rabbit’s favorite motto, it wasn’t all about IHB this year. CopCorp launched new tween fashion brand Pink Cookie and added the fabled entertainment IP Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey to its roster. Finally, the company got preschool art property (not so) Scary Monsters off the ground through an exclusive launch at FAO Schwarz, and the toy retailer now carries the product at its in-store boutiques located within Macy’s across the US.
The Nordic agency continued its plan of aggressive expansion this year, and its merger with Eastern Europe’s EEMC became official in January 2008. Kidz Entertainment has since moved into 15 countries in the region, opening an office in the Ukraine, expanding its Russian operation and quickly learning its way around licensing in the emerging market. Kidz also made two significant additions to its staff to step up efforts to offer turnkey services in design and retail management. The company welcomed Peter Skouboe as VP of retail and brand management, and Bettina Christensen as product development manager. The company continued to bolster its portfolio, picking up representation for Bella Sara, Richard Scarry, Miffy and In the Night Garden, as well as its first brand, Lego. Kidz also took home a Pingu award from existing client HIT Entertainment for a Thomas & Friends promotion it set up with Danish Railways, which helped drive sales of related product to three times higher than expected levels.
The Licensing Shop
The Toronto-based boutique agency is heading into its third year of operation and husband-and-wife team Steve and Nancy Fowler have been steadily building an impressive portfolio, bringing on Sesame Street, CBS Consumer Products and Yo Gabba Gabba! in 2008. And the pair didn’t waste any time in drumming up awareness for Sesame, in particular. On the heels of Canadian 24/7 preschool broadcaster Treehouse airing the iconic series for the first time in the country since 1996, TLS embarked on several marketing and retail campaigns to amp up the property’s presence in the territory. The company helped Oscar the Grouch get appointed as the official spokes-Muppet for Canada’s Waste Reduction Week and led a whirlwind publicity tour for newest Street member Abby Cadabby to introduce her to Canadian audiences. The combined TV, radio and PSA appearances of both Muppets generated in excess of 50 million impressions.
Save the current market leader Haven Licensing, perhaps no other agency in Australia has come on as strongly as Wild Pumpkin in the wake of the demise of Gaffney International. Between September of that year and January 2008, the three-year-old company picked up six high-profile properties, including Care Bears, WWE, LazyTown, The Smurfs and Ben 10, and has been busy building their Aussie progams. In 2008, the agency managed to land a three-month placement for a front-of-store WWE concept shop at Australian mass retailers. And the Smurfs celebrated their 50th anniversary in style through an exclusive at Aussie fashion retailer Jay Jays in March. Additionally, locally hatched tween live-action series H2O – Just Add Water continues to move from strength to strength at Australian retail under the agency’s guidance. The series’ DVDs remain in the top five in sales for girls ages five to 12 and the fashion and accessories line has been at retail in the territory since mid-2007.