New IPs look to hit the jackpot in Vegas

Lucas finds force favoring The Clone Wars
Howard Roffman, president of Lucas Licensing, knows the bar has been set pretty high for 2009/10, as Star Wars, driven by spin-off The Clone Wars, was the top license in 2008. However, he's not looking to stray from the formula that put the IP at the top of the heap and plans on mining the second season of Cartoon Network hit Star Wars: The Clone Wars to refresh existing licensed lines. 'The clone troopers from the first season are now becoming characters in their own right,' says Roffman. 'We are going to play that up a lot this year.'
June 1, 2009

Lucas finds force favoring The Clone Wars
Howard Roffman, president of Lucas Licensing, knows the bar has been set pretty high for 2009/10, as Star Wars, driven by spin-off The Clone Wars, was the top license in 2008. However, he’s not looking to stray from the formula that put the IP at the top of the heap and plans on mining the second season of Cartoon Network hit Star Wars: The Clone Wars to refresh existing licensed lines. ‘The clone troopers from the first season are now becoming characters in their own right,’ says Roffman. ‘We are going to play that up a lot this year.’

Don’t expect Roffman to be on the hunt for new licensees while camped out at Mandalay Bay during the first week of this month. The Clone Wars’ dance card is fairly full and he’s viewing the show more as a vehicle to manage existing relationships. ‘I think we were comprehensive in the first season and that will continue with toys and video games, which are our two most successful categories,’ he says. And Roffman remains optimistic that Clone Wars will continue to reap galactic rewards for the privately owned company, despite the current economic climate. ‘We don’t seem to be impacted yet,’ he says. ‘There is a question about how the introduction of other properties this year will affect us, but our headspace is to do what we can with Clone Wars.’

Merch motor revving for Hot WheelsMattel is gearing up to intro the first new entertainment created around iconic boys brand Hot Wheels in 40 years. While 26 eps of CGI animated Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 prepare to bow on Cartoon Network US in August, senior director of marketing, consumer products, girls, boys and games, Juan Gutierrez, has been busy expanding the licensing portfolio of the vehicle-powered property. ‘The licensing collection spans multiple consumer products categories from role-play to publishing, to footwear and accessories,’ he says, adding that home entertainment, publishing and interactive media are on the front burner.

Already on-board are Amscan (partywares), Fundex (games), J. Lloyd International (ride-on vehicles) and Creative Design (role-play). Gutierrez also notes that while Mattel has numerous licensees signed on, there is an opportunity for potential partners to strike a deal at Licensing Show. ‘We are always identifying new categories to expand the brand and offer fans unique opportunities to experience Hot Wheels at home,’ he says.

Mattel will also be using the show to unveil a number of announcements for the new brand, including promotional partnerships with McDonald’s and Royal Caribbean International.

Thor, Captain America, Super Hero Squad take spotlight at Marvel
After generating more than US$5.7 billion in retail sales in 2008, Marvel Entertainment is looking to continue its hot streak by expanding the programs around several under-tapped properties in its 5,000-character universe. Marvel Studios is currently ramping up single-character-focused films Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), and Captain America (2011), as well as multi-character flick The Avengers (2012). With master toy licensee Hasbro already signed on for the whole shebang, Marvel is scouting out top-tier licensees across other core categories to cover the slate of releases and bring further continuity to the program for the next three to five years.

Not to be outdone by big-screen fare, The Super Hero Squad Show is poised to bow on Cartoon Network this fall, and Marvel is betting the highly stylized series aimed at boys six to eight will attract licensees in a variety of hardline and softline categories. Hasbro and THQ are locked up for toys and video games, respectively, and Marvel will be taking meetings with retailers at the show to hammer out partnerships to coincide with the series’ debut. Additionally the comic book powerhouse is showcasing new lifestyle brand, Marvel for Her. Product for the tween-centric line is being tailored to roll out at several retail tiers and currently, Junk Food, Mighty Fine and Fortune Fashions are on-board for fashion tops and apparel. Marvel is aiming to land licensees in all major categories, including swimwear, footwear, hats, bags, accessories, jewelry, personal care and stationery. Expanding direct-to-retail partnerships is another priority for the IP house. Right now, US retailers Walgreens, Pottery Barn and Old Navy have DTR deals with Marvel.

A Smurftastic showing for Sony
Sony Pictures Consumer Products is looking to cut a wide blue swath at the show, as its booth becomes Smurf central. Landing partners for the classic brand (to which it holds North American rights) and the feature film set to hit screens in Q4 2010 is a priority. So far Sony has been reinvigorating the classic brand in the US with a tween trend-driven program residing at specialty retailers like cosmetics castle Sephora. And to introduce The Smurfs to a new generation of kids, SPCP plans to take the property to mass retail 10 weeks before the film’s release, working with many of the partners already on-board for the classic brand. ‘We aim to be strategic with our partners and like to work with the same companies as we build programs,’ says SVP Juli Boylan. Master toy (Jakks Pacific), interactive and publishing deals (TBA) had been inked at press time and Sony is currently looking for partners to fill in ancillary categories. AB

Eco-friendly partners sought for The Lorax
With a briefcase full of iconic and beloved properties, Susan Brandt, EVP at Dr. Seuss Enterprises, is heading to Vegas with one major priority. ‘We are really looking for a toy partner,’ she says. ‘We don’t have a major toy licensing deal in place and we will definitely be lining up appointments for that at the show.’ Brandt says the company is focusing on its perennial brands such as the Oh the Places You’ll Go, and One Fish, Two Fish and Green Eggs and Ham, which both celebrate their 50th anniversaries in 2010. Plans are already in the works for a viral internet promo push around Green Eggs and Ham’s milestone. ‘We envision it as sort of a campy campaign that matches the content of the book,’ says Brandt, adding ‘we are still working out the particulars.’

Moving away from green eggs to the green movement, Seuss is rolling out an entirely new program around 1971 environmental parable The Lorax. Brandt describes a wide-ranging program that will likely include organic cotton t-shirts, tote bags, aluminum water bottles, paper products, and more. So far, CSS Industries has signed on to produce recycled posters and Ho Sung is creating organic clothes. Brandt is on the hunt for additional Lorax partners that work with an environmental ethos, and adds that Seuss Enterprises will not just be talking the talk, but will also be donating 10% of the proceeds to conservational causes.

BBC Worldwide taps two
BBC Worldwide is unveiling two new properties at the June event. Several years in the making, Ragdoll’s ambitious CGI-animated series Tronji bowed on CBBC in May and is ready to enter the licensing arena. Created for kids six to eight, the series has a companion website and 3-D MMOG in the works. The story revolves around brother and sister, Tronji 1 and Tronji 0, and the Great Eek, who oversees all activity that takes place in Tronjiworld. However when crisis comes in the form of the ‘Wobble,’ the world fragments and color and happiness drain away. Tronji 1 disappears, becoming stranded in our world. It’s then up to children (the only ones who can enter Tronjiworld) to help reunite the siblings. The corresponding licensing program is in its early stages, but Beeb reps are interested in talking to potential partners, particularly in video games and toys. BBCW is also introducing dirtgirlworld from Australia’s mememe and Decode Entertainment in Toronto, which launches on CBeebies in September. It’s looking to talk to prospective partners about developing a program for the enviro-conscious musical series for three- to seven-year-olds that focuses on the natural world.

Nelvana touts its wild side
Toronto’s Nelvana Enterprises is pinning its hopes on a little girl and her animal friends. Broadcast spots have been nailed down for the 26 x half-hour Willa’s Wildlife, created by Oswald author Dan Yaccarino, on YTV in Canada, and on Disney and pubcaster ABC in Australia, and Nelvana is now working on a licensing program to follow suit. The series targeting four- to seven-year-olds tracks the titular character as she brings home the likes of stray hippos and giraffes and winds up in comic, if not fantastical, situations. VP of worldwide licensing Mark Northwood says the imaginative play at the center of the series, combined with the animals, makes plush and related toys a prime category. He adds Nelvana is also looking at contracting an overall licensing agent to help explore markets where the series is set to launch.

Also on the animal front, that classic elephant Babar is getting new entertainment in the from of upcoming CGI series The New Adventures of Babar; it’s set for broadcast on TF1 in France and YTV in Canada, with more sales expected to be announced soon.

‘We think it’s really going to catch fire, because Babar is a classic property that parents know and love,’ Northwood says. Expect Nelvana to construct a typical preschool-oriented program with an emphasis on apparel for the property.

DreamWorks plots Master Mind program
Satirical comedy Master Mind, launching theatrically on November 5, 2010, tops DreamWorks’ priority list this year. The new CGI feature tells the tale of a super-villain who experiences a crisis of conscience after accidentally vanquishing his archrival, Uberman. ‘We’re taking the proven superhero genre and turning it on its head…with a twist,’ says Kerry Phelan, SVP of consumer products. ‘And our sweet spot is boys four to 10.’ With video games (THQ) and master toy (yet to be announced) deals sewn up, Phelan says all other categories are still up for grabs, including apparel and publishing. And while the younger-skewing target demo demands a mass-market retail strategy, look for some activity at specialty. ‘The spoof on superheroes may be funny for tweens and teens – it lends itself to cool apparel items,’ notes Phelan. AB

E1 intros magical kingdom
The key to show debutant E1 Entertainment’s (formerly known as Contender Entertainment) plans can be found deep in Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom. ‘It might be more commercially attractive than Peppa Pig,’ says VP of licensing Andrew Carley, adding that the new preschool series now airing on Nickelodeon UK has a more gender-neutral appeal. The show revolves around a magical setting replete with elves, fairies, small animals and insects where main character Princess Holly attempts to learn magic with her elf friend, Ben. With the UK licensing program underway, Carley is looking to score a slew of international partners to take the property around the globe. ‘We are particularly interested in finding international toy partners,’ he says, adding that Golden Bear has acquired the UK rights and will be rolling out toys in 2010. Finding international agents is also on the to-do list as the series is set roll out in 150 territories over the coming months, including Western Europe and South America.

HIT Entertainment contracts dance fever
HIT Entertainment is lacing up its dancing shoes for the show, looking to establish a mass-market program around new CGI Angelina Ballerina series Angelina Ballerina – The Next Step. ‘It’s going to be a homerun for girls four to seven,’ predicts VP of licensing Gary Krakower, adding that the current dance craze sweeping prime-time TV with shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars certainly won’t hurt. The song-and-dance-driven co-production with New York-based WNET is set to air on PBS in September, beaming into approximately 198 million homes across the US. Master toy, apparel, athletic attire, footwear, bags, back-to-school, interactive and mobile categories are open and HIT is eyeing a spring 2010 merch rollout.

Chinese mythology drives new Moonscoop offering
Flash-animated Hero:108 (co-produced by Mike Young Productions, Cartoon Network and Gamania Digital Entertainment), slated to go on Cartoon Network in Europe in early 2010, is at the center of Moonscoop’s show plans. ‘Graphically, it’s a really good-looking show,’ says Cynthia Money, president of worldwide consumer products. ‘It has an Asian influence, a lot of stories and a multitude of characters, so we see an incredible collectibility factor.’

The series is based on a 16th century Chinese novel and features a variety of outlaw spirits facing various trials and tribulations during the Song Dynasty. With such dense source material, and familiarity in the Asian markets, Moonscoop is expecting the property to rapidly engage its prime boys six to 11 demo. A master toy partner is being unveiled at the show and Money is aiming to shore up the traditional boy-skewing program with interactive, apparel, stationery and vinyl toy licensees. ‘The fact that there are a 108 different characters really opens up a lot of things,’ she adds. The company has also already prepped an MMOG for a late fall launch.

Dinos and ‘bots and turtles, oh my!
One of 4Kids Entertainment’s top drives will be expanding Dinosaur King’s reach in North America. The property has done well in Germany and France, says Roz Nowicki, EVP of marketing and licensing, ‘and internationally we are looking for softlines partners, including bedding and back-to-school.’ Landing food and beverage partners is also a priority.

Also in the hopper is the much anticipated RollBots program. The series of the same name from Ottawa, Canada’s Amberwood Entertainment will bow on 4Kids TV in September and Mattel is prepping a toy line for 2010. 4Kids wants to lock down interactive and trading card deals for the property and is hoping pending broadcast deals will help move talks along.

Last but not least, expect 4Kids to retool its current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles program around the new TMNT feature film hitting the big screen in 2011. Although the TMNT program already spans most imaginable categories, Nowicki still sees one glaring opening. ‘We are dying for a frozen pizza deal,’ she says. ‘I can see it now, Cowabunga Dude Pizza!’

Scholastic trumpets new social networking brand
Along with its stable of established properties, including Clifford the Big Red Dog and The Magic School Bus, Scholastic Media is bowing new property Toots. Born from a website created by Louis Pecci of RES Interactive, the Toots brand features 150 fun-loving colorful elephants meant to get boys and girls ages six to 11 online and interacting. Along with social networking capabilities, features 50 games and educational content.

SVP of consumer products and marketing Leslye Schaefer says plush that unlocks exclusive content on the site (think Webkinz) will drive the CP program. She’s also looking for apparel, stationery, domestics, toys, publishing, gift, novelty, interactive and puzzle licensees. As for retail, Schaefer says she’s planning to target specialty retailers in the first year, department stores for year two and then go into mass market in year three. Scholastic will also undertake a number of marketing initiatives for the new property, including live local events, charity tie-ins and a promotional campaign through US schools called The Teachers Pet Program featuring TootU. Outside the US, Scholastic is zeroing in on Saudi Arabia and the UK as prime territories for the IP.

RDF’s Waybuloo to expand footprint
Stephen Gould, senior consultant and director of global consumer products for RDF Kids & Family, promises a ‘comprehensive and strategically planned’ program for the much-buzzed Waybuloo. The 100 x 20-minute preschool series has secured prime placement on CBeebies, where it bowed on May 19, and RDF has also scored partners like Fisher-Price, Egmont and 2entertain for its UK and Euro merch program. While many of the traditional licensing categories have been snapped up, Gould will be looking for additional licensees with an eye to put product on the shelf by 2010. ‘We will consider relevant, appropriate and complementary second- and third-tier categories,’ he says. RDF will also be using its time at the show to search for promotional partners for large-scale retail alliances in territories where the series is set to air, such as Canada, Australia and Europe.

Cookie Jar goes for the full nelson
Hoping to take advantage of the muscular popularity of wrestling in North America, Toronto’s Cookie Jar Entertainment is readying Lucha Libra for launch. The wrestling IP has been going strong in Mexico since the 1930s and live-event programming is currently airing in Spanish throughout the US and Mexico on Galavision. With plans to get an English-language version on-air by 2011, Cookie Jar is busy building an accompanying merch program. ‘It attracts a largely male-skewing audience,’ notes Kirk Bloomgarden, EVP of international licensing, ‘but we are going to be extending this wide to all categories.’

Right now finding a master toy partner is Bloomgarden’s priority, but he sees back-to-school as another key category. He contends the colorful costumes and good vs. evil storylines will widen the appeal of the traditionally Mexican product. ‘It really marries beautifully theatrical elements with great acrobatics,’ he says. ‘Each Luchadore (wrestler) has a colorful mask and a distinct style, and we think that will translate well to a number of different categories.’ Cookie Jar is looking to roll out its first wave of Lucha Libra products in fall 2010.

Handy Manny program build continues at Disney
Disney Consumer Products has been carefully constructing the CP program around Disney Playhouse’s Handy Manny since its 2006 launch. And with a press event scheduled at the show featuring Manny’s celeb voice talent Wilmer Valderrama, it looks like DCP is gearing up to further boost the preschool property’s profile. Lisa Avent, VP & GM of global television franchise development, says key categories are covered but DCP will be looking into signing additional licensees. Fisher-Price’s toy line that includes vehicles and talking tool sets, is driving the program, supported by apparel, home product, food and health, home furnishing and food & drink products. Avent also says she’s keeping an eye out for different licensing and promotional possibilities for the wee worker.

Fox brings full slate
With a program ready to roll for the July 1 release of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs in 3-D (the third installment in the billion-dollar franchise) Twentieth Century Fox L&M will be talking up the anticipated James Cameron vehicle Avatar. The long-awaited, epically expensive film is finally hitting theaters at Christmas with master toy partner Mattel and video games licensee Ubisoft prepping product. Fox is aiming to shore up promo partnerships and will be interested in discussing prospective deals at the show. Also on deck is Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, bowing on Christmas Day 2009. Fox is hoping to capitalize on the evergreen property’s newest film incarnation after the first one became a surprise blockbuster. And need we mention The Simpsons? Celebrating its 20th year, Fox will be introducing new anniversary-themed lines around the world’s most infamous yellow family as well as highlighting a promotional partnership with The United States Postal Service, which just released commemorative stamps.

More monkey business at Universal
Universal Studios Consumer Products Group is entering the infant product world with Curious George: Curious Baby. Based on a new US publishing program from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, USCPG will be looking for partners for the Curious Baby collection in a number of new categories, including layette, early development toys, gifts, nursery décor, bath, feeding and daily care essentials. According to Cindy Chang, VP of USCPG, the program’s color palette and designs are intended to be gender-neutral and Curious George’s first-ever infant books – My Curious World (cloth book), My Little Boat (bath book and toy) and Counting (board book with beads) – will kick off the property at US retailers this month. Also on the slate for Universal is 3-D CGI feature Despicable Me, which hits theaters in July 2010. The film revolves around three orphaned girls who make the despicable Groo rethink his plan to steal the moon. Steve Carell and Julie Andrews have signed on to voice the film and USCPG is using Licensing Show to sniff out potential partners in a wide range of categories, including apparel, posters and video games.

Big Tent picks up Cousins’ Hooray for Fish!
Besides its major push to bring DIY icon Domo to Latin America, New York’s Big Tent Entertainment will be focusing on new property Swim, Swim Fizzi, based on the popular children’s book Hooray for Fish! by author/illustrator Lucy Cousins of Maisy fame. As its North American agent, the company is looking to gear a licensing program towards families, focusing on catch phrases from the book and its distinctive artwork. Big Tent’s got its sights set on landing bath & beach accessories, toys, games, home video and swimwear partners for the property. And after signing on as the exclusive licensing agent for MGM Consumer Products in Argentina and Chile, Big Tent will be using Licensing Show to build a program around Pink Panther in those Latin American countries. While Carrefour will be launching an extensive Pink Panther line later this year in the region that includes everything from diapers to soda, there are still plenty of categories

to explore.

Raggs holds talent search, expands into mag biz
With the conviction that persistence pays off, Raggs LLC Productions continues to build the licensing program around the half-hour preschool series Raggs that’s currently airing on PBS affiliates across the US. And in the hopes of generating the brand awareness needed to fuel a mass-market program, the company is ramping up to launch Raggs Rockin’ Kids Search and a magazine. The talent search starts on June 1 and is looking for 100 kids to appear in upcoming eps of the music-based preschool show. New magazine Thumpadoo, meanwhile, is being positioned as a vehicle to promote Raggs and other preschool properties. The plan is to start distributing the mag through discount retailer Dollar General and convenience store chain 7-Eleven later this year.

‘It’s a bit of new a model,’ says Toni Steedman, president of Raggs. ‘I’ll hire a separate editor; we would manage it independently of Raggs and would be looking at including other brands in the magazine.’

While master toy licensee Zizzle readies a full line of plush and musical toys for 2010, Raggs will be working the event to find interested licensing agencies and licensees. ‘Most of what we have done is build a non-traditional model,’ says Steedman. ‘It has been difficult for an independent syndicated brand to get this far; you have to be able to scale up for the retailers.’

About The Author
Gary Rusak is a freelance writer based in Toronto. He has covered the kids entertainment industry for the last decade with a special interest in licensing, retail and consumer products. You can reach him at


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