When kids business veteran Andy Heyward sold DIC Entertainment to Toronto’s Cookie Jar for US$86.7 million last year, many were expecting him to enjoy the fruits of his some-30 years of labor and sail off into the sunset. But after taking a self-prescribed six-month breather, Heyward has launched new property hatchery, A Squared Entertainment, with his wife and former McDonald’s director of global marketing, Amy Moynihan. And he’s off to a running start, signing US web giant AOL as the company’s digital content partner for its planned slate of new celebrity-inspired toons.
A Squared has four series set for launch between Q4 2009 and 2010 that will roll out initially on AOL and their own activity-rich URLs as 26 x three-to-five-minute webisodes. (They’ll then transition to a more traditional 13 x half-hour format for TV.)
All four series are being powered by names of the rich and famous. First out of the gate is Secret Millionaires Club, starring the voice talents of multibillionaire Warren Buffet as he mentors a group of young adventure-seeking would-be investors. Gisele Bundchen is lending her likeness to GiGi and The Green Team (working title) that will see her character work as a supermodel by day and crusade for the environment as a superhero by night. Doyenne of domesticity Martha Stewart takes a turn in Little Martha (working title) where she’s depicted as her 10-year-old self, leading a group of like-minded friends that operates a party planning service from her tricked-out tree house. Finally there’s Kosmos, based on the life and science of world-famous astronomer Carl Sagan.
For Heyward, tapping into the brand equity of these celebrities is key to A Squared’s overall entertainment and licensing strategy and will inform the selection of all other projects going forward. ‘We’re looking at properties/brands that can garner attention and be promotable,’ says Heyward. ‘For example, even though six year olds might not know Martha Stewart, because she is who she is, her kids show will get attention…We could not create this level of brand equity from scratch.’