Launching a new kids IP in the US isn’t getting any easier. Broadcast and retail space is growing ever tighter, while harnessing the distribution power of the web is proving problematic for many indies. But Peter Keefe, president of Keefe Entertainment and creator of 1980s sensation Voltron, is betting traditional marketing, mixed with new media, will foster a sure-fire formula for cutting through the clutter and getting his new concept Z-Force off the ground.
The boys action property – built around a group of humans who each harness the power of their individual Chinese zodiac sign (think year of the tiger, dragon, dog, etc.) to fight the good fight – has 13 TV eps, a corresponding immersive website and a merch plan on the go. But rather than hoping to land a slot on a national kids broadcaster, Keefe, financed by Northridge, California’s Animation Development Company, is using the traditional TV platform in a non-traditional way.
In late August, one-minute spots inviting kids to discover the Z-Force world at www.zforce.tv (which wasn’t live at press time) will start running 60 times per week on US kidnets, including Cartoon Network and Disney XD. Once the kids make their way to the site, they’ll be invited to submit their year of birth and find out what sign they are, and then enter an online world replete with social networking, gaming and content-streaming capabilities.
‘The idea is to create a personalized, kid-controlled experience that they’ll think they’ve discovered on their own,’ says Keefe. Additionally, individual eps of the corresponding series will be available for download, priced at under US$2 apiece, along with a limited merch range that will include T-shirts, posters and replicas of the lead characters’ zodiac-inspired amulets.
Once the site is up and running and content download figures start coming in, there should be a story to take to potential licensees and retailers. Keefe plans to pursue a broader, role-play driven licensing program that hits key boys action categories such as trading cards and video games. LC