Greg Lynn, EVP of London-based Chapman Entertainment, has had considerable success with UK preschool hits Fifi and the Flowertots and Roary the Racing Car over the last five years, but it doesn’t mean he was looking for more of the same.
‘Put it this way, we didn’t sit down after Fifi and Roary and say the next two shows have to be preschool,’ says Lynn. ‘But they just had quality written all over them.’
To start, the two IPs set to follow Fifi and Roary’s path into full-throttle merchandising and licensing programs each have plum broadcast berths on CBeebies’ 2011 lineup. First up is Charley Bear, a 52 x seven-minute CGI series hatched by UK-based Annex that started out as a full-length CGI movie and features the titular clever caniform and a yet-to-be announced celebrity narrator.
‘Charley Bear is a physical character like Charlie Chaplin and Abbot and Costello rolled into one,’ says Lynn. ‘He’s a lovable and attitudinal bear.’ As such, plush will obviously be one of the driving categories for the merch push, but it won’t be limited to a traditional teddy bear program. The series includes a number of appealing secondary characters, including a robot, cow, ballerina and penguin, and the action is driven by Charley’s limitless imagination, opening up numerous possibilities for playset and merchandise themes.
To get things moving, Chapman has tapped UK-based Vivid Imagination as its licensee in the key master toy category. Vivid intends to produce plush, playsets, role-play toys, arts & crafts products, puzzles and games, covering a broad range of price-points for distribution in the UK, France, Benelux and Germany. The company also has global manufacturing rights, excluding the US, with products slated for UK mass retail in late 2011. Lynn and Chapman are currently focused on finding partners to round out the initial product launch, including publishing, home video and apparel throughout the year.
Next up is Rah Rah The Noisy Lion, which Chapman picked up from UK prodco Mackinnon & Saunders last year.
‘We thought it was an absolute must,’ says Lynn of the series. It features young lion Rah Rah as the leader of a noisy group of jungle dwellers who communicate through non-verbal sound and focuses on the themes of communication and self-expression.
The 52 x 10-minute stop animation series will bow on CBeebies in summer 2011, and six months or so later products will be headed for mass retail in the UK.
The initial master toy deal has already been inked with Tomy. The five-year contract gives the UK-based company distribution rights in the UK, France, Benelux and Germany, and global manufacturing rights, excluding the US, for plush, arts & craft and infant preschool products, including figurines, playsets and soft toys.
‘We are going to look deep and hard into its commerciality, particularly plush and playsets,’ says Lynn. ‘There are lots of different environments within the series to consider and explore.’ With an eye towards a mass-market program, Lynn says he is contemplating partnerships for the property in a variety of different categories, such as DVD, publishing and apparel, to round out the initial product push.
As with the Fifi and Roary programs, Rah Rah will launch in the UK and then move into other English-speaking territories, followed by non-English speaking ones, over the next three or so years.