CNE revs up Generator Rex
With the third iteration of Ben 10 ready to go, Cartoon Network Enterprises and Turner Sports Strategy/Marketing/Productions SVP Christina Miller is aiming to ‘maintain partnerships and continue to be a leader in the boys consumer products space.’ While Ben 10′s licensee lineup is pretty complete, Miller says she is always interested in identifying new categories and business for Ben and Spin Master/Nelvana hit property Bakugan, which CNE reps in the US. ‘We are really looking at innovation,’ she says, ‘for things we haven’t seen in the past…We are looking to take something like Bakugan into more experimental territory.’
Sticking with boys action, CNE is launching a program for newcomer Generator Rex. The new core-boys action IP and series was created by Man of Action, the same shop behind Ben 10. It follows the adventures of 15-year-old Rex, who is able to create machines with his body after being infected by microscopic nanites. The clearly toyetic series has already landed Mattel as its master toy partner and has Warner Bros. on-board for home entertainment with an interactive partner to follow shortly. However, Miller says she’s waiting until after the initial product rollout between spring 2010 and fall 2011 to lock down secondary category licensees and promotional partners.
BBCW takes Night Garden to US
BBC Worldwide will be using Licensing Show to bring Iggle Piggle and the rest of the In the Night Garden gang to the US marketplace. On the cusp of announcing a State-side broadcast deal for the international preschool hit, BBCW’s MD of children’s and licensing Neil Ross Russell says the company will have its biggest-ever presence at this year’s show and is on the hunt for a broad range of US partners for Ragdoll’s surrealist preschool property. While Hasbro has sewn up the global master toy deal for the series, opportunities abound in other core categories like apparel and related soft lines.
Other US priorities for the commercial arm of UK pubcaster BBC include a push for Little Airplane Productions’ preschool property 3rd & Bird. ‘For us, 3rd & Bird is about plush and publishing,’ says Ross Russell, explaining that its soft edge will have to be reflected in the merchandising program. ‘Hardlines and plastics are not going to work for that one in particular,’ he says, adding he would like to replicate in North America the success the licensing program has already achieved in the UK.
Disney readies Cars 2, The Muppets
The world’s largest entertainment licensor plans to tote a suitcase full of IPs to Vegas. Leading the way is the much-anticipated sequel Cars 2 that will hit theaters next summer. After Cars-related products generated US$2 billion at retail last time around, it’s fair to say that key categories have been snapped up by eager licensees. Another big-screen release sure to capture attention is The Muppets. Kermit and co’s latest outing is slated for a fall 2011 release and Disney Consumer Products plans to support the property through a number of lifestyle categories. ‘We will continue our strong retailer programs in fashion for 2010,’ says Lisa Avent, VP and GM of global television franchise development for DCP. ‘We will look to go broader with other categories in 2011, especially focusing on consumer electronics, novelties, holiday, figures, collectible plush, social stationery and health & beauty.’
For tween boys, Disney is spinning off products based on hit animated series Phineas and Ferb, which currently airs on Disney XD and Disney Channels in more than 135 countries. Avent says most of the opportunities associated with the popular series lie on the promotional and retail fronts.
Moving over to the Hundred Acre Wood, DCP’s efforts to bring Winnie the Pooh back to its roots will continue this year in the lead-up to a new Pooh theatrical movie slated for spring 2011. The focus will continue to be on infants and toddler products with an ad campaign directed at moms. ‘We have a tremendous contingent of active Winnie the Pooh licensees,’ says Emma Whittard, director of franchise development and marketing at DCP. ‘But there are always expanding product categories, consumer segments and retail distribution opportunities that we’ll consider. We are always open to new ideas for product.’
That’s not all, folks
Warner Bros. Consumer Products is aiming to reinvigorate the program for some of its most iconic characters. Bugs, Daffy and pals have an all-new series, The Looney Tunes Show, that’s landing on Cartoon Network US this fall. ‘It’s our crown jewel,’ says Karen McTier, EVP of domestic licensing and worldwide marketing. ‘We have millions of fans, thousands of products, and we are going to be using the new series to do some interesting things – new products and new artwork to continue this classic brand.’ The style guides for the characters have been redone, but McTier expects the classic style to continue, complemented by the new art and fresher look.
While there isn’t a program out there more mature than the one built around Looney Tunes, McTier says WBCP’s always looking for meaningful promotional relationships, along the lines of the deal it just struck with the US Ad Council to have Looney Tunes characters appear in PSAs for First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign. ‘It takes ongoing management to keep the characters relevant,’ McTier says. ‘But the new series will have the same tone that made the original series so successful in the first place.’ As for what WBCP will be seeking out at the Show, McTier is open to new ideas and concepts to further the evergreen brand. ‘We are always looking for new and interesting partners,’ she says. ‘The Show is our opportunity to meet with new companies and see their concepts. We are certainly open to looking at new and fresh creative for Looney Tunes.’
HIT keeps Thomas rolling
HIT Entertainment is rolling into Licensing Show with the aim of expanding the licensee portfolio of its Thomas & Friends program. The number-one boys preschool license in the US, UK and Australia, Thomas is still a top priority for HIT in terms of new partners and renewals. ‘We are going to be making sure we have best-in-class partners in all areas,’ says Pamela Westman, EVP of consumer products and home entertainment for HIT’s State-side operations. Additionally, HIT will be looking to expand the Thomas program in electronic gaming and new media categories.
Angelina Ballerina will also get her turn. The new CGI series for girls ages four to seven based on the property bowed on PBS Sprout in the US last fall and has secured Fisher-Price as its master toy licensee, as well as an exclusive with US retail giant Target. ‘We are now looking at what comes next,’ says Westman. ‘We want to fill out the portfolio with secondary toy and softlines partners.’ Of key interest is finding partners in the ballet and dancewear area, as maintaining an active lifestyle is a core tenet of the series.
Marvel looks long term
With a robust slate of theatrical releases in the offing, Marvel Entertainment is concentrating on creating long-term licensing relationships across a number of upcoming films, including Thor, The First Avengers: Captain America and the The Avengers in 2012. ‘Marvel is uniquely positioning Avengers as an umbrella theme that will provide licensees and retailers the opportunity to develop integrated, long-term consumer products programs based on the individual films and overall story arc,’ says Paul Gitter, president of consumer products, North America at Marvel Entertainment. So far, deals with Hasbro (toys), Hallmark (social expressions), Crayola (arts and activity) and Maisto (die-cast toy vehicles) have been inked for the entire slate, but Gitter says there is still room for more partners, especially in retail and co-branded opportunities.
The Super Hero Squad Show, which debuted on Cartoon Network US last year, is also a focus. The aged-down franchise has a number of licensees attached, but Gitter’s looking to add to the roster with ‘industry-leading partners’ in a number of categories, including accessories. Additionally, Gitter is focused on creating more retail and co-branded promotions in the same vein as current partnerships with Harley-Davidson, Monster Jam and Orange County Choppers. Direct-to-retail deals are also very much top of mind for Marvel.
The Bs have it at Nelvana
Babar, Bakugan and Beyblade make up the trinity of Licensing Show priorities for Toronto, Canada’s Nelvana Enterprises. After launching a new Babar series on TF1 in France, Nelvana has been busy rolling out new product across that territory and will be looking to name a number of international agents to handle the evergreen in other regions.
Turning to boys action, Nelvana has 50 eps of the re-imagined Beyblade series ready to roll out on Cartoon Network US and Canada’s YTV this summer. The Japanese series about teams that battle each other with the aid of spinning tops made a splash earlier this decade, and Nelvana is betting its time has come again. ‘We are well on our way down the agents route,’ says Colin Bohm, VP and MD of Nelvana Enterprises. ‘We have a lot of partners to announce, and now we are looking at secondary categories, like softlines, for the US.’ Expect new Beyblade toys from Hasbro to hit mass-market retail this fall as Nelvana plots its strategy for reviving the brand. Turning to the last B, Bakugan’s third season, Gundalian Invaders, should continue to help drive sales of the bestselling toys and related products.
Everything coming up Peppa for E1
Already a force to be reckoned with in the UK and other international markets, E1 Entertainment will be focusing on pushing the presence of preschool IP Peppa Pig in the US. Peppa’s series is currently enjoying exposure on Nick Jr. State-side, and even though it’s only being broadcast as an interstitial, but there are rumblings it might graduate to full series status soon. ‘It’s very much entering a mature phase in the UK,’ says Andrew Carley, head of licensing at E1 Entertainment, noting that theme park Peppa Pig World is currently under construction in New Forest, Hampshire to open by Easter 2011. ‘Globally, it’s been a slow burn, but now we are starting to make a name internationally with it.’
Carley will be looking for US licensees in key preschool categories, such as toys, clothing and interactive games. ‘We have no US partners, so it’s a pretty clean slate,’ he says. ‘We would want to replicate the way it rolled out in the UK, with managed growth.’
Hasbro takes a hard look at Nerf
After making a splash at last year’s Show with an impressive Transformers display, Lisa Licht, GM of Hasbro Studios, says that the Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based company will be focusing on re-igniting and re-imagining some of its core brands in the consumer products field. ‘We are really focusing on our mega-brands,’ she says. ‘It’s a global show and our effort over the last two years has been on taking properties that have been driven out of the US into the international market.’ A prime example of this new approach is squishy projectile toy line Nerf, says Licht. ‘Two years ago Nerf was very US-centered,’ she says. ‘Now it has started taking off in Asia and Europe.’ Hasbro is interested in building Nerf into a full lifestyle brand that targets tween boys, and will be looking at furthering its reach by seeking out new apparel and videogame partners.
Along with re-connecting with numerous partners for its impressive stable of brands, including Monopoly, My Little Pet Shop, Transformers, Tonka and Playskool, Licht says Hasbro will also use the Show to preview a couple of new Hollywood releases like Transformers 3 (2011) and Stretch Armstrong (2012).
Henson’s Doozers dig being green
It’s the first year The Jim Henson Company will have its own booth on the show floor. The company plans to use the high-profile placement to fill in the licensing program for preschool series Dinosaur Train that airs on pubcaster PBS in the States. With 25 licensees currently on-board, Melissa Segal, SVP of global consumer products, says Henson will be actively searching for home furnishings, room décor, confectionery and promotional partners for the property.
Also top of mind for the company in preschool is The Doozers, the new CGI series being co-produced with Toronto, Canada’s Decode Entertainment that’s based on the lil’ green workmen from Fraggle Rock. The environmentally tinged series has been greenlit, and Henson is spreading the word to ensure that products hit retails shelves in 2012. ‘We are looking for partners who will mesh with the green sustainability aspect of the series,’ says Segal.
And after getting the rights back to Fraggle Rock last year, the company plans to grow the property’s licensee roster. Segal’s specifically on the hunt for comic book, softlines, novelty, accessories and footwear partners. ‘Manhattan Toy did well with some classic plush, so we think there is a lot more room for Fraggle Rock,’ says Segal.
Nickelodeon’s in a Big Time Rush
While Nickelodeon’s licensing slate is full for upcoming theatrical release The Last Airbender, which goes into theaters on July 2nd, Leigh Anne Brodsky, president of Nickelodeon & Viacom Consumer Products, is turning an eye to product and promotions for its DVD window. ‘Because this is a movie of epic proportions, we are going to chase the business for its DVD window and even for the sequel.’ Pointing to a deal that brought Nick’s mega-properties SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer to Serta mattresses and LazyBoy recliners last fall, Brodsky says it’s her job to dig beyond traditional partnerships for Nick. ‘We are always looking for new outlets with ideas to make our properties come alive in a different way,’ she says. A good example are the Dora and SpongeBob Snuggies that will be unveiled at this year’s show. ‘It’s a fitting follow-up to last year’s branded Chia head,’ says Brodsky.
In terms of new properties, NVCP is concerning itself with finding partners for its tween girl music-based series Big Time Rush, about four hockey-playing boys from Minnesota who find themselves getting whisked to Hollywood and transformed into the next big boy band. Expect a CD and DVD to hit US retail shelves this summer, and Brodsky’s team plans to comb the show for partners for traditional tween-girl categories like accessories and apparel. Brodsky’s particularly scouting products with an, er, tactile feel. ‘We are looking to blow it out,’ she says. ‘One of the things we are focusing on is creating kissable products.’
Joester Loria thinks pink
Publishing property Pinkalicious is front and center for New York-based The Joester Loria Group. The book series for girls three to seven will be the subject of a major push at retail this fall with partners like Jakks Pacific (dolls and toys), CDI (dress-up) and Success (apparel) lined up. In order to expand the property, CEO Debra Joester is looking to secure partners in footwear, home textiles and confectionery. After the success of a partnership with QSR Burger King in March, Joester says that she’ll also be on the lookout for similar promotional opportunities.
Chuggington rolls into US market
UK-based Ludorum is greasing the wheels on a US licensing program to build on the January debut of its centerpiece property Chuggington on Playhouse Disney US. Already seen in more than 160 countries, including a coveted spot on CBeebies, the CGI preschool series about the lives of locomotive engines has Learning Curve as its global master toy partner and added US licensees Scholastic (publishing) and Anchor Bay (home entertainment) earlier this year. Bu that doesn’t mean the licensing train has left the station.
Maureen Taxter, newly appointed SVP of consumer products for Ludorum’s US operations, says the company will be looking for partners in home goods, soft goods and some toy categories. ‘We expect to be making some announcements at the show,’ she says. ‘Chugginton is an amazingly rich world and we are looking at exploring other characters and environments in our deals.’ Taxter says the brand is primarily focused on the core-preschool demographic, and she will look to fill the speciality tier of retail with high-quality products.
DHX Licensing unveils new IP
Hatched internally at Toronto, Canada’s DHX Media, new collectibles-based IP Gaia Nathan will be the focus for the DHX Licensing team in Las Vegas. Hoping to capture some of the heat off blockbuster collectibles like Bakugan and Gormiti, DHX is unveiling the stackable collectible characters for the first time at the event. ‘Kids just love to collect and interact,’ says Polly Beel, director of marketing and licensing at DHX Licensing. ‘So, we wanted to do that but in a different way.’ The design-rich property revolves around six different worlds and their corresponding characters. ‘It’s like an advanced version of rock, paper, scissors,’ explains Beel, who says she’s open to working with partners to explore different aspects of the game, including online and real-world applications.
Another key property for Decode is the 55 x 11-minute CGI preschool series Animal Mechanicals, which gets its first US airing on new net The Hub this fall. The brightly colored series could be called Transformers for preschoolers and features animals that morph into other shapes to solve problems. While in Vegas, DHX will be promoting the series’ US debut and looking to secure a master toy partner that specializes in creating hard-plastic moulded toys for the initial launch, as well as a publishing partner.
Sniffing out new Clifford partners
Scholastic is gearing up to celebrate big red dog Clifford’s 50th anniversary in publishing in 2012/2013. And Leslye Schaefer, SVP of licensing at Scholastic Corporation, is keeping an eye on landing collectibles licensees for a line to celebrate the milestone, as well as a few categories that might surprise potential partners. ‘We haven’t had a master toy licensee in a while and we’ll certainly be looking for that,’ says Schaefer. There are available slots in the greeting cards and party goods categories, in addition to apparel and home goods. ‘We had a robust program and it has gotten smaller,’ says Schaefer. ‘It ebbs and flows.’ Along with category openings, Scholastic is also in search of a retail partner to anchor Clifford’s 50th-anniversary offerings.
Another high priority for Scholastic is girls four to seven series WordGirl, which is entering its second season on US pubcaster PBS. After inking a deal with Briarpatch (board games) and Paramount (home entertainment). Schaefer is looking to grow the program in the doll, electronic toys and interactive categories. Scholastic will also be looking for promotional partners for the educational IP.
Target zeroes in on AR video game
Augmented reality PlayStation Portable game Invizimals is UK-based Target Entertainment’s most enticing offering at Licensing Show this year. The game for boys and girls seven and up involves players capturing and raising different monsters on their PSPs. Utilizing new augmented reality tech, the game was a top-three bestseller for the PSP platform across Europe in 2009, only bettered by Gran Turismo and FIFA. ‘I think in order to kick off the program, we’re very much trying to identify trading card companies,’ says Richard Woolf, director of licensing. ‘After that, we are looking at a vast range including apparel, accessories, figurines, collectibles, posters and stationery.’ The game landed at North American retailers last winter and so far has only been subject to a few t-shirt licenses and a poster deal with Bravado. Woolf believes the time is right to expand the reach of the property. As well, since Target manages the Sony Playstation account, along with 10 different game titles in the portfolio, it will be looking for deals involving the Sony PSP itself and is considering plush, soft toy and interactive plush partners for Sony’s iPet game franchise.
States to get withit
From its beginning as a small UK-based retail chain, withit has grown its own stable of IP based on six different characters, including Cheeky Monkey, Chocolate Moose and Glamour Puss. Over the past six years, withit has hit licensing shows in the UK and Europe, but this is its first venture State-side. ‘We’re hoping that in the US we can find some people who will be able to fully appreciate the scope of what our brand can offer,’ says Brad Caines, creative director at withit. While its characters currently have a retail presence in 50 countries and its14 agents around the globe have found success in fashion, apparel and greeting card lines, withit is now turning to major US retailers to gauge their interest. ‘We are looking for a combination of agents and licensees in the US who might be interested in talking to us,’ says Caines.
Yo Gabba Gabba! on the brain
California-based Wi!dbrain is looking to fill specialty channels with merch based on preschool property Yo Gabba Gabba! ‘We get calls from retailers that are asking us for stuff,’ says Wi!dbrain CEO Michael Polis. ‘There is definitely room to expand.’ In terms of what categories in particular, Polis says that licensees should be thinking about innovating beyond the traditional categories that are already full. He’s also keen to find more promotional and retail partners.
Wi!dbrain will also be shopping around its girl gamer brand Clickstars. The web-based game is in beta testing right now and will be ready for the marketplace by Q4 this year. ‘I don’t think there is much in the way for girl gamers and we are addressing that,’ says Polis. Details of the brand are still very much under-wraps, but Wi!dbrain will start to tease licensing opportunities at the show.
4Kids celebrates Yu-Gi-Oh!
4Kids Entertainment will be looking to fill in its program for core-boys IP Yu-Gi-Oh!, which kicks off its 10th anniversary at this year’s Licensing Show. EVP of marketing and licensing Roz Nowicki is aiming to add to a slate of licensees that already includes Playmates (toys) and Konami (video games) with partners in the collectibles, home furnishing and apparel categories. Since a new season of the Yu-Gi-Oh! series is slated to bow on Cartoon Network US in September, Nowiki expects to attract new licensees to the fold.
On the international side, BRB Internacional’s two x 104-minute Suckers is a high priority, says MD of 4Kids International Sandra Vauthier-Cellier. The series featuring a group of toys that attach to the rear windows of cars currently airs in the US on Disney XD and is expected to rollout internationally later this year. Videogames, mobile phone accessories, toys, collectibles, apparel and back-to-school categories are wide open.
Collectibles going crazy for Bulldog
UK licensing shop Bulldog has set its sights on pushing Euro collectibles hit GoGo’s Crazy Bones, which has had success in the UK, Benelux, Spain and Australia, into a truly global property. Initially targeted at boys five to nine, the playthings are attracting girls and an older demo. All of this is good news for Rob Corney, Bulldog Licensing MD, who is planning to add to the property’s roster of 26 licensees. ‘We are looking to develop a full program in the US,’ he says, adding a worldwide master toy partner is at the top of his list to build out the toy offering. To drive the property and push it into character-based terrain, a TV series is in development with Toronto, Canada’s Breakthrough Entertainment.