Like its world-travelling protagonist Jett, Super Wings has taken off in a big way since Tickety Toc creator Gil Hoon Jung introduced the animated preschool concept to South Korean prodco Funnyflux Entertainment in 2013.
To help achieve lift-off, FunnyFlux quickly joined forces with China’s Qianqi Animation, Little Airplane Productions and Korean pubcaster EBS.
The new 52 x 11-minute series, which bowed on EBS in 2014, has since been sold into more than 40 countries worldwide, including the US, where the brand’s toy line will launch in October.
Packaging a hit Featuring a curriculum that supports cultural diversity and creative problem-solving, Super Wings follows the adventures of Jett, a self-assured jet plane who travels around the world delivering special packages to children.
In each episode, Jett and his group of friends transform into the Super Wings and encounter problems that they must solve with every delivery.
With the characters visiting 52 cities in 45 countries over the course of the series, the diversity of new cultures—languages, environments, animals, dance and clothing—is explored.
Jung says the original concept of the show focused on life within an airport, but after testing, the producers decided it should be a fast-paced, globetrotting adventure.
“It was at this time that we added the educational curriculum and included the characters’ transforming abilities as this is something that is very popular in Asia and around the world,” says Jung.
As the concept grew, New York-based Little Airplane came on-board to handle writing, casting and voice direction responsibilities overseen by Josh Selig (The Wonder Pets!, Small Potatoes), and QianQi was tasked with the animation.
For marketing support timed to the program’s debut on EBS in September 2014, the co-producers held event birthday parties for kids in Korea where Super Wings mascots delivered presents, and the moments were recorded for YouTube.
“It successfully utilized the show’s concept of package delivery,” say Jung. “We ended up directly meeting around 2,000 to 3,000 kids.”
Additional stunts included a contest to send a family on an overseas trip, and a partnership with South Korea’s domestic postal service that saw every packaged box branded with a Super Wings character. And on the heels of the campaign, Super Wings was EBS’s top-rated animated series during its broadcast run.
Jung says the biggest hurdle for the project appeared when it was time to sell the show worldwide.
“Trying to sell it internationally was a big challenge because we had never done it by ourselves before,” he says. “In the beginning, we weren’t sure that we could enter the Western countries, but when we started pitching the show, the broadcaster response was really positive.”
The series soon caught the attention of 24/7 preschool net Sprout in the US, where it became the number-one rated show for its target audience after its March premier on the channel.
It’s since been acquired by broadcasters including Discovery Kids (Latin America), Treehouse (Canada), Canal Plus’s Piwi+ (France), SVT (Sweden) and YLE (Finland).
IP expansion With the property’s China-based global master toy partner Alpha Animation and Culture Company set to roll out a toy program at Toy ‘R’ Us locations in the US in October via its new Auldey Toys of North America subsidiary, Super Wings is on its way to becoming a global brand.
South Korea’s CJ E&M currently holds global distribution rights (excluding Asia and the Middle East), while Canada’s Nelvana Enterprises is repping licensing and merchandising rights in North America.
“Because it’s the first-ever co-pro between Korea and China to enter the global market, we believe it should open some doors,” says Jung.
On the SVOD and new media front, Super Wings generated a combined 500 million views across all six of China’s main online streaming services in only three months.
Based on the numbers, exclusive non-linear short-form content is planned, as is a second season, a movie and a spin-off series. “Our hope is to be the preschool version of The Avengers,” says Jung.