With the holiday season fast approaching, playthings are already jockeying for the top spot on kids’ wish lists. And thanks to the growing popularity of its YouTube series, Bush Baby World from Golden Bear and 2Toobz has an early lead in the UK.
The US$10.50 plush toy was released with a bang in July, selling out across the UK and pushing toyco Golden Bear to fly new stock in from China to meet demand. In fact, more than one million Bush Baby World units have sold in the UK to date. The toy was also named one of the top-10 bestselling toys by industry researcher The NPD Group.
The numbers are big for these small plush animals that sport plastic faces and patented technology that makes their eyes and ears move when a child rubs them. And with new licensees Ravensburger, Dreamtex and Aykroyds & TDP on board with ancillary products featuring Bush Baby World characters, the brand is ready to move into additional categories and territories ahead of the holidays. The plush line, featuring Dream Stars, Princess Melina and upcoming Blossoms and Crystallites, went on sale in Australia last week, followed by launches in New Zealand and Japan. Upcoming releases in the US, France, Germany, Benelux and Scandinavia are also set to follow.
The original idea comes from Andrew Coates, owner of 2Toobz. Along with master toy partner Golden Bear, Coates brought UK-based licensing agency Brands with Influence on board in January 2016 to produce animation and manage all commercial rights for the brand.
Helping to boost Bush Baby World’s popularity is Brands with Influence’s 10 x two-minute Bush Baby World YouTube series. With more than a million views to date, the key to the CGI series’ initial success, according to Brands with Influence CEO Martin Lowde, is its character-driven universe.
“The webisodes set the context of the toy and give it character,” says Lowde. “I think there a few things going on. One is that the characters are really cute, and their moving eyes and ears is a very unique thing. If you couple that with the social media activity that we’ve done, with the webisodes going out and with TV adverts supporting it, you’ve got a really potent mix that seems to be driving sales successfully.”
The 10 webisodes are executive produced by Brands with Influence and animated by UK-based Character Shop. The series follows the Bush Baby characters as they look after the Dream Tree, which sprinkles magic dust into the air that helps children dreams each night.
Brands with Influence is currently working on 30 more episodes set to be released on YouTube on December 26, and is in talks with broadcasters in the US and UK for a linear premiere in 2018. There are also plans to debut a new pilot for a live-action YouTube series called Mirakin, in support of an upcoming arts and crafts line that will launch at BLE in London this month.
“YouTube is where our audience is now, especially in this target market [of both genders ages five to eight]. It delivers big numbers, is convenient, on-demand and free,” says Lowde. “Still, the platform has a massive library of content and you’ve got to have something that stands out.”
In terms of standing out at retail, UK stores currently selling the plush items include The Entertainer, Argos, Smyths and Amazon, as well as grocery store chains Tesco and Sainsbury’s. Aykroyds & TDP’s apparel line will be released in spring/summer 2018 featuring nightwear, underwear and swimwear with designs from YouTube series, while Ravensburger will release puzzles and games in time for Christmas 2017. Dreamtex’s bedding line will hit shelves in the spring.