Canada’s 9 Story Distribution International has been tapped as global distributor for Scholastic Entertainment’s revamped Clifford The Big Red Dog series.
The animated preschool series based on Norman Bridwell’s bestselling children’s book series will be introduced to the global marketplace at MIPCOM next week, prior to its fall 2019 premiere in the US on PBS KIDS and Amazon Prime Video.
From January 2020 on, the first 13 episodes of the 39 x 22-minute series will be available for broadcast outside the US, and 9 Story will be focused on shoring up those presales in Cannes.
The company is also serving as the property’s global licensing agent, except in the US, which will be handled by Scholastic. Consumer products should begin rolling out next year.
Produced by Scholastic Entertainment with pre-production underway at Brooklyn’s 100 Chickens (Peg + Cat) and animation by 9 Story’s Brown Bag Films in Toronto, Clifford The Big Red Dog will bring back the iconic larger-than-life dog and his best friend Emily Elizabeth. It was previously announced that 9 story would be involved in the production in some way, but those details are only being revealed now.
With a curriculum focused on imaginative play, early literacy and social-emotional skills, the new series will feature a bigger world with fresh characters (more of which will be adults), the realization of Emily as a more modern and independent female role model, more humor, and an original song in every episode. Clifford and Emily will also speak to each other for the first time.
In the lead-up to the premiere, a publishing program from Scholastic will begin three new Clifford books in the US illustrated in the same style as the new TV series. First off the presses will be a title about swimming in May, followed by a back-to-school book in July. A third title, Welcome to Birdwell Island, will roll out in tandem with the TV premiere and introduce readers to the full cast and their world. More titles inspired by the reboot will follow, including an updated edition of the original Clifford book.
“Unlike the first show, this is going to be a really strategic global rollout,” says Caitlin Friedman, Scholastic Entertainment VP and GM, and co-executive producer on the reboot. “We have priority markets for broadcasting where we obviously have publishing homes. And then we will build merchandising programs around that.”
“We’re reintroducing Clifford to markets that may not remember him, like Germany, where he used to be strong,” Friedman adds. “Then we want him in markets that aren’t as familiar with the brand, like India. Some markets are also maybe more familiar with the books than the show.”
While the global footprint of the original series is smaller today than it was in the IP’s heyday of airtime in 100 territories worldwide, the brand continues to resonate.
“The older series still airs on PBS KIDS and its 24-hour service, so Clifford hasn’t gone away domestically. Luckily, with the publishing, he’s never gone away,” says Friedman. (To date, more than 133 million copies of books in the Clifford series have been sold worldwide in 16 different languages.)
As the all-new Clifford prepares for his debut, plans are also in the works for a hybrid live-action movie with Paramount Pictures.
“It’s very much its own world and story, and will be for families, so it’s not for preschoolers specifically. For us, it’s really about expanding the global reach for Clifford,” says Friedman.