Corus-owned kids entertainment company Nelvana has teamed up with the popular Korean lifestyle brand Line Friends for a new preschool series, expected to be completed in 2022.
Under the partnership the two companies are developing and co-producing an untitled 52 x 11-minute animated series that Nelvana will then distribute globally (excluding Korea, Taiwan, Russia and CIS). The prodco is also managing Line Friends licensing and merchandising in Canada and developing a new roster of CP for kids and preschoolers based on the series.
Originally created as emojis for Asian media conglom Line Corp’s mobile messaging app Line, Line Friends’ characters now have 84 stores across 11 countries, including Korea, Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, New York and LA. In Q1 2019 Line Corp’s revenue was US$513.2 million (JPY$55.4 million), driven by the success of Line Friends, according to the company.
Since the brand is targeted at millennials, Nelvana is going work with Line to age the property down for the new series. There’s no set formula when it comes to aging down an IP, says Pam Westman, head of Nelvana.
“When you age something down you don’t want it to lose its cool factor with the audience its popular with,” says Westman. “But there’s sweetness to the characters and its core values which you can bring to preschool very easily.”
Nelvana plans to capture Line Friends’ core values of communication, friendship and the expression of emotion and love in its new show. The development team hasn’t been decided if the series will feature original characters, but the show will share the brand’s distinct art style, she adds.
The series is being made in Canada featuring Canadian actors, but Line Corp will work closely with Nelvana to ensure the series honors the original IP, Westman says.
The partnership was serendipitous. Line was in the process of developing a preschool version of its CP and had released some soft lines for infants and kids, when the companies teamed up. Managing those products in Canada was the next logical step to build on the brand’s success, Westman says.
“Over the past five years Line Friends has grown into this massive licensing business,” says Westman. “It was starting to reach North America in a big way with its pop-up shops in New York and Hollywood. We approached them and they liked what Nelvana could do for them.”
Nelvana is expanding on that pop-up shop approach with a location in Canada, though no launch date or location have been schedule yet. The shop will feature Line Friends L&M as well as the Asian company’s millennial brand Brown & Friends. Planning the pop-up is a first for Nelvana, Westman says. But if this one goes well it could be something the company does with its other IPs.
“We’ve thought about it because we have a lot of big brands but this is a great way to try it and see if it works,” says Westman. “Line Friends has proven this to be a successful retail model around the world. It’s also a great way to try a retail experience without getting into a permanent arrangement. If it looks fantastic, and if it doesn’t, you can try it again in another place at another time.”