Genius Brands International is ready to take over retail. The California-based company will launch more than 450 products inspired by its animated preschool series Rainbow Rangers and Llama Llama starting in Q3 2019.
The timing is right as the second season of both shows will hit screens in Q4, and Genius Brands’ SVP of global consumer products Lloyd Mintz believes the upcoming episodes—as well as new short-form content—will put the consumer products program in a strong position.
For the first time, Genius Brands will launch all-new and repurposed short-form content for both Rainbow Rangers and Llama Llama on YouTube. Starting in August, the company plans to bow around 20 videos for Rainbow Rangers each week and, while the frequency of uploads for Llama Llama has yet to be determined, Mintz expects it will be similar.
“As important as the series are, a lot of kids don’t have the time to watch a full episode or they want to see their favorite characters on the go and that means they’re looking for content on their digital devices. Therefore, we want to make the shows available on YouTube with more snack-sized content,” Mintz says. “That’s been a missing ingredient and we’re going to address that, which we think will really help our licensees in terms of drawing attention to the series.”
Additional digital efforts will revolve around partnerships with social media influencers (both mommy bloggers and kid influencers), and Genius Brands is currently determining what those partnerships will look like.
Rainbow Rangers currently airs on Nickelodeon’s Nick Jr. The 52 x 11-minute series follows the rescue-based adventures of seven super-powered girls who protect people, animals and the planet from danger. Llama Llama, meanwhile is available on Netflix and stars a young llama as he deals with the challenges of early childhood.
Rainbow Rangers targets kids three to six, though Mintz says the company has found girls ages four to six are the show’s sweet spot. Llama Llama, meanwhile, is aimed at kids four and under (with a gender-neutral sweet spot of two- to four-year-olds). While both are animated preschool shows, gathering data on the differences in audience helped Genius Brands determine which categories would be best suited to each brand. Publishing, toys and apparel are the key categories for Rainbow Rangers because of their appeal for slightly older kids, he says, while Llama Llama (which was inspired by a publishing property) skews more toward toys and activity-based items that can connect with the storylines of the books and TV series.
The first items inspired by Rainbow Rangers began rolling out this month, including apparel from Bentex (available through Amazon). Next month, bicycles from Dynacraft will launch online through Walmart, Target and Kohl’s (with plans to later expand into brick and mortar), while Halloween costumes from Disguise will be available at Walmart, Party City and Spirit locations in September. Additional consumer products set to launch later this year include stationery (Inkology) and chewable vitamins (Integrity Vitamins).
New Llama Llama items like books (Scholastic), holiday ornaments (Kurt Adler) and holiday plush (Cuddle Barn) will launch later this year. A number of products inspired by the series have already hit retail, including plush toys from Kids Preferred (available at Barnes & Noble, Buy Buy Baby and Wegmans as well as online through Walmart and Amazon), activity books from Bendon Publishing (at Michael’s and Dollar General) and DVDs from NCircle Entertainment (Walmart and Target).
Genius is focusing on its online efforts first, Mintz says, because the retail landscape is incredibly crowded this year due to blockbuster franchise films (especially in the wake of Toys “R” Us closing up shop in the US). The company plans to grow its in-store presence into 2020, with Mintz calling the next year “pretty barren” when it comes to new properties—opening up opportunities for licensees.
The consumer products rollout comes shortly after Genius Brands hired Jeff Shapiro as VP of retail development. Previously director of sales at Warner Bros., Shaprio is now responsible for building new retail partnerships and programs for Genius Brands’ properties.