Nearly a decade after introducing viewers to a 10-year-old boy who finds a mysterious watch that lets him transform into 10 different super-powered aliens, Cartoon Network is remaking its signature action franchise, Ben 10, with a modern look and feel.
Reimagined Ben 10 content is on the way, with CN and bi-coastal entertainment company Man of Action co-producing a brand-new 2D-animated series (40 x 11 minutes). Slated to begin hitting airwaves in fall 2016 (regions to be determined), the new series is expected to be on air globally by 2017. The show’s new direction gives Ben a more current look, and the storyline, which previously saw him age into his teens and introduced scores of aliens and villains, will go back to the starting line.
“This is more about a global reset,” says Cartoon Network president and GM Christina Miller about the franchise’s rebirth, which will be unveiled at Licensing Show. “Part of it is understanding current audiences and giving them a version of Ben that they can participate in, evangelize, and really make their own on multiple platforms.”
So key to remaking the franchise—which has aired in 178 countries and includes four different TV series and two live-action movies—is aligning it globally. The Emmy-winning property has often been broadcast at different points in its life cycle in various regions. For instance, while kids in the US could have been watching Ben 10: Ultimate Alien (2010-2012), kids in Brazil might have been into Ben 10: Alien Force (2008-2010). This is one of the reasons why the franchise has had a longer lifespan and been a top performer in many LatAm, EMEA and APAC countries, while it has been shelved domestically in anticipation of the upcoming remake. Moving forward, the plan is to launch content and core licensing categories like toys and interactive across all international regions simultaneously, with a fully coordinated approach.
New digital and mobile products will also support the show’s initial TV launch, and Cartoon Network is working on developing a full-breadth consumer products program targeting all levels of retail. Products from all key categories are planned to launch at retailers everywhere in fall 2017, when new master toy partner Playmates Toys rolls out its Ben 10 range. (Secondary categories like apparel are more regional in nature, and CN’s international licensing teams will work to secure the best partners in specific markets to complement and work in tandem with its global partners.)
If the past is any indication, Cartoon Network can expect big things in the toy market, where its previous master toy partner Bandai sold more than 100 million units of Ben 10 toys. Miller notes that Bandai had been key to the brand’s retail success for the past decade or so, but she explains Cartoon Network decided to appoint El Segundo, California-based Playmates to bring in a fresh perspective and to help drive innovation. “Playmates has been really successful at doing that before, and we are quite excited to work with them on this,” says Miller, who played a central role in creating and executing the initial Ben 10 consumer products program as SVP of Cartoon Network Enterprises.
Miller describes the second iteration of Ben 10 as a natural evolution of the property. “The creative that’s coming next really speaks tonally to kids of today,” she says. “There are a lot of brands in the marketplace that have changed. Cutting through the clutter is always part of the challenge, but we believe in Ben and his points of difference as things we can be successful with.”
Originally published in the June 2015 issue of Kidscreen.