With the goal of creating original TV series, movies and digital content—as well as breathing new life into under-utilized existing properties—emerging kids content company Curiosity Ink Media begins with books.
“Books help us build out worlds, characters and thematic elements,” says CEO Brent Watts, who launched the company alongside CCO and former Nickelodeon content chief Russell Hicks in May 2018.
To seed the business, Curiosity Ink opened a publishing division and partnered with Mattel and Hasbro to license some of their IPs as books—including Thomas & Friends, Transformers and My Little Pony. Led by ex-MGM Studios publishing head Jon Rosenberg, Curiosity aims to put out up to 24 original and third-party titles per year, covering illustrated novels for middle-grade readers; picture, board and non-fiction activity books; and graphic novels.
Once licensed titles established the Curiosity imprint in the marketplace, the company made its move into original IP. “Our first original story is Herbert Henry & Santa’s Secret Society by children’s author Amber Stewart,” says Watts. “We came up with the concept, found a writer, self-published and secured the distribution with Barnes and Noble last November.” The book follows nine-year-old Herbert on his quest to save both his father and Christmas.
Two more original titles—preschool picture book Baldwin’s Big Adventure and middle-grade novel The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains—launched this spring, bringing the total publishing slate to 15 licensed titles and three originals.
Baldwin’s Big Adventure, by Annie Auerbach, is about a young steam engine in search of his father. Rather than developing the idea from scratch, Curiosity Ink partnered with California animation company Creative Capers Entertainment. The book is an origin story based on Creative Capers’ same-name IP. Curiosity Ink is also developing the property into an animated TV series, though specific details aren’t ready to be announced. The project is being led by the company’s director of film and TV development, Matt Cubberly, a former children’s author who previously launched Chicago-based publishing company The WilderWay.
Looking ahead, Curiosity is also collaborating with The Jim Henson Company on yet-to-be-announced digital media projects.
In terms of consumer products, Curiosity Ink will tap the expertise of its COO Richard Yanofsky, who also happens to be the co-founder of toymaker WowWee.
Through Yanofsky, WowWee will be introducing CP lines for original Curiosity Ink properties, beginning with a toy range for the forthcoming Baldwin series.
“We rely on Richard’s business acumen to build relationships on the toy side,” says Watts. “And WowWee doesn’t have a publishing aspect to its business, so it also makes sense for us to provide some deeper stories to some of their IPs.” (Watts won’t reveal if WowWee is leveraging Curiosity Ink to expand its popular collectibles franchise Fingerlings.)
Though Curiosity Ink is developing ideas for TV series and movies, it doesn’t currently have plans to open its own animation studio.
“There are a lot of studios rich with talent and incentives, so we are outsourcing to find the best visual and storytelling partnerships,” says Watts. “We want to stay more on the content creation side and work with companies that make the most sense for each property.”