Swedish appmaker Toca Boca is launching its first animated series, Toca Life Stories, to introduce the Toca Life brand to new audiences and extend its gaming and licensing efforts with more content.
The first ep of the 42 x 3.5-minute series launches today on YouTube, followed by new episodes every Saturday. It is about four close friends with mismatched personalities—Rita, Zeke, Nari and Leon—on a quest to vanquish boredom in their neighborhood of OK Street. It is co-produced by Toca Boca, its parentco Spin Master and Hamilton, Canada-based Pipeline Studios.
While the series has technically been in the works since Toca Boca launched in 2010, according to head of entertainment Max Heirbaut, it took a while to complete because the team wanted to make the highest quality show they could.
“We’re adding a storytelling component to the franchise because we think it’s really going to elevate the brand and open up the entry point,” says Heirbaut. “Because right now we are focusing on getting users in mainly from app stores, we just want to broaden that entry point.”
Right now the new animated content is available through its Toca Life World app and on YouTube but Heirbaut says his team has aspirations of taking it further. Before they actually get involved in conversations with networks or streamers, though, they’re going to use YouTube as a chance to test the content and see what kids like and don’t like in order to make a better show moving forward.
Additionally, the company knows YouTube is where kids are already watching content thanks to the research and kid tracker reports it does every month, says Heirbaut. And ultimately the goal is to bring in an audience of kids that have never played with the Toca Boca apps or bought a product before.
Then, once a new kid watches the show, everything in the series ties back to the apps in some way. The characters hang out on OK Street, from the Toca Life World app and get into situations that users can play out in the games. The apps also have more than 300 different characters, but the four selected as the main characters in the show are the ones most chosen by kid users. As the world of the show expands, Toca Boca will use that to tie into licensing and the apps themselves, creating a closed-loop universe.
The fantasy characters are also a big part of the show, and are debuting in physical form via a new collaboration with plush toy specialist Gund (also owned by Spin Master) at New York Toy Fair this weekend. Those clouds, birds and animals will show up as pillows and in new blind boxes.
Toca Boca’s apps are generally aimed at kids ages six to nine, but the series is for kids ages six to 11 because Heirbaut says he wants the audience to grow with Toca Boca and not age out of it too quickly.
“What we want to do is we want to deepen the emotional connection between the audience and Toca Life characters,” says Heirbaut. “The characters don’t always have to be happy or funny, it’s supposed to be like real kids in real situations, but things can get out of hand and get a bit silly sometimes.”