To reach new international audiences, South Korean publisher HwaHwa Studio is turning its Meoshi World books into an animated series and multimedia brand steeped in augmented reality and Korean culture.
HwaHwa inked its first international publishing deal this week, giving LA’s Jokar Productions the license to represent the publishing rights for its range of Korean supernatural creature encyclopedias in the US and LatAm, and to also create new titles based on the Meoshi World IP for those regions. There are currently two books available at retail (with a third in the crowdfunding phase), offering stats, lore and art featuring an array of ghosts and monsters.
Jokar will expand the line with early reading titles, graphic novels and chapter books for kids ages three to seven and an older tween audience, says president Jon Rosenberg. After establishing a publishing foothold for Meoshi in the Americas, the company will start working on deals for toys and additional content.
This book deal is just one way HwaHwa plans to grow its brand. In 2020, the company consulted with Kevin Gillis (Atomic Betty, Camp Lakebottom), founder of Canadian prodco Run With Us Productions, on an international market strategy for a new 2D-animated series.
Meoshi World stars a young girl named Jimin who explores a mystical world full of creatures from Korean stories with her magical cat and ghost neighbor Hoon. The 52 x 11-minute series for eight to 12s will be co-produced by HwaHwa and Canada’s Big Jump Entertainment (Big Words Small Stories). So far, HwaHwa has created a work-in-progress bible and an animated trailer, and the next step is to hire writers to work with the books’ co-author Lima Kim on scripts.
“We wanted to introduce Korean stories and fairytales to kids when we realized there wasn’t much content about their history—it was all overshadowed by Western stories,” says Kim. “Now we’re seeing a trend of Korean kids discovering old traditional stories for the first time and being interested in their own heritage.”
Gillis has been shopping the series around to broadcasters and streamers, and HwaHwa already has one offer from a European broadcaster.
HwaHwa is hoping to tap into a growing audience demand for content that spotlights Korean culture—especially K-pop music, which has recently spawned a feature film from Sony Pictures Animation and toys from Mattel. Gillis says Meoshi World had already started to develop a following outside of Korea through K-pop loot boxes offering themed merch to subscribers around the globe. And the series will feature a number of K-pop musical elements to lean into those ties. Early plans are underway to partner with some local K-pop groups to create mixed-media music videos featuring animated characters from the show, and the series itself will feature a soundtrack inspired by K-pop.
HwaHwa is also developing a Meoshi World AR app that will let kids “collect” the monsters in the series by scanning them on screen. Offering even more background info about on these mythical beings, the app also feeds into an upcoming board game called Meoshi Backdo, whose players use cards with different creatures and powers to battle each other. HwaHwa will introduce Meoshi Backdo at a South Korean illustration and character convention on April 8, says Gillis.
“I started this as a fun personal project to share some of the stories I grew up with,” says Lima. “Now I’m excited to give Korean families everywhere a property they feel they have some ownership in because it’s inspired by their history.”