By: Zeenya Shah and Katie Bailey
Maison Battat, the Montreal-based toyco known for its robust stable of kids brands and thoughtfully designed preschool toys, is getting into the TV game.
With 18 original brands to play with, Battat co-owner Joe Battat says he and his team surveyed the fast-changing toy landscape and realized they were sitting on a goldmine of established properties and brand storytelling just waiting to be expanded. “Five years ago, we didn’t even have social media; it had always just been about the toys,” he recalls.
With new insight, Battat moved quickly, identifying TV as the best place to start and recruiting former Disney exec Fonda Synder to launch the company’s new Battat Entertainment division as EVP. Starting in September 2020, Snyder began examining the Battat portfolio and carefully selected three properties to put into development.
The first two series (52 x 11 minutes each) are being prepped for presentation to buyers this summer.
Glitter Up (pictured) is based on Battat’s whimsical Glitter Girls range of 14-inch dolls with “signature glittery shoes and terrific accessories.” The 2D-animated action-comedy for upper preschoolers (ages four to seven) is helmed by showrunner Michael Olmo (Corn & Peg), a preschool track winner of the Nickelodeon Writing Program who “has integrated his own Caribbean essence through the characters, storyline and the world of Glitter Gulf,” Snyder says.
The series’ characters and locations are inspired directly by the toy line, which includes the dolls and playsets that feature youthful small businesses (i.e. hair salons or vlogging studios). Main characters Xio, Yaz and Zuzu use their inner light and positivity to activate superpowers and guard their town against the villainous Miss Joy. The trio’s Lighthouse HQ, similarly, is a playset-inspired vertical structure that includes Xio’s Glitter Gadgetorium, Yaz’s Razzle Dazzle Roller Rink and Zuzu’s Le Frou Frou Grooming Spa and Aquatic Observatory. Glitter Up taps into curriculum values by encouraging an approach to life in which there are always more solutions, more resources and more choices to solve every problem.
Scavenger Scouts: A Li’l Woodzeez Adventure, meanwhile, is a CG-animated series targeting kids ages two to five. It’s loosely inspired by the Bobbleez Acorn Surprise, a collectible component of the Li’l Woodzeez toy range with a surprise character encased in an acorn. The series features a magical Golden Acorn that reveals delightful hints and secrets to a clever crew of Scavenger Scouts characters (drawn from the toy line), whose adventures lead to lessons about appreciating differences, community-minded learning, friendship, family and the comforts of home. Showrunning is Cindy Morrow (Mama K’s Team 4), who collected Li’l Woodzeez as a child, with animation and character design handled by Bardel Entertainment.
And finally, slightly further behind in the pipeline is a still-unnamed series and book based on the 18-inch Our Generation dolls. Aimed at tweens, this series is planned as a live-actioner in the spirit of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Clueless. It has a broader, deeper narrative theme as the characters consider how they are shaped by events and people from the past, how those experiences connect to the present, and what it all means for the future.
“We have created a foundation for this series that allows room for multi-layered characters that represent this generation of global-thinking, wise, savvy young people,” explains Snyder. The book is being co-written by Rhodes scholar and environmental advocate Wanjiku Gatheru and Battat Entertainment creative executive Rebecca St. John.
Battat is just at the beginning of its content journey, but Synder and her team see an almost unlimited potential in the toyco’s various catalogues, from digital content to branded channels and feature films.
“Maison Battat is a huge company that also operates as almost a boutique business, empowering each division to innovate with a huge amount of autonomy,” says Snyder. “We are such a great incubator of content.”