LICENSING INT’L ’06: The Pros Talk

With the Licensing Show in full swing at the Javitz Center in New York, we were lucky enough to catch up with some of the industry’s tie-in product pros. Here’s a sampling of what they had to say about their own slates and the status of the great licensing gravy train. Enjoy!

Al Ovadia, president, Al Ovadia & Associates Inc.

Licensing ’06 Roster: TWF (Thumb Wrestling Federation), The Annoying Thing aka Crazy Frog, ZIXX, Mr. Gisby’s Totally Gay Pet Shop, Bernard and Huevocartoon.

The Scoop: It’s Outrageous has a spectacular line-up of 3D figural electronics and plush products for Crazy Frog. Pressman has a terrific talking board game. Crazy Frog has a new album coming in July with Queen’s, “We Are The Champions” as the lead single and first music video, later this year to be joined by Vanilla Ice’s, “Ice, Ice Baby.” Stores are chock full of Crazy Frog merchandise for back-to-school and early returns show products hopping out of the stores. Mr. Gisby’s Totally Gay Pet Shop has made an agreement with Moviegoods for the creation of an online store featuring a wide range of products tied to top gay and lesbian websites around the globe that feature the enormously successful comic strip.

Jesus Diaz, licensing manager, BRB Internacional

Licensing ’06 Roster: Bernard, Iron Kid, Khudayana, BRB Classic’s.

The Scoop: For Iron Kid, we have developed 10 action figures of the TV series and the Fist of Eon as well. Another toy line developed is the capsule toy lines in two different parts. We are also working on the trading card game release of Iron Kid. For Bernard we are focusing on video games for different platforms and we hope the products will arrive to the market in 2007.

Christina Miller, VP, U.S. consumer products, Cartoon Network

Licensing ’06 Roster: Ben 10, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, The Powerpuff Girls, Ed, Edd and Eddy, My Gym Partner is a Monkey, Camp Lazlo and The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. Also, giving sneak peeks of shows coming out later this year such as Squirrel Boy and Andre 3000.

The Scoop: Cartoon Network and Bandai America Inc. are introducing a new line of Ben 10 toys featuring action figure play that is unique in the boys’ category. The toy line includes a variety of collectible figures’many of which morph into operational spy gear such as binoculars, a flashlight and water shooter, as well as vehicles, a play-set, role-play and trading cards. We are currently crafting a multi-faceted licensing program that extends the brand into additional categories such as apparel, interactive, publishing and video.

We also have a slate of new interactive games planned for fall 2006 based on some of the network’s hit original programming. For Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, the network will be airing all-new episodes through July and we recently wrapped up a Foster’s QSR promotion with Burger King Kids’ Meals, announced a DVD of the best episodes coming in the fourth quarter, as well as the Nintendo Gameboy Advance game to be released by Crave Entertainment this fall and t-shirts from Logotel.

Trends: The trend continues to be multi-platform awareness ‘ you have to be able to reach your audience through TV, online, with VOD wireless and broadband. Companies need to be developing a 360 degree marketing plan that reaches people in all these areas.

Industry Catch Phrase in Need of an Extended Vacation: ‘Synergy’

Charles Falzon, co-chairman, CCI Ent.

Licensing ’06 Roster: Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs.

The Scoop: I am happy to announce that we will be on-shelf this August with a variety of engaging toys that allow children to interact with Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs in a way they have not yet experienced. We are confident that we have captured that which makes Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs so special, and incorporated it into every extension of the brand including merchandise, home video and publishing.

Trends: Although this is not new, electronic toys have been and continue to be a growing category, especially among older children. Preschool definitely continues to be the healthiest in terms of growth, which also translates to increased competition.

Industry Catch Phrase in Need of an Extended Vacation: ‘Kids are getting older younger’

Daniel Cohen, director, Celmates

Licensing ’06 Roster: For the girls: Hey Poodle, Posh Betty For the boys: Ninjah!, Ghoulies, Robots, Mr. Tako-Yaki.

The Scoop: Right now, I have licensees lined up, asking us to animate our images for use as cell phone content. Most of the artists at Celmates are animators and are overjoyed at the request to make their images move! For us, this is going to be the year of Hey Poodle and Ninjah! Poodle is already being developed for comic books and an animated TV show, and I hear that Bill Gates loves Ninjah!‘his ‘other company’ Corbis, is busy marketing the brand for use as cell phone content.

Trends: Just three words: ‘cell phone content’

Sandrine Pechels de Saint Sardos, VP sales, Classic Media

Licensing ’06 Roster: Casper’s Scare School, George of the Jungle, Dick Tracy 75th Anniversary, Lassie, Underdog and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

The Scoop: Cartoon Network’s 2007 series, George of the Jungle, is currently the headline at Classic Media. Getting ready for back to school, we also have the new direct to DVD Casper’s Scare School with a follow-up series in development. Lassie will be unveiling her new line of natural pet food and the Lassie Smart Program. Underdog will be starring in the new Disney ’07 film.

Trends: Action figures are still a big winner, as always board and electronic games, and interactive toys too. But the biggest trend/ movement is going back to basic toys such as wooden toys, basic play, etc.

Industry Catch Phrase in Need of an Extended Vacation:
‘Synergistic Partnership’ and ‘Thinking out of the box’

Andre Lake Mayer, VP, U.S. Licensing, Cookie Jar Ent.

Licensing ’06 Roster: This is the year of the Doodlebops, which gravitate from a highly successful musically themed show on Playhouse Disney (and CBC in Canada) to a live touring sensation in the US that has already seen significant signs of Doodlemania in Canada.

The Scoop: Soon after the national roll-out of CDs and DVDs in August/September 2006, kids will also be able to enhance their role play experience with cool Doodlebops rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle musical instrument toys from Mattel. Also hip garb through specialty, mid-tier and www.doodlebops.com, including t-shirts from Children’s Apparel Network and Giant Merchandising (and of course at the live concerts) and fun pajamas from Waterbury Garments.

Trends: Kids music, children’s health and fitness and inspiring creativity and the imagination of children’All these subjects are garnering significant national media exposure. The licensing industry is also experiencing several challenging business trends: the conservative climate at retail, shrinking retail shelf space and toy industry decline in the midst the electronics and digital invasion.

Cynthia Modders, senior VP, worldwide consumer products, DIC Entertainment

Licensing ’06 Roster: Cake, Horseland, Classic Trolls, Dance Revolution, Strawberry Shortcake, Madeline, McDonald’s Vintage Line and McKids Brand.

The Scoop: DIC will debut three all-new properties at the Licensing Show, Cake, a unique ‘do it yourself’ brand for tween girls, Horseland, based on the highly successful, persistent web community www.horseland.com, and Dance Revolution, which in addition to developing a comprehensive consumer program, will premiere as a television series on the new CBS branded programming block, CBS’s Saturday Morning Secret Slumber Party this fall.

Trends: Retro is still going strong in the market.

Industry Catch Phrase in Need of an Extended Vacation: ‘Campy’

Rick Rekedal, licensing and retail marketing, DreamWorks Animation

Licensing ’06 Roster: Flushed Away, Shrek the Third, Bee Movie, Kung Fu Panda.

The Scoop: MGA Entertainment, the folks behind the dominant Bratz fashion doll franchise, have signed on with us to create a broad toy program for the Shrek franchise. MGA has brought a host of fresh toy ideas for Shrek, Donkey, Puss in Boots, plus a terrific Bratz-style take on Princess Fiona and her fairytale gang. They even have a preschool sing-a-long Shrek toy that is totally hilarious. In Shrek the Third, Shrek, Donkey and Puss in Boots have to try and save Far Far Away from the scheming Prince Charming. Who they enlist to help them is definitely a part of the new toy program.

Trends: In videogames, the transition period from PS2 and Xbox to PS3 and Xbox 360 is affecting a stronger slow-down on current-generation videogame sales than most people expected.

Industry Catch Phrase in Need of an Extended Vacation: ‘Toyetic’ and ‘Age Compression’

Patrick Elmendorff, managing director, EM. Entertainment GmbH

Licensing ’06 Roster: Maya the Bee, Tabaluga, Vicky the Viking, Heidi, Flipper & Lopaka, Blinky Bill and many others.

The Scoop: Maya the Bee has proven to be one of the dominant properties due to her 30th TV anniversary in 2006. A host of companies are buying an array of products featuring the popular bee. With regards to toys and games, a license contract was agreed with Ravensburger Spielverlag GmbH for a wide range of puzzle games and Clementoni GmbH acquired a license for board, educational and action games featuring Germany’s best-known bee. In 2007, Tabaluga is celebrating his 10th TV anniversary. In this regard, the little green dragon will be traveling through Germany, Austria and Switzerland on around 80 event days.

Industry Catch Phrase in Need of an Extended Vacation: ‘Retail is detail.’

Kathleen Hricik, exec VP and managing director, US, Canada and Latin America, Entertainment Rights Plc

Licensing ’06 Roster: Postman Pat.

The Scoop: Entertainment Rights will showcase the Postman Pat brand for the first time at Licensing 2006. To coincide with his American debut, Postman Pat has earned a ‘first-class’ endorsement from the United States Postal Service for Washington 2006, the largest philatelic (stamp) exhibition ever held in the U.S. Entertainment Rights has secured a promotional partnership for Postman Pat with the USPS, which will host the iconic character at the Washington 2006 event through an educational outreach program, personal appearances by the Postman Pat costume character, themed photo opportunities and on-stage performances.

Trends: There is a continued move toward properties performing at retail without the almighty big TV deal’electronics, online, digital, etc. Today we have to capture technology in every licensing program as technology based products become an integral part of kids’ lives.

Elie Dekel, exec VP of licensing and merchandising, 20th Century Fox

Licensing ’06 Roster: The Simpsons, Ice Age, Family Guy, Eragon, 24, My Name is Earl.

The Scoop: With more than 600 licensees on board for The Simpsons, there’s virtually something new and cool coming out every month and as the movie hits theatres next summer it’s going to be an exciting year for any Simpsons fan out there. For Family Guy, USAopoly released Family Guy Monopoly in April, which sold out of its first production run in less than one month. Mezco keeps producing hilarious action figures with series 5, which were released in May. We also have some great titles coming out on the interactive front for these properties as well with the recently announced game for Eragon by Vivendi Universal Games. Eragon is a rich property that will translate amazingly for console gaming.

Trends: The proliferation of mobile media is astounding. The wireless arena has, within a matter of years, become a viable platform for gaming, tv/movie content, news, promotions, etc.

Industry Catch Phrase in Need of an Extended Vacation: ‘Comprehensive Marketing Campaign’

Mark Roche, VP of Marketing, Geneon Ent.

Licensing ’06 Roster: Chop Socky Chooks, Hellsing: The Ultimate Series, Ergo Proxy, Law of Ueki, Gun of Sword, Elemental Gelade, Shana, Viewtiful Joe.

The Scoop: We have a Viewtiful Joe DVD bundle with action figure, which hit retail June 6th. We are launching a collectible figure line called TV Anime Head with our licensee Level 5 that is slated to be released this fall at collectable and specialty stores. We are launcing the first TV Anime Heads across 4 Geneon properties.

Trends: The big trend in anime is action- comedy.

Industry Catch Phrase in Need of an Extended Vacation: “Let’s take this off line”

Jamie Cygielman, senior VP consumer products, HIT Ent.

Licensing ’06 Roster: HIT will be showcasing its classic animated preschool properties, Angelina Ballerina, Bob the Builder and Thomas and Friends, along with live-action series Barney and The Wiggles.

The Scoop: Thomas and Friends is full steam ahead, expanding into key lifestyle categories from apparel to home d’cor. Can we build it? Yes we can! Look for new ways to build and interact with Bob the Builder as this premiere construction brand expands into gaming and family events. Angelina Ballerina takes center stage and continues to shine with an expanded publishing program and new apparel and accessories collections.

Trends: We are seeing a trend with video gaming aging down to the preschool market through age appropriate console systems. Also, experiential entertainment and live events are becoming even more exciting as families are looking for new ways to spend quality time together.

Debra Joester, president and CEO, The Joester Loria Group

Licensing ’06 Roster: JLG has a number of properties including Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Jeep and Chrysler that generate a lot of traffic and interest at the Licensing Show. Our animated properties are: Care Bears, Little Robots and Peppa Pig.

The Scoop: America’s favorite bears celebrate their 25th anniversary with marketing and entertainment initiatives that will reach hundreds of millions of kids and families. Refreshed Care Bears merchandise includes the expansion of infant products, healthy snacks from Frankford, and the recently launched Grumpy Bear collection for juniors. Little Robots is continuing to find a growing audience on Cartoon Network, which has purchased new episodes and confirmed the show for its 2006/7 broadcast season. Key partners include Penguin for publishing, Playmates for toys and Fox for home videos. Initial product will launch Holiday 2006 with major product introductions scheduled for 2007. Peppa Pig, one of the top rated pre-school show on Cartoon Network, remains a huge hit in the UK. Licensees include Shelcore for toys and Lionsgate for home entertainment. Peppa Pig product begins to ship Spring 2007.

Trends: Retailers continue to be conservative. Breaking new properties is taking longer than in recent years.

Industry Catch Phrase in Need of an Extended Vacation: ‘Do you have a retail commitment?’

Joy Tashjian, president, Joy Tashjian Marketing Group, LLC

Licensing ’06 Roster: Kidz Bop (Razor & Tie); Atomic Betty, Captain Flamingo, Miss BG (Breakthrough); Legend of the Dragon, Zorro Next Generation, King Kong (BKN).

The Scoop: Some cool tie-in toys I currently have lined up are Shushybye’s music, books and plush toys, the Kidz Bop personal music player from Spinmaster, and Fisher-Price’s new Atomic Betty Pixter, a toy which incorporates video and educational content. Another toy I believe kids will find intriguing are BKN’s Legend of the Dragon action figures from master toy licensee, Grand Toys, which incorporates not only the movement of martial arts but traditional movement as well. BKN’s licensee, Game Factory, launched a Legend of the Dragon intellectual interactive videogame utilizing martial arts at this year’s E3. Brighter Child developed an Atomic Betty computer game for girls 4-8 that teaches computer learning skills with leadership skills.

Trends: The big trend I see is the use of music being incorporated into children’s products and youth electronics. I also foresee a surge in kids’ game shows for primetime.

Industry Catch Phrase in Need of an Extended Vacation: ‘Let me know how it’s doing at retail’ and ‘Call me when you get your broadcast partner.’

Isaac Larian, CEO, MGA Ent.

Licensing ’06 Roster: Bratz, Bratz Babyz, Yummi-Land, Story Time Princes.

The Scoop: THQ’s Bratz video game is the no.1 video game for girls according to NPD and the new Forever Diamondz game comes out in October. Universal Music just released Bratz Genie Magic music CD and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment releases Bratz Genie Magic DVD. The new Bratz Babyz: The MOVIE! is coming this fall with a great toy line to support that. And wait till you see the new Bratz KIDZ and the Soda Pop Girls!

Trends: The big trend right now is electronic and interactive products.

Joel Wertman, exec producer, Mustard Pancakes

Licensing ’06 Roster: Mustard Pancakes

The Scoop: We have a couple of cool tie-in toys lined up for Mustard Pancakes including interactive storytelling CDs, books, and a Storyspinner. The Storyspinner is a spin off (no pun intended) of a classic top that tells a story as it spins. We are also excited to launch the plush toy line based on Mustard Pancakes characters this August.

Leslye Schaefer, senior VP, marketing and consumer products, Scholastic Media

Licensing ’06 Roster: Clifford the Big Red Dog, Goosebumps, The Golden Compass, Maya & Miguel, The Magic School Bus, I Spy, Kim Parker Kids, Home Movies.

The Scoop: We’re extremely excited that there will be a new Clifford products line through JAAKS Pacific. JAAKS recently signed on as master toy licensee for Clifford and will be making a full range of plush, activity kits, figures, play sets, electronics, puzzles, lunch kits, slumber bags, kites and play tents. Clifford is also experiencing an exciting ‘growth’ spurt with our new ‘Grow with Clifford’ campaign, which has extended the brand to the infant market. Other product extensions to keep an eye out for include a new graphic novel program for Goosebumps and a soon-to-be announced interactive partner for The Golden Compass. Produced by Deborah Forte and directed by Chris Weitz, the film from New Line Cinema is poised to be the next blockbuster!

Trends: Technology has penetrated almost every product category imaginable’ It’s important to get to a point in the industry where new technology can augment your product in a positive way, while not just getting integrated into a product because it’s possible.

Industry Catch Phrase in Need of an Extended Vacation: ‘Comprehensive marketing campaign’