Penguin: From Africa to Astro Boy

Penguin’s Grosset & Dunlap imprint in the U.S. and Puffin in the U.K. will release books tied to Tinga Tinga Tales, a TV series animated by Tanzanian artists and based on traditional Tanzanian art, in spring 2010. The series is produced by U.K.-based Tiger Aspect Productions, along with the BBC’s Cbeebies children’s network and Playhouse Disney, and licensed by Entertainment Rights.

“The thing that always comes to mind about this property is how beautiful it is,” says Francesco Sedita, v-p and publisher, Grosset & Dunlap and Price Stern Sloan. “When we saw it, we were overwhelmed by the beautiful artwork.” Initial formats are likely to include 8x8s, sticker storybooks and picture storybooks for boys and girls 4—6.

In other Grosset & Dunlap news, the imprint will publish a series of books in fall 2009 tying into the forthcoming 3D-animated film Astro Boy, based on the 1960s Japanese TV series about a boy robot. Novelizations, readers and storybooks will be targeted at kids 6—12. “My hope is that it will go on [beyond the film], because it is such a classic story,” Sedita says. “And the movie is great.” Other U.S. licensees include IDW for comic books and graphic novels, American Greetings for greeting cards, D3Publisher for videogames and Jazwares for toys. Astro Boy is licensed by Striker Entertainment.

S&S Turns Scarlett & Crimson

It’s getting colorful at Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, with new licenses that include Scarlett & Crimson, a mom-approved (in focus groups) brand for tween girls focusing on individuality and self-acceptance, and The Hero of Color City, a feature film for preschoolers.

Scarlett & Crimson is a British concept with a line of licensed greeting cards, cosmetics and limited designer apparel. In the U.S., the publishing program will help establish the brand. “We’re more than willing to be patient while it grows,” says Alyson Grubard, S&S director of licensing and brand management. “It’s so cool and very different from anything that’s out there right now.” The 112-page chapter books will be written by David Cody Weiss and Bobbi JG Weiss, beginning in August 2009 with Darqstarz Rising and Light in the Darq.The books have an Internet-based design; for example, blog and chat excerpts are incorporated into the stories. There also is an actual Web site, which features original music by Darqstarz, the band the characters are in, as well as other content.

The Hero of Color City extends S&S’s relationship with Exodus Film Group, for which it published tie-ins to the film Igor this fall. “They understand licensing and appreciate the publishing component as a way to extend the brand,” Grubard says. The film is about a band of crayons who need to protect their homeland from a non-color-loving villain; the heroine, Yellow, is voiced by Christina Ricci. Five preschool titles are expected in spring 2010.

Kidthing also is licensed for ColorCity digital books, games and activities.

Penguins Stick Together

Appropriately enough, Disney Publishing Worldwide has granted publishing rights for Club Penguin, its tween-targeted social networking site, to Penguin’s Grosset & Dunlap division. The publisher launched a guidebook (the top seller so far), joke book, choose-your-adventure-style book and sticker-storybook this fall, with a total of 450,000 in print for the four titles.

The book launch coincided with the introduction of a Club Penguin consumer products program exclusively at Toys ‘R’ Us. While the books are available in all distribution channels, “We saw a nice sales lift in Toys ‘R’ Us as a result of the consumer products exclusive,” says Tonya Agurto, DPW’s director of global books and magazines, North America and Latin America. In 2009, the products will expand to all types of stores, and the publishing program will expand with nine additional books across two seasons.

Eventually, the books and site will be cross-promoted, such as with codes in the books that allow readers to buy virtual merchandise on the site. But initially “we were focused on getting the vibe right,” Agurto says. “We wanted to capture the experience of Club Penguin, which really isn’t an easy thing to capture in publishing. It was a true collaboration with the folks at Penguin, the folks at Disney, and the folks at the Club Penguin facility.”

Mackinac Island to Publish The Wumblers

Mackinac Island Press, a small Michigan publisher, has licensed the rights to The Wumblers from the Giddy Gander Co. for board, picture, activity and sound books, along with greeting cards and other printed products. The first titles will be released for holiday 2009, in English and Spanish.

While the brand is not faith-based per se, it is the number-one kids show on Trinity Broadcasting Network, the largest Christian network in the U.S. It also airs on the Spanish channel Sorpresa, as well as in-flight and hospital networks. “It contains core human values and family-friendly messages,” says Heidi Schwartz, Giddy Gander’s v-p strategic alliances and business development. “It’s just a brand that teaches children how to be a better person.” In addition to TV, the brand comprises DVDs, licensed products, an alliance with the National Watermelon Association—Wumbler babies come from watermelons—and a dedicated store in New Jersey.

Mackinac Island started getting into licensing about a year and a half ago, developing and acquiring a half dozen brands with licensing potential. The Wumblers is its first association with a media-driven license. “The Wumblers had momentum already,” says Brian Lewis, associate publisher, who notes that the company has seen interest from wholesalers and retailers, as well as potential sublicensees for read-aloud books and non-book print products. “All these doors are opening quite quickly. When you walk in with the number-one rated TBN show for kids, they listen to you.”

Berenstain Bears Expand

There’s a lot going on these days with the 45-year-old Berenstain Bears, reports Michael Berenstain, author of the book series with his mother Jan since his father Stan’s death in 2005. Zondervan is publishing a new line of 12 faith-based books, under The Berenstain Bears Living Lights banner, starting with four titles this fall that sold 100,000 units in their first six weeks. And earlier this year, Sunburst Visual Media launched a line of educational workbooks focusing on values and behavioral issues, primarily for schools, social workers and other institutions.

Meanwhile, Sony, which distributes DVDs of the current Berenstain PBS show (now in its fourth season), as well as two previous series, is releasing the first-ever Berenstain TV program, an NBC Christmas special from

Michael and Jan Berenstain.

1979, on DVD. Two stage musicals, The Berenstain Bears Save Christmas and The Berenstain Bears: Family Matters, are launching this holiday season and next spring, respectively; three traveling children’s museum exhibits are ongoing. A number of licensees are on board for consumer products, including American Greetings, which just released a line of holiday and birthday cards.

General market publishing continues from HarperCollins (frontlist) and Random House (backlist), with 3.6 million copies sold cumulatively in the U.S. in the past year, according to Berenstain, and over 260 million sold over the course of four-plus decades. The quick-service restaurant chain Chick-Fil-A will offer four million Berenstain Bears books in a promotion next spring, including one title from Zondervan and several from HarperCollins.

In Brief

Archvillain Lance Boil, from the Grossology cartoon.

Nelvana Enterprises signed Planet Toys as the North American toy licensee for the book-based animated series Grossology.... Scholastic Media held several promotional events during Halloween week to support the release of Scholastic Interactive’s Goosebumps HorrorLand videogame title for the Wii, Nintendo DS and PlayStation 2 platforms. Other licensees include Twentieth Century Fox Home Video for DVDs and Disguise for costumes.... Universal Pictures licensed Upper Deck to create trading cards featuring concept sketches, movie stills and other content from the film The Tale of Despereaux, to be released December 19.... Universal also licensed Curious George to I Can Do It! Games for board games and DuneCraft for terrariums.... CCI Entertainment is launching a licensing program for Turbo Dogs, an animated series based on the book Racer Dogs, by Bob Kolar. Scholastic Media is CCI’s partner on the series, which airs on qubo in the U.S.... RJM Licensing, a consultant working with Chorion, has licensed Eric Hill’s Spot to Ty’s Toy Box for merchandise sold online and to Dynamic Displays for parade balloons.... Paramount Licensing has licensed Madame Alexander for collectible Charlotte’s Web dolls.