The Disney Book Group and its licensees (Random House, Reader's Digest, DK and Publications International) have shipped more books tied to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the third installment in the Pirates film trilogy, than for the first two films combined, with more than two million going out to U.S. retailers alone as of the film's May 25 release. More than nine million Pirates books have sold worldwide to date.
The first film in the series had only one tie-in title, a junior novelization, which reached bestseller status and encouraged the company to consider full tie-in programs for subsequent releases, according to Lynn Waggoner, Disney's v-p global books/U.S. associate publisher. At World's End boasts 16 titles, Disney's largest program ever for a live-action film and rivaling a typical animated tie-in program. In addition to the best-selling junior novelizations, formats include storybooks, readers, and gift books.
Disney also has released several non-movie-specific titles tied to the franchise as a whole, including magnetic and poster books, a pop-up pirate ship and a high-end title from Disney Editions on the art of the films. A Jack Sparrow chapter book series, about the main character's childhood adventures, debuted with the second film and now comprises 12 titles, many of which have appeared on bestseller lists. "The exciting thing is we've been able to turn this into a franchise in its own right," said Waggoner. "We're thrilled to take this beyond just the movies to create a franchise."
In A Galaxy Far, Far Away
Loyal Star Wars fan and paper engineer Matthew Reinhart—who has collected nearly every Star Wars toy ever released—and long-time Star Wars licensee Scholastic have teamed for Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy. The effort coincides with the 30th anniversary of the original George Lucas film. The 37 pop-ups in the book include a 3D replica of Darth Vader's helmet, as well as the planets, villains, droids, aliens, creatures and vehicles that make up the Star Wars galaxy. Some have light features (e.g., working light sabers) and others interact with each other.
Marketing support includes a series of articles about the book in Star Wars Insider magazine and on starwars.com, which attracts more than two million visitors per month, and an appearance by Reinhart at the Star Wars consumer show in Los Angeles, as well as consumer advertising in USA Today. Scholastic will provide a 12-copy floor display to retailers, according to Scholastic spokesperson Tracy van Straaten. The book, with a 350,000 first printing, will debut in October; Orchard Books at Scholastic will release a limited-edition collector's title with a slipcover case, extra pop-up and sound chip.
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, through its Simon Scribbles and Simon Spotlight imprints, will publish seven titles tied to Exodus Film Group's animated feature, Igor, distributed by the Weinstein Company. This represents a fairly extensive program for an original feature from an independent studio. The story is about an evil scientist's lab assistant and his dreams of winning the Evil Science Fair.
The target audience for the books is wide, ages 4 to 10, and the range of formats reflects that. Valerie Garfield, S&S's v-p/publisher, licensing and novelty, noted that the film has a sense of humor that works on a variety of levels, a good story, a great cast and unique visual appeal. She also pointed out that animated family films have been doing well at the box office lately and that the fall release and storyline will open up Halloween-themed promotional opportunities. "We think we'll pick up some seasonal placement, which obviously makes it appealing," she said. But she stressed, "The promotional and money-making opportunities aside, we see a lot of scripts that come in, and this one had a great, great, clever, funny story. That's what we look for in a licensed property."
Targeting Tweens with Music
Properties such as the Disney Channel's High School Musical and Hannah Montana have demonstrated tweens' love affair with music-based TV shows. Nickelodeon has added to the mix with The Naked Brothers, a live-action tween sitcom about the lives of two real-life brothers, their Naked Brothers Band, and their family. The boys, Nat and Alex Wolff, write their own music, while their mother, actress Polly Draper, pens the scripts. The property debuted as a made-for-TV movie in January 2007, followed by the series premiere in February and a CD in the spring.
Scholastic, which publishes all of Nickelodeon's tween- and teen-themed tie-ins, will release a scrapbook and poster songbook in fall 2007 and introduce a chapter book series in January. "The show is lending itself to exploring a wide variety of publishing formats," said Lynn Smith, Scholastic's director of licensed publishing.
In other Scholastic news, the company will release titles tied to the film Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, starring Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman and produced by Walden Media (of Narnia fame), in the fall. The books, each with first printings of 125,000 or more, will include 8x8s, readers, novelizations, a prequel novel and a paper-over-board storybook, plus a book of paper airplane designs. "We fell in love with this script immediately," Smith commented. "We were very excited and confident about creating a compelling publishing program based on a script that was so rich, so heartwarming, and so creative."
Stardust: The Teen Tie-In
The upcoming release of a Paramount film based on Neil Gaiman's illustrated novel for adults, Stardust, gave HarperCollins and Paramount the idea to publish a version for teens. "At about the same time, Neil came to us and said it was about time we do a teen version," said Elise Howard, senior v-p/associate publisher, HarperCollins Children's Books, who noted that the novel won an ALA Alex Award several years ago as an adult book with young adult appeal. Harper's edition will have a rack-size trim, a Paramount-licensed movie tie-in cover and eight-page full-color movie art insert, but the text will remain the same. "It's Neil's unexpurgated text," Howard reported.
The film itself will provide the key marketing support. "That's about the best marketing we could hope to have," said Howard. "We've seen it time and again. It will get teens into the stores and bring the book to a really robust level of sales that will go well beyond the life of the film." Harper also publishes an edition of Gaiman's only novel originally written for young readers, Coraline, so the two can be merchandised together.
Meanwhile, Paramount licensee Titan will release Stardust: The Visual Companion, which includes the shooting script, commentary, interviews, color photos, painted production art and an introduction by Gaiman.
A Bedtime Story
Guess How Much I Love You?, How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Ella the Elegant Elephant, Good Boy, Fergus! and Mo Willems's Pigeon books are among the licenses held by Books to Bed, a two-year-old company that imprints children's book characters on pajamas. "It makes bedtime a little easier and a little more fun," said Carol Friedman, president of Books to Bed, who pointed out that the illustrations are cute and look good on the 100% cotton fabric.
The products, which are sold both separately and with the books (in various packaging configurations), are distributed through boutiques, department stores and catalogs, as well as a few museum and book stores. "Some bookstores are scared away because they're not accustomed to dealing with sizes," Friedman explained. A portion of sales goes to charity.