POWER RANGERS RETURN
Books featuring the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers will once again be available in fall 2000, after a break of more than two years. Parachute Publishing is licensed for junior novelizations, Modern Publishing for educational workbooks and Dalmatian Press, which has just introduced six Power Rangers titles into Wal-Mart, for coloring and activity books. Another publisher will probably be signed for novelty formats, according to Sharon Markowitz, v-p of licensing at Power Ranger licensor Saban Entertainment, a division of Fox Family Worldwide.
Parachute and Modern, along with HarperCollins and other publishers, were among the property's many partners during its heyday in 1994 and 1995. When the popularity of tie-in merchandise began to wane, many retailers were left with excess inventory.
The Rangers are experiencing something of a resurgence of late, however. The newest incarnation of the television series, Lost Galaxy, is the number one boys' action show and is tops in its time slot, achieving a 7.2 rating and 29% share among boys 6-11 in the latest Nielsen figures. Power Rangers action figures were the second bestselling line last year, after Star Wars.
"We're really trying to manage expectations," Markowitz said, noting that Saban is positioning Power Rangers as "an evergreen boys brand" this time around. "Like Barbie, but for boys."
BARBIE HITS THE BOOKS
Speaking of Barbie, the $1.7 billion global brand that is celebrating its 40th birthday this year, toy maker Mattel announced an expanded licensed publishing program that it says transforms the doll into a storybook heroine and educational role model. Five publishers will sell Barbie titles in formats for girls aged 2“12.
Golden Books added to its Barbie selection in May with a new line of monthly Generation Girl chapter books for 7-to-12-year-olds, which tie in with Mattel's new Generation Girl doll line. Grolier Books rolled out its Barbie & Friends Book Club nationally in January. Its illustrated hardcover chapter books for girls up to age 10 include titles such as Shooting for the Stars, featuring Barbie as an astronaut, and Three Cheers for Becky, in which a cheerleading squad accepts a new wheelchair-bound coach.
This spring, new licensee Modern Publishing introduced 20 educational workbooks, while Publications International is selling Barbie Sound Books titles ranging from Dancing Is Fun! to Barbie Action News Reporter. Finally, Reader's Digest Children's Books will launch several formats for girls 2“9 this fall, including flap books, board books and mix-and-match fashion flip books.
TWO TIE-INS IN ONE
Pocket Books' novelization of Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, the November Paramount Pictures release starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci, will contain both a novelization of the film and the novella by Washington Irving that inspired the movie. While Pocket d s not yet know the details of the script, the theatrical feature promises to differ significantly enough from the original story that the two should make interesting companions. "We see a teen market for this," said Kara Welsh, associate publisher at Pocket, "and we thought teens might respond to a novelization and want to read the original story, too."
Pocket will also publish a $29.95 hardcover containing the Andrew Kevin Walker screenplay, Tim Burton's original illustrations showing his vision for the film and photographs of how that vision was translated into actual movie sets and costumes. Both titles, licensed from Paramount and Pocket's sister company Viacom Consumer Products, are scheduled to debut in early November.
Other Sleepy Hollow licensed products planned so far include a comic book line from DC Comics' Vertigo imprint, sculpted bookends from Wildstorm and a soft doll in the likeness of the headless horseman from Jun Planning, as well as action figures, figurines, keychains and posters.
ALICE IN 3D
Action-figure marketer Toy Vault will test an Other Side of the Looking Glass line of toys this fall based on John Tenniel's illustrations from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Four characters, including the Mad Hatter and Humpty Dumpty, will be packaged in a box with a version of the books inside. "We're really targeting bookstores with these," said Lou Bank, Toy Vault's publicist. The cover for the 1992 Books of Wonder/Morrow Junior Books edition will be featured on the back of the package, along with a message directing toy purchasers to buy the books.
In 1998, the company premiered its Middle-earth Toys line of figures based on J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, licensed from Tolkien Enterprises. Toy Vault employed artists including John Howe, who is well-known for his illustrations of Tolkien's stories, to interpret the characters based on the descriptions in the books. The line has been sold in comic book, toy specialty and electronics stores for 10 months and debuted at Toys ˜R' Us in June. Kay-Bee will carry the line shortly. The back of the packaging features the covers of each book in Del Rey's Lord of the Rings trilogy; future runs of the books may include an ad for the figures.
Toy Vault recently acquired a license for Michael Moorcock's Elric fantasy novels, published by White Wolf, and is in final negotiations for H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu stories.