Dover Visits Sesame Street
Dover has acquired its first major license, Sesame Street, for a line of Little Activity Books, stained glass coloring books, paper dolls and other formats, including some out-of-print titles from the 1970s and 1980s. "We've long wanted to be part of their exclusive formats," says Jennifer Perry, Sesame Workshop's assistant v-p and editorial director, worldwide publishing.
Dover has sold four million units of its 1,000 nonlicensed Little Activity Books, mostly in specialty stores, and has a racking program for chains such as AC Moore, Michael's and Cracker Barrel. Jason Schneider, Dover's children's publishing manager, says the new license, which begins with 46 titles this spring, may open up some new distribution. "We're looking to attract some more eyes to the entire Dover list," he says.
Sesame Workshop has closed a number of other deals recently. Kappa Press took over many of Paradise Press's value formats, such as foam character books and dollar pop-ups, as well as a new format, Spin-A-Story. Twin Sisters, which got the Sesame Street educational workbook line when it bought Learning Horizons, added book-and-audio lapbooks; a small version launches on QVC and a large one in warehouse clubs later this year. Bendon is adding a new format, Sesame Street Storybook Classics, a $4.99 line of nostalgic jacketed hardcover storybooks, while Parragon is releasing a new series of family craft books, following a successful family cookbook from Wiley (with a second on the way). Sesame Workshop also is launching three e-book initiatives: a free site that debuted in September, animated e-books with Moving Picture Books this month, and a paid subscription site with Impelsys this spring.
All told, there are 30 U.S. publishers for Sesame Street, including Random House, Sesame Workshop's longest-tenured licensee. "We want to be everywhere children are," says Perry.
American Girl Gets Crafty
On November 1, 2009, American Girl and licensee EK Success introduced a line of craft kits and supplies for girls 8-12, available exclusively in Michael's. EK Success, a division of Wilton Products, also is the licensee for Martha Stewart crafts, among others, and its ability to create a strong brand statement appealed to the publisher, according to Shawn Dennis, American Girl's senior v-p marketing. Later this fall, the products, which are priced from $1.99 to $29.99 and displayed in a 10-foot retail section, will expand to other chains; Michael's will continue to be the exclusive craft-specialist retailer.
The kits have themes such as parties and pets and include a "Get Creative!" mini challenge; instruction booklets, products and packaging feature character-building advice and tips. "We didn't just want to put out a bag of beads," Dennis explains. About two-thirds of the content is adapted from American Girl books and magazines and the remainder is original.
Research by American Girl and its parent Mattel shows that girls 8-12 like to do crafts more than any other leisure activity, and the company has long been involved in crafts through its publishing initiatives, so it made sense to expand further into the category. In its 24-year history, American Girl only has had two previous national licenses (with Hallmark and Bath & Body Works), despite getting many requests from potential licensees.
Britannica Broadens Brand
Encyclopaedia Britannica has announced its first three licensees, the most recent being Publications International, which will develop and market interactive science books utilizing SD-X pen technology. When placed on a word or picture, the pen allows children to hear audio content such as facts, sound effects and cross-references to other pages. "This is a perfect fit for the brand," says Andy Lieb, president of JRL Group, Britannica's licensing agent, who says there will be eight titles to start.
Meanwhile, Tek Nek Toys launched a U.S.A. talking interactive puzzle in October and will add a U.S. presidents interactive game and talking interactive plush animals this third quarter. In February, Allied Products introduced a line of puzzles in specialty stores under the Springbok brand, to be followed by puzzles in mass retailers under the Majestic name later this year. Britannica content is featured on the product and an accompanying poster.
Lieb notes that the breadth of content makes Britannica unusual in the world of licensing. "Literally every subject imaginable is in play," he says. In addition, all purchasers of licensed products receive a free 90-day subscription to the Encyclopaedia Britannica Online Student Edition.
Goodnight Moon: Future Licensing Star?
HarperCollins is following up its Fancy Nancy licensing program with another for Goodnight Moon. "We started exploring what other gems they have in their portfolio," says Joshua Kislevitz, senior v-p of domestic licensing for United Media, the agent for both properties. "Goodnight Moon was at the top of their list and at the top of our list." Products will include apparel, bedding and room décor for the up-to-three set, as well as some adult-targeted gifts and collectibles. "Goodnight Moon has been in the marketplace on the publishing front for all these years and there hasn't been a licensing program," Kislevitz comments. "You have more than 90% awareness and almost a totally clean slate outside of publishing. That makes a unique opportunity for potential partners."
Fancy Nancy is still going strong, with 25 licensees on board. Distribution is expanding to retail chains such as Neiman-Marcus, Claire's and Dillard's, and continues in Target, whose exclusive partnership with toy licensee Jakks ends mid-year. "Our success with Fancy Nancy and HarperCollins shows that, if done correctly, publishing properties can work [for licensing]," Kislevitz says. "Will it be an instant success? No. You have to nurture it."
Henson Does Deals for Classics, New Shows
Since The Jim Henson Company sold the Muppets to Disney in 2004, it has focused on creating new entertainment, and is in the midst of signing publishing and merchandising deals both for its new properties, including Sid the Science Kid and Dinosaur Train, and for classics such as Fraggle Rock. Dinosaur Train licensees Grosset & Dunlap and Random House are soon to be joined by Publications International, and Henson also is seeking a publisher for a nonfiction line by the paleontologist who hosts a short segment at the end of each episode.
For Sid, HarperCollins is publishing seven titles in May, including two fiction and five non-fiction books, and other licensees will be added for coloring and activity, novelty books, and a "big book of science." The intent was to start with storybooks, but retailers made it known they wanted science front and center. "We shifted the whole focus," says Melissa Segal, Henson's senior v-p consumer products, who reveals that some PBS stations have ordered one of the titles, The Trouble with Germs, to use in community outreach.
As for classics, "a lot of publishers are excited about Fraggle Rock," Segal reports, noting that a film is in development. Archeia is launching an all-ages line of graphic novels in April, and future plans include storybook reprints and an "art of Fraggle Rock" title. Henson also has done deals for its sci-fi properties, including with Boom for Farscape graphic novels and TokyoPop for Dark Crystal and Labyrinth manga.
Chorion signed several U.S. licensees for Mr. Men and Little Miss: Flapjacks (for luggage tags, flip journals, vinyl figures), CSS Industries (stickers, gift wrap, Valentine's products), Ouchies (adhesive bandages), Giant Tree House (gardening products), HYP Hats (flip flops, socks, slippers), Crocs (shoe charms), Gelaskins (electronics gel skins), and Color-A-Cookie (cookies) .... Scholastic Media licensed Kids Station Toys for electronic learning aids, role-play toys and science products for Scholastic and Little Scholastic, and Tara Toy for a line of Scholastic-branded craft and activity kits.... Bendon acquired Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants for educational formats, as well as licenses for DC Comics, Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake.... University Games secured the rights for Mo Willems' Pigeon for board games, puzzles and play sets; plushmaker Yottoy adds Cat the Cat.... Atlantyca signed San Benedetto for Geronimo Stilton healthy drinks in Italy....Modern Publishing acquired Zhu Zhu Pets from Cepia and Lisa Frank from Lisa Frank, Inc. for coloring and activity books.... Lee Publications is publishing Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? puzzle books with pens.... Briarpatch adds Madeline and WordGirl to its line of board games.... Screenlife and Konami are following their Scene It? Twilight DVD board game for the Wii with versions for Nintendo DS, iPhone and iPod. Meanwhile, Burger King is tying in with The Twilight Saga: Eclipse; it also promoted the first film, New Moon.... VIZ signed Rock Paper Pencils for stationery, paper products and writing instruments and Great Eastern Entertainment for accessories based on Vampire Knight.... USA Swimming Foundation and TV sportscaster Craig Hummer entered into a marketing partnership with Raven Tree Press for Nathan Saves Summer by Gerry Renert, illustrasted by Carrie Anne Bradshaw, to benefit USA Swimming's Make a Splash program.... Mattel introduced Thomas & Friends diecast, playsets and preschool toys.... Hasbro signed Leap Year for a line of Playskool craft and activity supplies, including eight educational workbooks.... Madame Alexander added Ramona and Beezus, licensed by Fox, to its collection of book-based dolls.... Manhattan Toy is marketing a line of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom products.