Grosset & Dunlap Gets Ready to Rumble

Penguin’s Grosset & Dunlap imprint will launch its first children’s books under license from World Wrestling Entertainment in the spring. The line will include original fiction; formats will range from 8x8s to activity titles, extending to children as young as six. The initial group of books will include Brothers of Destruction and Pick Your Path #1: Race to the Rumble, both by Tracey West.

“Today’s parents were raised on WWE, and now they’re watching it with their kids,” says Francesco Sedita, v-p and publisher, Grosset & Dunlap and Price Stern Sloan. He points out that the property has become more family-friendly over time—its programs transitioned to a PG rating in 2008—and that WWE Kids magazine is doing well.

WWE, which Advertising Age named one of “America’s Hottest Brands” in November, signed a global deal with Mattel earlier this year and has sponsored a number of children’s literacy initiatives.

Egmont Sees Success with Zen-Like Piplings

Waybuloo, a preschool show that airs on the BBC’s children’s channel, CBeebies, in the U.K., has become a licensed publishing hit in that country, according to global rights holder Zodiak Rights and master publisher Egmont Publishing Group. Since August 2009, Egmont has generated sales of more than half a million books and revenues of more than £1 million ($1.7 million) across 19 titles, per Nielsen BookScan.

Egmont’s managing director, David Riley, first saw the property at Bologna in 2008. “There was a lovely, magical quality about it,” he says. “The land of Nara, where the Piplings live, is very Zen, very magical, very safe, very peaceful. It seemed like a lovely place for children to go to.” In addition to the creative execution, it had a 150-episode broadcast commitment from CBeebies, which is similar to the exposure for past U.K. commercial hits that include Teletubbies and In the Night Garden. It also was more gender-neutral and younger than other titles in Egmont’s list at the time, which was skewed toward boys.

Nielsen figures indicate Waybuloo books outsold the other top licensed preschool launches of this year in the U.K. The competition included Egmont’s Timmy Time (licensed from Aardman), Parragon’s Chuggington (Ludorum) and Penguin’s 3rd and Bird (Little Airplane). Waybuloo formats include storybooks, board books, activity and novelty books, among others; the bestseller to date is the Waybuloo Pocket Library, acollection of board books that has seen 100,000 units sell through. Twelve more Waybuloo titles are planned for 2011.

Egmont and its sister imprints around the world hold global publishing rights for Waybuloo, outside of the U.S. and Canada; Fisher-Price is the worldwide master toy licensee. In Canada the series airs on Treehouse TV and merchandise rights are with DHX Licensing; there is no broadcast partner in the U.S. yet.

Silver Dragon Explores the 3D World of JumpStart

Silver Dragon Books, a division of comic book publisher Zenescope, will publish its first of three planned graphic novels tied to JumpStart, Knowledge Adventure’s educational, adventure-based 3D virtual world, in August 2011. The deal was brokered by Knowledge Adventure’s licensing agent, 360ep.

“It was a good fit with what we’re trying to do,” says Joe Brusha, Silver Dragon and Zenescope president. “We’re creating fun, entertaining products with some educational content. There are not a lot of comics for kids based on brands that have education inherent in them.” The books will be sold at retail and through schools and libraries.

360ep approached Silver Dragon after seeing the publisher’s first Discovery Communications-licensed title, Discovery Channel’s Top Ten Deadliest Sharks, released this year. That line will expand in 2011 to include Discovery Channel’s Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Predators and Animal Planet’s World’s Most Dangerous Animals. Brusha says Silver Dolphin and its parent Zenescope will consider additional licenses, but he notes that licensing can be a challenge due to the length of the approval process, the expense of royalties and guarantees, and the uncertainty about whether properties will do well at retail. “It’s got to be something that really fits our business,” he says.

Apps and More Apps

Every day there seems to be another new deal announced for mobile apps that run on Apple platforms, including the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, and are based on licensed properties that have roots or significant activity in book publishing. From the world of entertainment, Nickelodeon recently partnered with Budge Studios to develop interactive storybook apps based on its properties, including Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants, with the first title being Dora’s Christmas Carol Adventure. Meanwhile, Disney Publishing Worldwide recently released an original e-book, Princess Dress-Up: My Sticker Book; all told the studio has released more than 10 fully illustrated titles tied to properties ranging from Phineas & Ferb and Prep and Landing to Tangled and Tron. And Sesame Workshop and Callaway Digital introduced The Monster at the End of This Book interactive e-book, based on the four-decade-old classic print title.

As for book-based licensed properties, Callaway partnered with HIT Entertainment for Thomas the Tank Engine apps, with the first of seven planned titles being the movie-based Misty Island Rescue; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt worked with its Learning Company division to create a series of mobile games for Apple’s formats, the first featuring Curious George and Gossie and Friends; Smashing Ideas and Penguin paired up for a Little Engine That Could e-book; and Sideways released Peter Rabbit: Buddy Edition, based on the Beatrix Potter book and featuring its Buddy Reader technology. For more news of children’s apps, click here and here.

In Brief

In anticipation of Clifford the Big Red Dog’s 50th birthday in 2012, Scholastic Media has announced several licensing deals: Russ Berrie for plush and gifts; Zoobies for plush that converts into pillows, blankets, and sleeping bags: The Canadian Group for board games, jigsaw puzzles and magnetic play sets; Twisterz for educational toys; Ranir for toothbrushes; and VM Global Manufacturing for scooters, wagons, tricycles, and bicycles.... Random House adds the Disney/Touchstone 3D animated film Gnomeo & Juliet to its licensing portfolio, with several titles to release in January. It also will publish books tied to Barbie: A Fairy Secret, Mattel’s latest direct-to-DVD production, in the spring.... Toon Studio signs two deals for its retro Junior Elf children’s book art, including JH Design for leather jackets and Evergreen Consumer Brands for children’s health and beauty products.... Hot Topic featured Harry Potter product boutiques in its 680 stores this fall, in conjunction with Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. The chain will continue the promotion with Part II next summer. Products include apparel (with some exclusive designs), bags, throws, jewelry, key chains, stationery and posters.