Scooby Dooby Doo
Scooby Doo will be the focus of the first mystery book series from supermarket continuity-program developer Advance Publishers. The 9x9", 40-page books, which debut this month, boast several new features, according to Advance president Adam Morgan, including puzzles and games on the end sheets, three-inch activity strips every few pages and, to enhance collectibility, a extra line-art page in each of the first 12 titles, which kids can color and assemble to create an additional story.
Advance's promotions typically are featured on four-foot-wide by nine-foot-tall endcaps, although other configurations, such as four-sided towers, are available. Each program lasts eight to 12 weeks and includes 15 consecutively numbered, licensed hardcover storybooks with staggered releases. The displays also hold licensed accessories, such as art kits and backpacks.
In addition to Warner Bros.' Scooby Doo, other new licenses for 2007 include Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants. Advance has been a Disney licensee for 15 years, with the Disney Princess Storybook Library representing its biggest program.
Tweety Flies Alone
In late spring, Bendon will release a line of children's books in North America featuring a newly redesigned Tweety, marking the first time that the Looney Tunes character has flown solo. "Tweety was always a sidekick to another character," said Bendon president Ben Ferguson. "It's really a standalone character now. It's a little edgier with the redesign. It's perfect for our demographic and it really fits with what we at Bendon stand for."
"We wanted to pull Tweety out of the Looney Tunes license and build a world and content around him," explained Elaine Piechowski, executive director, global publishing, at Warner Bros. Consumer Products.
Tweety Storytime Adventures centers on four preschool storybooks developed at WBCP. Initial titles for summer 2007 are Tweety and the North Star and Tweety and the Flower Fairies, followed by two more titles in early 2008. These will be supplemented by Bendon-developed tie-ins, including pop-ups, novelty formats and coloring and activity books, which incorporate artwork and story elements from the four core titles. Bendon also will publish a line of educational and coloring and activity books featuring classic Tweety.
There's no such thing as too many penguins, it seems. On the heels of the film Happy Feet—and March of the Penguins before it—Sony Pictures Animation will release Surf's Up this June. The 3D-animated movie is about a group of surfing penguins, done as a mockumentary.
HarperKids Entertainment acquired the license at the peak of Marchof the Penguins, but before the editors had heard about Happy Feet, according to Emily Brenner, v-p and publishing director. She notes that Surf's Up's fake documentary style, humor and surfing action were key selling points. "The look of the movie was a very strong influence," she added, noting that the retro surf style of the film carries over into the books.
Harper will release 13 Surf's Up titles, including readers, 8x8s, storybooks, novelizations, chapter books and coloring and activity titles. "It's pretty big for a movie tie-in program, but there was a lot of material there," Brenner said. With a movie license, she explained, "you want a broad program that appeals to everyone. Different retailers do well with different formats." Harper will cross-promote its books with several licensees, including ConAgra, as well as providing displays for retailers.
"There could be a problem with penguin overload," Brenner admitted. But she believes that the strong box-office performance of Happy Feet and March of the Penguins bode well for Surf's Up, as retailers often look to past comparables when making buying decisions.
Everything… Arts and Crafts
LB Kids, the novelty and licensed publishing imprint of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, introduced its first ALEX-branded titles last fall, in partnership with the high-end children's arts and crafts purveyor. "Their mission is to bring kids high-quality art and craft products that have a sophisticated design sensibility and celebrate the creativity of the child," said Liza Baker, LB Kids' editorial director. "It was in keeping with our vision."
The breakout title was My First Art Book and Easel, which includes ALEX chunky crayons, markers, paints and paintbrush. "We took things that are existing within the ALEX line and brought them to the next level in the book realm," Baker explained. My First Art Book has a cardboard backer that transforms into a portable workspace, while the box containing the book, supplies and make-your-own easel has a handle and magnetic enclosure. LB Kids is going back for a second 35,000-unit printing.
The success of that title led to the Everything art line, a similar format that will debut in spring 2007 with Everything…Princess! My First Tiara & Gemstone Activity Book. Pirates and fairies-themed versions will follow. Other formats in the ALEX line include ALEX Finger Puppet Storybooks and Little Squirts bath book-and-tub toy packages, based on ALEX's Rub a Dub line of bath toys.
ALEX sells LB's titles into independent toy stores, and is printing an eight-page brochure advertising the books, for inclusion in all of its toy packages.
In conjunction with last week's release of the film Miss Potter, Penguin has put together a number of promotions to support its movie tie-ins and other Beatrix Potter publishing. Barnes & Noble, in the midst of a year-long Potter partnership that started last Easter, is featuring displays of movie tie-ins and expanded displays of children's trade books, tie-ins, backlist titles, licensed merchandise and its own custom titles, which include boxed sets, a hardcover treasury and oversized shaped board books. While Potter's works historically have been associated with Easter, Barnes & Noble "is breaking tradition by making them a Christmas gift purchase," says Diane Cain, director of consumer products marketing for Penguin Young Readers Group, which publishes Potter under the Frederick Warne imprint.
Borders will create endcaps of movie tie-ins and licensed products from January through Easter, and Target book departments will endcap Potter movie books, including the Beatrix Potter Journal and a silver-edition movie tie-in of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Meanwhile, New York's Tribeca Cinemas Gallery hosted a week-long art exhibit in December that included a reading area decorated in the style of the Potter books, a timeline of Potter's life in photos and illustrations, an exhibit describing the Lake District and Potter's environmentalism, and a display showing props from the film and a trailer.
Angelina Dances On
HIT Entertainment's Angelina Ballerina starts the new year by extending her contract as spokescharacter for the American Ballet Theatre's ABT Kids program, through 2008; the relationship began in 2003. The ABT Kids program helps introduce children to ballet by sponsoring live performances around the country. In addition, several ongoing Angelina partners will introduce additional products in 2007, including Penguin Young Readers Group, with 15 book titles, and Fox Home Entertainment with a new direct-to-DVD production, Angelina Ballerina: Angelina Follows Her Dreams, in April.
Publications International will introduce several new sound and interactive movie tie-in titles this year, including Ratatouille and Meet the Robinsons (Disney/Pixar), Transformers (Hasbro/Dreamworks) and Surf's Up (Sony).… The Tonner company has just released Tonner Character Figures, a line of hybrid action figure/dolls based on the DC Comics characters Wonder Woman and SuperGirl. Batman and Superman will follow later this year.… Workman authorized Brighter Minds to create two Brain Quest DVD games, introduced last month. Brighter Minds also released a fold-out poster fact book and a mix-and-match storybook under license from Marvel.… Penguin's Grosset & Dunlap is the first licensee on board for a new Nicktoons primetime animated series, The Secret Show, commissioned by BBC Worldwide and licensed by Dimensional Branding Group.… Last month Modern Publishing shipped the American Idol Family Event Pack, licensed from Fremantle.