Ace Lacewing Flies Beyond Books

David Biedrzycki’s Ace Lacewing: Bug Detective is ready to generate buzz in the licensing, Internet and animation realms, through a new representation deal between Charlesbridge and The ThinkTank Emporium. This marks the first time Charlesbridge has signed with an outside agent to develop one of its book franchises for licensing and entertainment. Mary Ann Sabia, Charlesbridge’s v-p and associate publisher, says that when ThinkTank partners David Wollos and Joan Luks approached the company at BEA, “We were thrilled, because we always felt that there was the potential for something like this with Ace, but we hadn’t found the right partner.”

Wollos and Luks had seen the books in bookstores and at Charlesbridge’s booths at Toy Fair and BEA. “We knew this would make a great entertainment property,” Wollos says. “It was so entertaining to look at, and we knew it could be a media-content-driven property.” ThinkTank (which also represents Dewey, the Small Town Library Cat and Dewey, There’s a Cat in the Library) is looking for a partner who could develop an Ace animated series along with a Web site that could go live prior to the television, which would not air until 2011 at the earliest.

Most of the licensing activity, which will be anchored by a toy line, will follow the launch of a TV series, but there may be limited activity before that. “There’s a certain timeframe until the media is developed and on-air,” Luks explains. “During that time, there are opportunities in the mid-tier, specialty and mom-and-pop shops and, of course, the bookstores are a big part of that for this property.”

Sunny Forecast for Cloudy Books

Sony’s animated Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movie, based on the Simon & Schuster title, has been #1 at the box office for two weeks in a row, and S&S’s junior novelization, one of seven tie-in titles, is at #10 on the New York Times bestseller list. Some of this success may be attributable to a range of promotions from S&S, Sony and their partners.

Julie Christopher, S&S’s senior marketing manager for licensed and novelty publishing, reports S&S ran banner ads on The Weather Channel’s Web site and supplied books for network events, such as at The Atlanta Zoo, as well as providing TWC with downloadable activities. Separately, S&S ran a meteorologists’ challenge in local markets, in association with Sony and First Book. If a meteorologist mentioned the books on-air, the company donated 1,000 books to underprivileged children in his or her area. More than 20 meteorologists participated, including Janice Huff of WNBC in New York City, some holding up the book during the weathercast. Sony provided Meatball artwork that could be superimposed on weather maps.

Bookstore activities included a 35-copy floor display for grocery, drug and other ID chains; a 43-copy custom carton pack for Barnes & Noble stores, which placed the books in their “on-screen” movie tie-in area; and endcaps in Borders stores. Barnes & Noble worked with Sony on a purchase-with-purchase umbrella premium for customers who bought any two children’s books. Meanwhile, S&S partnered with Ubisoft for ad swaps in the books and game boxes and banner ads on each other’s Web sites; it also provided web content that could be unlocked through a code in Ubisoft’s four-page insert in Time for Kids. Sony included a teaser for the books on the official movie poster.

The Thinking Boy’s Superhero

Random House is adding to its growing portfolio of boys’ licenses—which includes Warner Bros.’ DC Super Friends, Disney’s Cars and a recent addition, Cartoon Network’s Secret Saturdays—with four new titles tied to Marvel’s Iron Man: Armored Adventures. “We already have many of the top licensed properties for girls, and this is one of the hottest and fastest-growing characters right now for boys,” says Chris Angelilli, editor-in-chief of Golden Books. “On a personal note, Iron Man has always been one of my favorite superheroes.” Noting that main character Tony Stark has no super-strength or laservision, Angelilli adds, “He’s an ordinary man who uses his brain to give himself superpowers. He gives hopes of heroic greatness to bookish nerds like me.”

The books, released this fall under the Golden Books imprint, are based on an animated series that launched on Nicktoons six months ago, in which Tony Stark is a high school student. “We made a conscious decision to publish on the animated series rather than the film,” Angelilli explains, citing the ongoing nature of a series versus the dips and spikes of a movie and the age-appropriateness of the TV compared to the live-action theatrical version. The TV series targets boys 4—11, which is the sweet spot for Golden’s formats. Initial titles include an 8x8 storybook, a Step into Reading leveled reader, a paper airplane activity book, and an oversize, full-color activity book with reusable glow-in-the-dark stickers.

Parragon and MGA Form Best Friends Club

Parragon is teaming with MGA Entertainment to supply interactive fill-in journals packaged in a new doll line for tween girls called BFC (Best Friends Club), Ink., as well as an accompanying series of fiction and nonfiction titles. “We do a lot of research here,” says Isaac Larian, CEO of MGA, “and we’ve found that parents want their kids to have toys with an educational element to them.” Marrying the books and dolls enhances the girls’ relationship with the brand, he explains. “They get involved with the characters and buy more books and hopefully more dolls.”

Wendy Friedman, president for North and Latin America at Parragon, a longstanding partner of MGA’s for Bratz books, says that when the toy maker approached it with the concept of a doll line with an educational/publishing component, it already had been developing a series of books called Best Friends Club, and the two ideas came together. The standalone publishing program initially will include four novels about the characters and three nonfiction novelty formats, including a Club Kit, a scrapbook and a journal with a lenticular cover.

Some mass market retailers are selling Parragon’s titles in both book departments and with the dolls in toy departments. Meanwhile, MGA is in talks with bookstore chains about selling the dolls there, which would be a first for the company. “Both traditional and nontraditional book channels have really liked the idea of dolls that promote reading, whether it’s the toy buyer or the book buyer,” Friedman says. “If you take MGA’s know-how in launching a doll brand and combine that with the publishing side and promoting the love of reading, you have a real unique twist. These products say, ‘You’re cool if you like to read.’ ”

More than 50 merchandise licensees are on board for the property, for products ranging from apparel to bedding to shoes.

Wild Things Are in Stores

This month’s release of the long-awaited Where the Wild Things Are film will be accompanied by a broad range of merchandise, licensed by Warner Bros.Consumer Products and featuring both movie imagery and artwork from the 1963 HarperCollins book, reports Rita Cooper, WBCP spokesperson.

A few of the licensees include Mudpuppy for puzzles, Saramax for fleece apparel, Funko for character bobbleheads, Crocodile Creek for plush toys and puppets, and Junk Food for t-shirts. Cooper reports that both Barnes & Noble and Borders are carrying a selection of Wild Things merchandise in their stores.

Scholastic Adds Ben 10

Scholastic is the newest publishing licensee for Ben 10: Alien Force, Cartoon Network’s original series for boys, now in its third season. Scholastic’s Ben 10 program launches this fall and will include readers, novelizations, handbooks and chapter books for all retail channels. Scholastic has partnered with Cartoon Network for several other series over the years, and is currently the licensee for books based on Cartoon Network’s Bakugan, a strong-selling boys’ property, introduced early in 2009.

Other publishers on board for Ben 10 include Modern Publishing, which recently renewed its deal for coloring and activity books, and Random House’s Del Rey imprint for manga and cine-manga. Ben 10: Alien Force, which is about a 15-year-old boy who can transform himself into 10 aliens with the help of a watch-like device called the Omnitrix, is supported by a full complement of licensed merchandise, including a toy line from Bandai America, apparel, interactive games, consumer electronics and other products.

In Brief

Chorion has signed MAG Brands for Mr. Men and Little Miss sportswear and Silver Goose for backpacks, totes, luggage, lunch kits, infant apparel and gift sets. It also signed deals for Olivia with H.I.S. International and Bentex for apparel, Berkshire Fashions for umbrellas, rain slickers, headwear and cold weather accessories, Accessories Innovations for totes, bags, backpacks and rolling luggage, and Junk Food for girls’ t-shirts based on picture book art. Finally, Chorion will represent the estate of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry for The Little Prince licensing in the U.K. and Ireland.... Konami Digital Entertainment and Screenlife are launching Scene It? Twilight, a version of the DVD board game tied to Summit Entertainment’s Twilight films. The game also will be available for Nintendo’s Wii platform.... Scholastic Media teamed with Big Fish for a range of I Spy online casual games. It also has created games and other apps for Goosebumps, Clifford, I Spy, WordGirl and The 39 Clues for Apple’s iPod and iTouch.... HarperCollins is launching an [online adventure game], based on Erin Hunter’s Warriors series.... Warner Bros. signed Trunk Ltd. for t-shirts, raglans, jackets and hoodies featuring classic DC Comics covers.