In January, Carson-Dellosa Publishing introduced its first products under its Guinness World Records license, which covers math and reading books and writing cards sold through teacher stores, bookstores and office supply stores. This is the first time Guinness has licensed any products for classrooms. “We’ve gotten lots of positive feedback,” says Scott Thompson, Carson-Dellosa’s sales manager for Christian and specialty markets. “Everyone who sees it says these will be great for boys.” Full-color leveled math and reading books for grades 3-5 were the first formats to debut; flash cards will follow.
To support the launch, Carson-Dellosa and Guinness partnered for the Guinness World Records Classroom Challenge. The late January announcement of the contest, posted on both companies’ Web sites, received 40 million impressions, according to Thompson. To participate, K-12 teachers nominated their classroom or school to set or break a Guinness World Record. Ideas were required to have an educational slant tied to science, math, geography, social studies or language arts. Visitors to the Web site could vote for one of 10 finalists over an 11-day period, after which a grand-prize winner was announced on April 4. That school will get the chance to attempt its record in front of an official Guinness World Records adjudicator, as well as receiving a $1,000 Carson-Dellosa gift certificate for its school and a copy of the 2011 edition of the Guinness World Records book for every classroom.
Suzy’s Zoo Adds Dalmatian
Dalmatian Press has expanded its portfolio of licensed properties by signing the classic art brand Suzy’s Zoo, created in 1968. It launched a full line of books in fall 2010, including board books, storybooks, level 1 readers, and coloring and activity titles. “This is a special family of characters that really appeals to preschoolers,” says Beth Peters, Dalmatian’s director of licensing. “People may not know the story behind the characters, but they recognize the characters because of all that merchandise that’s out there. There’s an appeal and recognition of the art itself.”
“It was huge for us to have Dalmatian approach us,” says Maureen Westfall, licensing director for Suzy’s Zoo, who reports that retailer Target had asked Dalmatian for Suzy’s Zoo books. The studio’s previous four-year deal with Paradise Press, which Westfall says was doing well, had just come to an end after Paradise ceased operations and its assets were purchased by the Clever Factory in 2009, so the rights were available. Previous Suzy’s Zoo publishers have included Lyrick Studios and Scholastic; there have been a couple of self-published books as well.
Twenty titles from Dalmatian are now on the market, including core fall and spring lists plus seasonal titles for Halloween, Christmas and Easter. Artist Suzy Spafford and her studio are handling creative duties, with some direction from Dalmatian. Products include four original books, two released in fall 2010 and two planned for fall 2011, along with republished backlist titles. Distribution is wide, ranging from trade book and specialty stores to Dalmatian’s key discount and value channels, Peters reports.
Suzy’s Zoo and its agent Lawless Entertainment are nearing a deal for an animated television show to premiere as early as late 2012, after which more licensing activity is likely to follow, according to Bryan Taw, v-p at Lawless. “Everybody loves the brand,” he says. “But we get asked all the time, ‘What’s the platform?’ Licensees are much less willing to take a chance on brands [without entertainment support] at the present time.” Even so, Suzy’s Zoo merchandise generates $300 million in annual retail sales globally, including more than $100 million (from nearly 2,000 products) in Japan.
Bendon Hits Decade Mark
Bendon Publishing celebrates its 10th birthday in 2011 and expects to reach another milestone this year: 1 billion in cumulative unit sales. Throughout its history, the company has focused on licensed coloring, activity and other value formats. “Cars and Transformers are the big things this year,” predicts president Ben Ferguson.
As it enters its second decade, Bendon has been tweaking its business strategy in a number of ways. It is moving away from signing licensing deals with a wide variety of one-off and specialty properties, for example. Rather, it is focusing on longer-term “strategic partnerships”—up to five years—that cover multiple properties and formats under a single deal. It currently holds rights for value board books and coloring and activity titles for Sesame Workshop, dollar formats and educational titles for Nickelodeon, and educational and puzzle titles for Disney, and has similarly broad deals with Hasbro, Warner Bros./DC Comics and Disney’s Marvel division.
While discount and value channels remain at the company’s core, Bendon is also experimenting with higher price points. Its new higher-end Disney School Skills books, for instance, sell through Barnes & Noble and Target stores and Scholastic book clubs and fairs. For Hasbro’s Transformers, it has rights for all publishing formats $10 and under. Meanwhile, Bendon also is planning to release its first products for adults, producing game and puzzle books for Hasbro’s board game titles.
Random House partnered with videogame publisher THQ to jointly develop original intellectual properties for publication across a variety of media, including games and books. Previously, Random House has published Homefront: The Voice of Freedom, based on a THQ game, and has been involved in the development of creative bibles for THQ properties.... HIT Entertainment signed Fruit of the Loom as the licensee for Angelina Ballerina The Next Steps underwear, featuring images from the PBS show, and Kidkraft and Kids Only Inc. for Thomas & Friends furniture and room décor, respectively.... Kingfisher will publish 17 nonfiction children’s books over three years tied to the cable channel Animal Planet, through a deal with packager Weldon Owens, Discovery Communications’ publishing licensee for the property. Discovery’s agent is The Joester-Loria Group.... Modern Publishing will release coloring and activity books tied to Lalaloopsy, the MGA Entertainment doll brand.... Scholastic Media and Taco Bell are partnering for a 39 Clues promotion in 5000 stores in May and June. The giveway will include custom stories and activity pages.... The Joester Loria Group signed a number of licensees for Pinkalicious, including Unique Industries for party paper goods and décor, DecoPac for cake decorations in bakeries, Jay Franco for bedding and room décor, and Kidzworld for upholstered furniture.... Classic Media’s and World Events Productions’ relaunch of Voltron includes a roster of consumer products ranging from Viz Media for Voltron Force kids’ graphic novels to Dynamic Forces for original comic books and graphic novels based on classic Voltron. Other products will encompass t-shirts, tops and sleepwear from Bentex, costumes from Rubie’s, toys from Mattel and videogames from THQ.... Stone America Licensing signed Cycle Force Group to produce bicycles, scooters, safety gear and accessories in the U.S. based on the StinkyKids book property.... Classic Media signed Ape Entertainment for Casper’s Scare School comics under its KiZoic all-ages line.