Modern’s in the Pink with Lisa Frank
One of the strongest current licenses for Modern Publishing—which was acquired by Kappa Books last week—is the three-decade-old art brand, Lisa Frank. Modern licensed the property for coloring and activity books in 2010. Artist Frank launched her company, best known for its stickers, stationery, and school supplies featuring hearts, flowers, and puppies in blindingly bright purple and pink, in 1979.
"It hits all the marks," says Andrew Steinberg, Modern’s president, noting that, in general,licenses that appeal to girls are doing well these days, with Lalaloopsy and Hello Kitty being other examples. "She has a recognizable color palette that pops off the shelf," he says, adding, "It’s been around long enough that young moms know it. It sort of reminds me of what happened with Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake a few years ago."
Modern’s color/activity books, sticker books, paint with water, velvet art, seasonal items, and oversize drawing pads do well in all of its distribution channels, including mass, club, and value; one of Frank’s titles is the top seller at Dollar General. "I love working with her," Steinberg says. "She really manages her brand and knows her customer. If you listen, you win. And she’s an amazing artist on top of it."
The Saga Continues for Scholastic
With the first of the six Star Wars feature films getting set for its initial 3D theatrical release this month, Scholastic continues to expand its Star Wars publishing program, still going strong after 15 years. “It’s a license that’s become synonymous with Scholastic,” says Debra Dorfman, v-p/publisher, paperbacks, licensing, and nonfiction. “We’ve had the license since 1997, so it’s a really long, great relationship. We’re always looking at new things for different age groups.”
Some of the new titles coinciding with the 3D film release include a Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace 3D storybook, packaged with 3D glasses, and Star Wars: The Complete Saga, a storybook that marks the first time licensor Lucasfilm has authorized all six movies to be collected into one title. Other highlights: the second Star Wars pop-up from Matthew Reinhart (the first was published in 2007); the Darth Vader Reconstruction Log, a follow-up to a Millennium Falcon title in the same format last fall; a Klutz paper spaceship book; Scholastic’s fifth LEGO Star Wars title; a $19.99 hardcover biography of Darth Maul in a slipcase, the latest in a character biography series; and a Clone Wars TV movie novelization. The company also is releasing e-book versions of some of its titles, including movie novelizations, biographies, and Rebel Force novels.
The Star Wars franchise appeals to a wide range of ages, with biographies, pop-ups, and other formats bringing in some adults, and board books reaching down to the preschool set. “For a lot of men, these are like the perfect baby gift,” Dorfman says.
New Agent for Carle’s Caterpillar
The Joester-Loria Group has taken over licensing duties for The World of Eric Carle, formerly represented by Chorion. The U.S., U.K., and Japan are the three biggest territories for the property to date, according to agency president Debra Joester, with Australia and Germany among the regions that have grown exponentially over the last couple of years.
"The Very Hungry Caterpillar [which accounts for about a third of the 110 million Carle books sold] has been the centerpiece of the consumer products program, but the opportunity extends beyond Caterpillar to other Eric Carle titles,” Joester says, citing the Bear series, The Grouchy Ladybug, and The Very Busy Spider as examples. 'These are top titles that have yet to be really developed."
Some of the product areas ripe for expansion include infant products, home décor—building on a successful partnership with Pottery Barn Kids—health and beauty, classroom materials, and adult gifts and collectibles. "Eric Carle’s artwork is highly recognizable, and simultaneously whimsical and sophisticated," Joester explains. "The body of art presents opportunities that extend beyond a children’s book property." She adds that Carle’s publishers are very engaged in brainstorming, marketing, and selling the license to retailers, often supplying books to accompany merchandise sold in non-book channels. "It’s very synergistic between the publishing and the licensing, which isn’t always the case."
Joester-Loria represents the girls’ book property Pinkalicious for licensing as well. "[With Pinkalicious,] retailers were very receptive from the outset, rarely asking the typical question, which is 'Where is the TV show?'," she says. "The industry is always looking for the next big kids’ property, and, as we have seen over the past couple of years, TV and movies are not necessarily where new opportunities are emerging."
Back to School for Batman and Friends
Capstone’s third series of books with DC Entertainment, which will launch with 24 titles in fall 2012, illustrates the growth of both licensing and comic books in the school and library market. "The benefit of licensing in general in the education market, and the reason there’s more of a demand for it, is that educators know that if kids are able to pick something of intrinsic interest to them, they’ll be more motivated to have a better quality and longer duration reading experience,” explains Ashley Andersen Zantop, Capstone’s group publisher and general manager.
The new deal brings reinforced hardcover and paper-over-board editions of DC comics titles to students in grades 1-6, with the first group encompassing a range of brands including Tiny Titans, DC SuperFriends, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Superman Adventures, Batman Adventures, and Young Justice. Capstone’s ongoing DC chapter book programs—DC Super Heroes, published by its Stone Arch imprint since 2008, and DC Super Pets, published by Picture Window Books since last year—both have a sweet spot of grades 2-3.
"We’re trying to stay true to the original publishing, but also make them a good fit for the education market," says Andersen Zantop, who points out that some titles may vary from the original slightly, with educational back matter, different page counts, or vocabulary modifications. "It’s a tremendous, wonderful archive. And we can see and feel in our conversations with DC how passionate they are about their content. They want to get it in kids’ hands in as many places as they possibly can."
Random House will publish seven titles tied to Barbie’s latest direct-to-DVD movie, Barbie in A Mermaid’s Tale 2; a 3D book based on the live-action Disney release John Carter; and two Step into Reading titles to coincide with The Lorax film.... Rachel Renée Russell has retained JLK Brand Licensing Group as the licensing agent for Dork Diaries, published by Simon & Schuster’s Aladdin imprint. Planned products include stationery, jewelry, makeup, room décor, and apps.... Carson-Dellosa introduced a line of classroom bulletin board sets based on Olivia, licensed by Chorion, and is expanding its workbook line under license from Guinness World Records.... The Serenata Group is appointed the exclusive licensing agent for Martha Speaks, the TV series based on the books by Susan Meddaugh, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.... Chronicle Books will publish a line of journals for the Girl Scouts, which are celebrating their 100th anniversary and are represented for licensing by The Wildflower Group and Creative Properties. The journals will be accompanied by mini-notes and mix-and-match stationery.... Patch Products is launching a line of board and card games and puzzles tied to Scholastic’s Clifford the Big Red Dog, timed to the property’s 50th birthday.... Little, Brown will publish a young adult novelization for Universal’s June 2012 film Snow White and the Huntsman.... Ruckus Media has secured licensing rights to Thirteen/WNET’s Cyberchase, Crayola and the National Wildlife Federation for e-books and storybook apps.... Publications International will release a children’s book based on Animal Planet’s River Monsters through Scholastic Book Fairs, under license from Discovery Communications and The Joester-Loria Group.... Hodder U.K. is publishing fiction titles for children 7-9 based on Strictly Come Dancing, the U.K. version of Dancing with the Stars.... Pedigree Books renewed its relationship with Lucas Licensing, ongoing since 2004, for the U.K. market until 2014. New items will include collector’s annuals and activity handbooks.... Warner Bros. Consumer Products has signed LEGO to produce building sets based on the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy and the two upcoming Hobbit films, as well as DC Universe Superheroes. WBCP also licensed ScrollMotion Kids for Scooby Doo interactive book apps and Wonder Forge for DC Super Friends and Justice League board and card games.... LeapFrog has forged or expanded deals with several licensors to add downloadable content for its learn-to-read devices, available through its App Center. Partners include Nickelodeon, Kidz Bop, Discovery Education, Hasbro, and WordWorld.... Paramount has licensed My Idolpops for a line of Tintin lollipops. Other partnerships for Tintin include a promotion with Purina Dog Chow and a line of licensed merchandise, including gift items and foods and beverages, with Cost Plus World Market.... Peanuts Worldwide licensed Loud Crow for interactive digital book apps based on Peanuts TV series, starting with A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.... Atlantyca Entertainment licensed Sorini to manufacture and distribute a line of Geronimo Stilton chocolate Easter eggs in Italy.