Immedium, the publisher of the Octonauts book series, has signed a license with Guru Studio for a series of books based on the preschool adventure TV series, Justin Time. The show launched on PBS Sprout in April 2012 and will debut on Disney Junior in Canada in September. The first book, Justin Time: The Pancake Express, is expected to be available in the fall, followed by a second title in spring 2013. Both are being adapted and illustrated by Brandon James Scott, a Guru employee and creator of Justin Time.
The relationship between Immedium and Guru goes back to around 2006, when a Guru producer contacted Immedium shortly after the first Octonauts title came out, according to publisher Oliver Chin. The two companies kept in touch with the idea that they might be able to work together at some point. When the studio showed Justin Time to Chin, he thought it would appeal to preschoolers and would translate well to Immedium’s style of picture book.
The series is about an imaginative boy that travels through time and space to different locations and time periods. “We liked the combination of adventure and learning a little something,” Chin says. Coincidentally, Chin had contacted Scott years several earlier after seeing his post-college portfolio online. They had talked about his creating children’s books, but Scott ultimately decided to pursue a career in animation instead and, unbeknownst to Chin, ended up at Guru. “Once I was told he was the creator, it was like coming full circle with him.”
The books, which represent the first licensed publishing deal for the property – the show has been on the air in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and Italy and is set to launch in Latin America, Finland, Israel, and South Korea – are based on episodes of the show, but with all-new art. “It probably would have been easier to take the animation cells and resize and reformat them, but Brandon decided to go the extra mile,” Chin says. “He redrew everything in a different style, which is a little bit more rustic-looking.”
This is Immedium’s first foray into licensed book publishing. “It’ll be a litmus test to see how well we can collaborate with another company,” Chin explains. Immedium has experienced the power of television, however, since the four-book Octonauts series, written and illustrated by Meomi, has been developed for a global animated preschool series, supported by licensed products in many territories. Since the show debuted six days a week on Disney Junior in the U.S. in January, “sales have definitely skyrocketed,” Chin says. “The trade has yet to catch up, especially the independent stores, but people are snapping them up on Amazon.” The company is working to expand the books’ presence in independent stores and libraries.