Penguin Anticipates Buzz For ‘The Hive’

Penguin Books for Young Readers will launch a publishing program in the first half of 2015 tied to The Hive, a 3D-animated TV series from Space Enterprises that airs in the U.S. on Disney Junior.

“We have great classics for preschoolers, including Peter Rabbit, but we need to offer our retailers something new and fresh,” said Lori Burke, Penguin’s North American director of licensing and consumer products. The company has been seeking properties that would be a good fit for early learn-to-read formats, such as 8x8 storybooks, sticker books, and e-books, all of which are under consideration for The Hive. “The show is adorable and it hits the key themes that are relevant to preschoolers,” she added.

“One of the compelling things about it is that it’s on Disney Junior,” explained Burke. She points out that the network, formerly Playhouse Disney, has successfully reinvented itself to become a key competitor to established preschool channels such as Nick Jr., and has launched some of the most popular current shows for this age group, including Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins. “It’s a good platform for preschool properties.”

The Hive, which launched in the U.S. in October 2012, is represented for licensing by The Joester Loria Group, with which Penguin works on other properties, including Eric Carle.

My Little Pony and IDW Ride into a New Channel

IDW, the comic book licensee for Hasbro’s My Little Pony, is enlisting the property to help it introduce a brand-new format into mass retailers such as Walmart, Target, and Toys ‘R’ Us. “Traditional comics don’t have a big footprint in mass retailers,” noted Ted Adams, IDW’s CEO and publisher. “We want to get My Little Pony out there in as big a way as possible and get it in front of people who might not go into a comic book store.”

My Little Pony Micro-Fun Packs are merchandised in the trading card and card game section at mass retailers and include a 22-page, 5.75 x 3.75–inch My Little Pony comic. The comic features the complete original story and illustrations, reformatted for the micro size, as well as activities such as exclusive how-to-draw content and a spread for reusable sticker play. “The Micro-Fun Pack also has a collectible element,” Adams explained, noting that each $2.99 pack will include one of four different comics, visible to consumers, as well as surprise value-added items drawn from a pool of 16 posters, 16 tattoos, and 16 sticker sheets.

The first run, which goes on sale at retail on November 15, sold out with pre-orders of 150,000 packs. “It’s a testament to My Little Pony that we created a brand-new format that didn’t exist before, and all the mass retailers took it,” Adams said. “Hasbro’s done an amazing job with the brand; we’re definitely riding on their success.”

IDW has seen strong sales for My Little Pony across all formats released so far, according to Adams, including traditional comics, graphic novel collections, value-added graphic novels for Scholastic Book Fairs, $350 collectible books with original art from IDW Limited, and e-books on all platforms. My Little Pony often ranks as the top-selling original comic on the iBooks Store, he reported.

My Little Pony books appeal to a wide demographic range, but haven’t lost their attraction to the core market of young girls. “Anecdotally, we’ve noticed that the audience is bigger than we initially thought,” said Adams. “But one thing we hear from our comic book retailers is that the My Little Pony comics have really brought kids back into the comic book store.” He noted that comic book retailers bought more than expected of the new Micro-Fun Pack format, despite the fact that it is aimed squarely at the mass market.

An Anniversary Redesign for Horrible Histories

Horrible Histories, Scholastic’s U.K.-centric, comedic nonfiction series, celebrates its 20th year with a redesign, moving from a 128-page digest format to a 200-page illustrated handbook style. “It’s more for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid generation,” said Richard Scrivener, head of the property’s licensing representative, Creative Rights Agency. He reported increased interest in the property’s already well-established licensed merchandise effort due to the anniversary.

Recent licensing initiatives include a new master toy licensee, Worlds Apart, which earlier this year introduced a line of games with collectible historic figures, in the vein of Pokémon or Bakugan, and a stationery and gift line from Elgate that debuted last April. All told, there are 60 to 70 Horrible Histories items on the market, according to Scrivener, sold through department stores, independent retailers, and heritage outlets such as castle and cathedral gift shops. Products target children ages seven to nine, with a gender split of 60% boys and 40% girls.

Some products are available in countries including Australia and South Africa, but the program is focused primarily on the U.K. market. “The take is peculiarly British,” Scrivener said. “There’s an element of Monty Python for kids.” The property is backed by a successful TV series – merchandise is based on the books and not the TV show – as well as museum exhibits, including one about spies currently on display at the Imperial War Museum, and a touring stage play running this season in London’s West End.

“There’s definitely an uptick in interest” from the licensing community due to the anniversary, Scrivener said. Companies in new categories such as coin collections and clothing approached the Creative Rights Agency booth at the Brand Licensing Europe trade show in London in October to inquire about licensing opportunities.

Separately, Creative Rights Agency recently began working with Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity to represent Peter Pan for licensing. It is in the process of evaluating options for an upscale infant line based on the licensor’s archive of illustrations and silhouettes featured in the sequel Peter Pan in Scarlet, published by Oxford University Press in the mid-2000s.

In Brief

The publishing program for the new Disney animated film Frozen includes a deluxe storybook, read-along storybook-and-CD, and jacketed picture book, all from Disney Publishing, and a Big Golden Book from Random House.... Dynamite Entertainment will create original comics and an art book based on Lima Sky’s mobile game Doodle Jump.... HarperCollins will publish the official companion book for the 75th anniversary of the film The Wizard of Oz, licensed by Warner Bros. Consumer Products. The anniversary is in 2014.... JLK Licensing signed Andrews & Blaine to create a line of products, including stationery sets, puzzles, game pads, bookmarks, and booklights, based on Dork Diaries.... Dr. Seuss Enterprises retained Global Pursuit as its licensing agency for China, Japan, India, South Korea, and Southeast Asia.... Magic Light Pictures has signed two licensees for Julia Donaldson’s and Alex Scheffler’s Room on the Broom, published by Penguin, for which a TV special will air in the U.S. for the first time this year. They are nCircle for DVDs and Kids Preferred for plush distributed through Barnes & Noble and Silvergate Media licensed Peter Rabbit to Gund for plush and to British designer Emma Bridgewater for ceramic tableware. It also partnered with the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which will use Octonauts to raise awareness of ocean exploration and science.... VIZ Media’s Studio Ghibli Library imprint released a novel and storybook in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the film My Neighbor Totoro.... Author Nicholas Sparks paired with Joss & Main, a home décor website, for a curated collection of goods inspired by his novels, with proceeds going to the Nicholas Sparks Foundation.... New fashion collaborators for Where’s Waldo?/Where’s Wally?, licensed by DreamWorks Classics, include Comme des Garçons, Warby Parker, Havaianas, and Velibrequin.

In licensed app, e-book, and digital news: Sesame Workshop teamed with Night & Day Studios for a Peekaboo Sesame Street app for iOS platforms; introduced more than 60 Sesame Street books on Apple’s iBooks Store; released Sesame Street Family Play, an app featuring more than 150 games as well as parental content; teamed with Oznoz for a streaming video and download service in multiple languages; and partnered with the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation to create an online literacy destination called Every Day Is a Reading and Writing Day.... DHX Media licensed Cupcake Digital for a series of preschool apps tied to Yo Gabba Gabba!, starting with There’s a Party in My Tummy, based on a song from the show.... Hasbro worked with Playdate Digital on an interactive educational storybook called My Little Pony: Party of One, which features animation as well as the storybook.... Magic Light Pictures released an app based on Room on the Broom in time for Halloween.... Scholastic Media launched Clifford titles for five Leapfrog digital platforms.... Encyclopaedia Britannica licensee TekNek introduced the Britannica Kids touchTab, an educational tablet preloaded with facts and quizzes.