Scholastic Says ‘Hola’ to El Chavo

Scholastic has licensed El Chavo, a property with multigenerational appeal, from Univision Communications. In August, it will release two 8x8 storybooks tied to El Chavo – which began in Mexico as a live-action series that’s still on the air and now has an animated spin-off – followed by a 32-page 6x9 reader in September. More titles for children ages 4–7, including activity formats, are in development for future seasons.

“I’ve been looking at El Chavo for a while, since about 2006,” said Debra Dorfman, Scholastic’s v-p and publisher. “I knew the adult live-action show had a huge widespread appeal, and that even kids were watching it. Now, with the animation really taking off, the time is right.” El Chavo has been on the air in Mexico and other countries for more than 25 years; the animation had a short run on Univision in 2008-2009 and relaunched in January 2013. Master licensee Jakks Pacific launched its toy line in fall 2013.

All the books will be bilingual. Not only do today’s U.S.-born Hispanics tend to be bilingual, Dorfman explained, but the inclusion of the two languages will allow older and younger generations to enjoy the books together. “I think parents and grandparents will be eager to buy the books,” she said. “Even those who struggle with English will be able to have a great time reading with their kids.”

The license may open up new doors for Scholastic in terms of distribution, such as Hispanic grocery chains. “Bookstores have embraced El Chavo, but we think we’ll be in a lot of nontraditional retailers, too,” Dorfman said. “We’ll be making a concerted effort, with Univision and Jakks, to reach some of these places where we don’t usually sell.”

Dorfman thinks there might be some spillover appeal for El Chavo in the general market, noting that many children learn Spanish as a second language, that the humor is attractive to a broad audience, and that teachers and schools will support the books. Still, the sweet spot is Hispanic kids. “We publish so many of our other licensed titles in Spanish, so I’ve definitely been looking for something like this,” says Dorfman.

May the Course Be with You

Workman and Disney’s Lucas division are expanding their partnership to launch a new series of Star Wars educational workbooks tied to a pre-K through second grade curriculum. There will be 12 titles to start, and each will integrate the characters, alien species, spacecrafts, and environments of Star Wars into subjects including numbers, ABCs, phonics, reading and reading readiness, math, and writing. All material is aligned to the new Common Core State Standards.

When Workman approached Lucas with the idea, it seemed like a good fit, according to the latter’s director of publishing, Carol Roeder. She noted that Workman has the right expertise because of its Brain Quest workbooks (whose advisory board will vet the Star Wars titles), as well as an understanding of the brand, thanks to previous collaborations including Star Wars Fandex, Star Wars Scanimation, and Star Wars Origami.

“Timing is everything and the time feels right, now, given the new national core curriculum standards and increasing pressures parents are feeling about standardized testing,” Roeder said. “Using the Star Wars universe of characters as a potential teaching tool seems like a win for everyone. If ever there was a way to entice reluctant readers, this is it.”

Marketing support for the series will include cross-promotion with, Star Wars Reads Day, Comic-Con, and Disney Park events, as well as in-school posters and 48-copy retail floor displays.

Tillman Tells Licensees: ‘You Are Loved’

Author-illustrator Nancy Tillman has retained a new licensing agent, JLK Brand, to launch a licensing effort under the You Are Loved umbrella. The program will focus initially on nursery and baby care products featuring artwork and messaging from Tillman’s books, for parents, grandparents, and caregivers. The program will encompass titles including On the Night You Were Born; It’s Time to Sleep, My Love; Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You; and I’d Know You Anywhere My Love, all published by Macmillan’s Feiwel and Friends imprint, as well as illustrations from Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Let There Be Light, published by Zondervan.

“The art is beautiful, but it’s really the message that is so eloquent and appealing,” said Kathie Fording, licensing consultant with JLK Brand. “It’s an inspirational message that is welcome right now. This is kind of a dark time, with vampires, zombies, Breaking Bad. I think there’s a market for something inspirational, warm, beautiful, and loving.”

Bookstores are likely to carry some of the products. “I could see the brand living in Barnes & Noble just as well as Hallmark or Costco,” Fording said. “We want to take advantage of where Nancy is known and loved, and that is bookstores.” Tillman’s picture books have sold seven million copies to date.

Hallmark produced a recordable storybook and an ornament late last year, and a number of other products are in development. Ultimately, Fording sees potential for children’s merchandise as well. “This is definitely more of a lifestyle program and not a classic preschool program,” she said. “But I do think that kids really respond to the ‘You Are Loved’ messaging.”

DK Enters the Ring with WWE

DK Publishing and its Brady Games imprint will publish up to 18 books tied to the wrestling entertainment franchise WWE over the next three years, under a new licensing deal between the two companies. Previous WWE titles from Brady have included two editions of the WWE Encyclopedia and A Most MIZerable Christmas, an anti-bullying book by wrestler Mick Foley.

Titles under the new agreement will include two commemorative books, WWE 50: Celebrating 50 Years of Sports Entertainment, coming out this March, and 30 Years of WrestleMania. It also will encompass children’s books about WWE wrestlers including John Cena and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, sticker books, autobiographies, and historical guides. The agreement includes digital and various subsidiary rights.

WWE family-friendly programming reaches 15 million viewers in the U.S. each week, according to Nielsen, and the organization’s Web site hosts an average of 12.4 million unique visitors monthly, according to Omniture.

Kappa Plays Paper Dolls with Mooshka

Kappa Books has added another girls’ license to its portfolio, which already includes Lalaloopsy, Lisa Frank, and Hello Kitty. It is currently shipping coloring and activity titles tied to Mooshka, a doll line from toy company MGA Entertainment. “This is basically going back to core doll play,” explained Andrew Steinberg, president of Kappa’s Modern Publishing division. “The toys are simple, beautiful, and soft, and kids really react to them.”

Steinberg noted that Mooshka can be seen as an alternative to edgier fare in the marketplace. “There’s something really refreshing about it,” he said. “It’s just good, basic doll play for girls.” The company is publishing some new formats in the doll cutout area that mirror the concept of the toy line, along with a range of coloring and activity titles.

The license extends a longtime relationship between Kappa/Modern and MGA, which owns Lalaloopsy and Bratz, in addition to Mooshka. Modern, which Kappa acquired two years ago, was one of the first licensees on board for Bratz in 2001, for 8x8s, coloring and activity titles, and other formats. “MGA is responsive, they understand the retail environment, and they work with their licensees to get books into that retail environment,” Steinberg said. “They’re very hands-on, and I like that.”

In Brief

Capstone is expanding its Scooby-Doo publishing program with You Choose Stories: Scooby-Doo, a reader-directed, illustrated chapter book series for ages 7–12 that debuts in February.... Sourcebooks is releasing a series of eight Put Me in the Story digital books featuring Hello Kitty, starting in July 2014.... Warner Bros. licensed Ruckus Media Group to distribute more than 100 read-along e-books featuring properties including Batman, DC Super Friends, Justice League, Looney Tunes, Scooby-Doo, Superman, Tom and Jerry, and the Wizard of Oz.... John Hart Studios is launching a licensing program with agent Brad Bushell for the comic strips B.C. and Wizard of Id. Thirty-seven B.C. and 30 Wizard of Id books have been published, with more planned in conjunction with the new licensing effort.... Random House is expanding its range of licensed titles, including several for Valentine’s Day, with new books featuring a number of Nickelodeon properties as well as Barbie and Sesame Street.... Viz Media and Japanese multimedia company United Inc. are producing content for the CocoPPa app to allow users to customize their smartphone’s homepage and icons with imagery from Naruto Shippuden and Bleach!.... Sesame Workshop partnered with Redan for Fun to Learn Sesame Street Magazine, which will be available at newsstands and by subscription.... SMC Entertainment signed several licensees for the comic strip/book property Angry Little Girls, including Toynami and Multiverse Universe for talking and basic plush, Changes and Shirt Lab for t-shirts, and Whatever Company for metal buttons.