DreamWorks Press, a new unit of the movie studio DreamWorks Animation that was established in February, is set to release its first list this fall. Books will be tied to the studio’s major franchises—Kung Fu Panda, Shrek, Madagascar, and How to Train Your Dragon—as well as new movie releases and original Web properties from DreamWorks’ two YouTube channels, AwesomenessTV and DreamWorksTV.
The inaugural six-title list includes four books inspired by the studio’s main movie franchises. Two are Madagascar books on counting and colors, featuring all-new artwork and marking the property’s debut in board books, while the other two are 300-page hardcovers under the Storytellers Collection banner, featuring characters from all four key franchises. “We want to develop books that will backlist and keep the stories fresh in people’s minds between films,” said Emma Whittard, head of DreamWorks Press.
The remaining two books on the debut list will be YA novels, published by Awesomeness Ink, a new Dreamworks Press imprint. “[Awesomeness Ink] was founded to make the most of the original content on AwesomenessTV,” Whittard said, noting that the online hub, which the studio acquired in early 2013, skews toward female teens and young women. One of the titles is tied to Runaways, a short-form, nonlinear Web series; Beth Szymkowski, who writes the series, is also writing the novel. The other Awesomeness Ink title, by Jen Calonita, is inspired by Side Effects, a musical. Whittard acknowledged that in the fast-paced online world, it can be difficult to determine whether content will still be relevant by the time book tie-ins come out; “But these are great stories on their own,” she said.
DreamWorks’ second list, in spring 2015, will comprise 19 titles, including chunky board books featuring Baby Po from Kung Fu Panda, rendered in a new art style; additional Awesomeness Ink titles, including a novelization of Chemical High, an upcoming series by Szymkowski (who is writing the book and show simultaneously); at least one tie-in to the feature film Home; and more Madagascar books.
Spring also will bring a number of titles tied to B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations, DreamWorks’ upcoming feature film, which is set for a June 2015 release, although Simon & Schuster is publishing the core tie-in books. Whittard explained that DreamWorks’ titles will complement those from S&S. “We’re publishing books that really expand the movie’s story,” she said. Whittard cited as examples a hardcover version of a handbook that plays a part in the film, glow-in-the-dark novelty titles, and a chapter book series of all-new original ghost-hunting stories that take place in the universe of B.O.O. Some of the books will serve as a bridge between the film and a TV series that will follow.
DreamWorks Press titles are being distributed by PGW, and future releases are likely to connect to original content from DreamWorksTV, DreamWorks’ recently announced online hub for kids, and to some of the properties under the DreamWorks Classics banner, formed through the studio’s July 2012 acquisition of Classic Media.
Meanwhile, the press is expanding its in-house resources internationally, hiring new staffers to oversee licensing in France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, U.K., and the Nordic countries. Additional new hires are expected for Asia and Latin America. “We will continue to be a licensed business and will continue to work with agents in other countries,” Whittard explained. “Our people will work with our partners on strategy and vision, and will help with retail programs.”
Whittard and her team are just starting to show their first titles developed in-house to international publishers. International licensees will focus mostly on key overseas titles and franchises, but will also look for unique opportunities involving DreamWorks properties that are relevant in their markets. Examples include the classic property Noddy (Oui-Oui) in France, and Pat the Postman in the U.K. and Nordic region.