Random House’s ‘Secret Saturdays’

Cartoon Network is extending its boy-skewing television franchise TheSecret Saturdays into books, through a partnership with Random House Children’s Publishing. RHCP is the corporate sister of Del Rey Manga, which is already signed up a black-and-white, manga-inspired graphic novel and a film-comic with color stills from the show. The first books will debut later this summer.

“Everyone always says boys don’t read,” says Christina Miller, v-p, Cartoon Network Enterprises. “So we asked, how do we get them to read? How do we engage them?” Noting that The Secret Saturdays is one of the network’s more publishing-friendly brands, Miller says the property lends itself to boy-friendly formats ranging from “nonfiction” such as field guides and books of legends and facts to story-driven chapter and activity books. Other Secret Saturdays products to be released this year include toys from Mattel, videogames from D3Publisher, and DVDs from Warner Home Video.

Cartoon Network has a few other properties for boys with publishing deals in place, including Ben 10, which is licensed to Modern Publishing for activity books for ages 6-9—another partner will be announced soon—and Bakugan, which is licensed to Scholastic for handbooks and fiction. Del Rey is producing manga and film-comics for both. Scholastic’s Bakugan has been performing particularly strongly, Miller reports: “Even the book trade was end-capping us.”

Pebbles Power

Warner Bros. Consumer Products has licensed Worthwhile Books, the children’s division of IDW Publishing and Jonas Publishing, for four storybooks starring Pebbles of Flintstones fame, according to Elaine Piechowski, WBCP’s executive director of global publishing. The first two books, for girls 3—6, were released this month and include Daddy’s Girl, themed to Father’s Day, and Pebbles Conquers Camp. WBCP developed the art style and stories in-house, similar to the way it launched its line of Tweety storybooks in 2007 with Bendon.

Meanwhile, Warner has signed a number of deals for its other properties as well. Advance Publications is selling coloring and activity books for The Flintstones (highlighting Pebbles), and mini-books and coloring and activity titles for Tom and Jerry, both distributed through supermarkets and dollar stores, as well as Harry Potter poster books-with-figurines to be sold through supermarkets. Rofact International is a new licensee for the Canadian market, publishing bilingual French-English titles based on Looney Tunes, Baby Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, Scooby Doo and The Flintstones. Insight Editions is creating nostalgic coffee table books about the history of 100 greatest cartoons, starting with The Hannah-Barbera Treasury, to be followed by a Looney Tunes collection. And Barnes & Noble is publishing a coffee table book, packaged by Becker & Mayer, tied to the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz.

Feel the Oogielove

One of the talked-about bits of news coming out of the recent Licensing Expo was the return to the licensing business of Kenn Viselman—best known for being instrumental in establishing Teletubbies and Thomas the Tank Engine in North America—after a several-year absence. He was touting an interactive feature film called The Oogieloves in The BIG Balloon Adventure. The movie features 11 musical numbers, 54 puppets, and actors including Cloris Leachman and Christopher Lloyd. It has a wholesome message, with no violence or villains, and encourages young viewers to get up, dance, and participate to help move the story along. “I had no intention of doing another preschool project,” Viselman says. “But I really believe there’s a need for this in the marketplace and that it will be commercially successful.”

The film has full funding and Viselman is currently in negotiations with several studios to distribute the film. Licensed merchandise will follow the film’s release, but publishing may precede the movie launch. “Publishing doesn’t count as merchandising,” Viselman believes. “I’m not relying on the movie for the books. Publishing is its own unique entity and should be treated as such.” He is in the process of developing books such as early readers and illustrated picture books, all with an interactive element. “The interactive component is important to me. It’s part of what makes Oogieloves what it is,” Viselman says, adding that he is willing, and has the funding, to self-publish if he isn’t able to forge the right deal with an established house.

In Brief

Big Tent is introducing the British property Purple Ronnie, which has sold close to three million books in the U.K., in North and South America.... Marc Brown’s Arthur has been licensed to Cherrybrook Kitchen for allergy-friendly desserts and snacks, including chocolate chip cookies, which will feature an original Arthur story on the packaging.... CBS Consumer Products and TokyoPop are partnering for a teen-targeted CSI: Crime Scene Investigation manga about forensic interns.... Chronicle Books will publish coloring and activity books, flash cards and stationery for Planet Color by Todd Parr, licensed by Suppertime Entertainment.... Hawk’s Nest Publishing signed a license with the U.S. Tennis Association for a U.S. Open coloring and activity book. It also added the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals to its line of Major League Baseball coloring and activity titles.... Warner Bros. licensed The Northwest Company for home textiles and MeadWestvaco for calendars and stationery tied to Harry Potter and Where the Wild Things Are, among other properties.... HIT Entertainment licensed American Greetings for party supplies, decorations, greeting cards, invitations, stickers, and seasonal items for its brand portfolio, including book-based Angelina Ballerina,Thomas & Friends and Rainbow Magic.... Classic Media licensed Yottoy to make Little Golden Books plush and Kids Preferred to sell Pat the Bunny soft toys and products.... Dimensional Branding has signed Random House for novelizations based on the Sony interactive games Resistance: Fall of Men and God of War. DC is developing comics for both.... EMGIE has licensed Bear Crimbo, the star of a children’s book by Matt Goss scheduled for a September launch by Hilton Publishing, to WowWee for its WowWee Alive animatronic plush line.... Random House is adding to its line of Disney/Pixar movie tie-ins with several titles based on the December release The Princess and the Frog.