Dr. Seuss: Friend to the Earth

Licensed products based on The Lorax Project, launched earlier this year by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Conservation International and Random House, are expected to hit store shelves in time for Earth Day 2009. “I was thinking about what can I do personally and what can we do as a company [to help the environment], and a lightbulb went off,” says Susan Brandt, DSE’s executive v-p, licensing and marketing. The Lorax, written in 1971, features a character that speaks for the trees, making him a natural spokesperson. “We didn’t need to take a character and make him green,” she says.

Potential “earth-friendlier” Lorax products include clothing made of organic cotton, bamboo or hemp, and paper goods made from post-consumer recycled materials or sustainable alternatives such as coffee, banana and mango. The initiative will involve both existing Dr. Seuss licensees and new partners; manufacturers on board so far include New Leaf Paper, Raymond Geddes and CSS Industries. The art style for the products will be based on original archival sketches rather than the traditional book art seen on other Seuss products.

Random House began printing The Lorax on recycled paper earlier this year and reports strong sales increases for the title over the last several years. Prior to 2006, Random sold an average of 45,000 copies each year. It has seen double-digit annual increases since then and has sold 105,000 copies in the first nine months of 2008, according to Judith Haut, senior v-p, communications and marketing.

In addition to merchandise, The Lorax Project encompasses educational elements, including a partnership with the National Education Association. Ten percent of DSE’s proceeds from merchandise will go to Conservation International.

Read on for news about Boxcar Children graphic novel adaptations, Encyclopaedia Britannica brand extensions, a Where’s Waldo? deal for Let’s Go, the Licensing Show’s move to Vegas, and other licensing news.

Boxcar Children Go Graphic

ABDO Publishing is adapting Gertrude Chandler Warner’s classic series The Boxcar Children, first published by Scott Foresman in 1942, for graphic novels distributed to the school and library market. Albert Whitman & Co., the licensor, will distribute a paperback edition into trade channels. Six titles will be introduced in January 2009 under the Graphic Planet imprint of ABDO’s Magic Wagon division.

Dan Verdick, ABDO’s director of marketing, says publisher Jim Abdo has always been a fan of the series, and that the concept of four orphans who take shelter in a boxcar lent itself well to the graphic novel format. “It was just a great visual idea,” he explains. The adaptations, which are 32 pages and targeted to second through fourth graders, will be written and illustrated in-house.

Although ABDO holds other licenses for graphic novels from Marvel, IDW, Lucas and Dark Horse, those are for school and library editions of existing titles. The Boxcar license marks the first time ABDO has secured rights for original adaptations.

Britannica Branches Out

The 240-year-old Encyclopaedia Britannica brand is extending into educational and interactive merchandise for children and adults, through an agreement with licensing agency JRL Group. An as-yet-unnamed licensee has been signed for educational toys; additional categories will include electronic learning aids, games, puzzles, science kits, globes, school supplies, and audio and video, among others.

Licensed products will incorporate Britannica content including article excerpts, drawings and photos. “With a lot of brands, you have the logo and the equity behind the logo,” says Andy Lieb, JRL president. “With Britannica, every subject that’s imaginable is in play.”

Products will be sold in traditional retail channels, from Toys ‘R’ Us to bookstores, as well as in Britannica’s online store, which currently carries educational products from other suppliers as well as Britannica’s publications. Britannica Online generates more than 10 million consumer visits per month.

Waldo Hits the Road

Let’s Go has entered into its first partnership with an entertainment brand, signing a deal with Entertainment Rights for Martin Handford’s Where’s Waldo?, the world-traveling character who celebrates his 21st anniversary this year. Let’s Go will supply content for Entertainment Rights’ FindWaldo.com Web site, including regularly updated Waldo-themed tips, photos, travel itineraries and video content. In addition, Waldo’s image will appear in a series of Let’s Go guides, including Let’s Go Roadtripping USA: The Complete Coast-to-Coast Guide to America, which will be released in March 2009.

Waldo was relaunched for licensing earlier this year, and publisher Candlewick released a small-trim-size travel compilation of the original Where’s Waldo? titles this summer.

Las Vegas Debut for the Licensing Show

The 2009 Licensing International trade show will be its first outside New York. Scheduled for June 2—4, 2009 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, the show will continue to be the main gathering for the global licensing community.

Many publishers and authors, especially those based on the East Coast, are not happy about the move. While a few believe the change in venue will give the show a needed freshness, half a dozen houses contacted by PW said they would bring drastically reduced teams, and some said they would spend less time there. While the show previously has provided opportunities for working sessions between licensors and the staffs of New York-based publishing licensees, activity at the Las Vegas show is more likely to revolve around pitch meetings, some publishers predicted.

Many in the licensing community believe the number of East Coast and European attendees will drop due to the move, as will the number of artists, including author/illustrators pitching book properties. On the other hand, the number of West Coast and Asian attendees may rise. Stay tuned.

In Brief

Modern Publishing has acquired rights to Project Runway from ACI Licensing and America’s Next Top Model from Viacom, for tween-targeted books to ship fourth quarter 2008 and first quarter 2009, respectively.... United Media is launching a licensing program for Babymouse, a Random House graphic novel series by Jennifer and Matthew Holm, to encompass apparel, accessories, stationery, toys, crafts and other products for girls 6-11.... Chicken Soup for the Soul is now represented for licensing by IMG. Existing licensees include American Greetings, Diamond Pet Food and MasterPiece Puzzles.... Universal Pictures Digital Platforms Group is producing a Nintendo DS videogame title tied to the animated film The Tale of Despereaux.... Children’s book illustrator Joy Allen, who is published by HarperCollins, Random House, Putnam and others, is launching a licensing program. Her agent is Artistic Designs Group.... Paramount Licensing has signed Aquarius and Upper Deck as licensees for the book-based film Hotel for Dogs.... PorchLight Entertainment launches PorchLightLearning.com to bring educational content to schools, libraries and parents. The first content available is a 10-DVD educational media package based on Animalia.... Publisher Immedium licensed its series The Octonauts to Chorion UK for international TV production.