Three Licensees for 39 Clues

Expect to see the first products tied to The 39 Clues, Scholastic’s multi-author, multi-platform mystery series, in bookstores this spring, just in time for the release of the third book, The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis. Scholastic’s first three licensees for the property are University Games for board and card games, Mead for calendars, and Trends International for journals and stationery. “The merchandise program will really enhance the exposure for the publishing,” says Leslye Schaefer, Scholastic Entertainment’s senior v-p marketing and consumer products.

“The web component and game cards are critical tentpoles for this,” Schaefer adds. Readers can enter a contest as they try to solve the mystery through clues discovered in each book, through digitized game cards and online; the winner will be announced about six months after the release of the tenth and last book in October 2010. Both University Games’ and Mead’s products will include exclusive game cards. An as-yet-unannounced consumer promotion is planned for this summer, and a feature film is in development with DreamWorks.

Read on for news of Random House’s latest Pixar tie-ins, the first-ever VeggieTales Bible, the latest on Lucy Cousins licensing, a new brand from author Todd Parr, and merchandise and broadcast plans for Gaspard and Lisa.

UP and Away with Random House

In April, Random House will release eight titles tied to UP, a 3D-animated Disney-Pixar film and the latest in a long line of alliances between Random and Pixar. The film is about a retired man and a boy scout who fly off on an adventure in a balloon-festooned house. Compared to other Pixar films, which have been about subjects such as toys, cars, monsters, robots and fish, “UP is a little more abstract,” says Chris Angelilli, editor-in-chief of Golden Books. “But what kid hasn’t dreamed of floating away in the sky on a bunch of balloons?”

The 2D artwork for the books, generated by Disney, is retro-looking. “We’re not trying to replicate the art [from the movie],” Angelilli explains. “It’s an art style that complements the look of the film.”

The publishing program is comparable to other Disney-Pixar efforts, with core titles including a flagship 64-page, full-color, hardcover read-aloud storybook, a junior novelization, a Step into Reading title (usually one of the bestsellers), and a Little Golden Book. There is some variation in sales from film to film, Angellili reports, although “there hasn’t been one that hasn’t performed well.” Cars has been one of the top sellers overall, even continuing today, three years after the movie was released. The most recent program, Wall-E, also ranks among the best of Random’s Disney-Pixar efforts.

Zonderkidz’s Veggie Values

Zonderkidz is publishing the first full-text VeggieTales children’s Bible, set for February release. Zonderkidz’ 100-plus VeggieTales books, published since 2001, collectively have sold more than 3.5 million copies. “There’s something about the VeggieTales characters that just connects with kids—and their parents,” says Alicia Mey, Zonderkidz v-p marketing. A Bible storybook was published in 2006 and “it did very well and paved the way for the full-text Bible.” The Bible will include a series of short essays about “Veggie Values” that help explain relevant Bible stories, line drawings of VeggieTales characters, and eight short comic book inserts based on VeggieTales DVDs.

The Bible will benefit from the “Values to Grow By” marketing campaign that licensor Big Idea (a division of Entertainment Rights) created to support its latest DVD release, Abe and the Amazing Promise, which debuts simultaneously with the Bible, and several DVD reissues. Elements include a $10 rebate for consumers who purchase both the Bible and Abe, national radio and print campaigns, a comprehensive online campaign, giveaways, in-store merchandising and an educational companion guide. A coupon for the Bible will be inserted into the Abe DVD. “This is one of the most integrated promotional campaigns we’ve done,” says Mey.

The Bible will be available in all distribution channels; a national secular retailer will offer an exclusive Italian duotone version. Over 50% of sales of VeggieTales books have come from outside the Christian market, Mey reports.

Lucy Cousins Licensing Goes In-House

Walker Books in London is taking Lucy Cousins licensing activity in-house, following its launch last year of Walker Productions to develop entertainment and multimedia content based on its books. “[Cousins] has so many different books—it’s not just Maisy,” says licensing director Judy Burdsall. “There’s so much fabulous artwork that’s been neglected, really.” In addition to Maisy, other initiatives will include Hooray for Fish and “Lucy Cousins, the brand.”

The move mainly affects the U.K., Europe, Australia and New Zealand; longtime agents in North America and Asia will continue their ongoing programs. RJM Licensing represents Maisy in North America and has signed several recent deals, according to owner Rob Mejia. American Greetings is selling a Maisy card line exclusively in Target stores; the character is featured in a promotion with Simon Malls in February and in a five-book giveaway at Chick-fil-A in the second quarter of 2009; three licensees are distributing products such as toothbrushes and postcards through medical and dental offices; and Starbound was recently signed for a parade balloon.

Big Tent is the North American licensing agent for Hooray for Fish, which is being marketed under the name Swim, Swim, Fizzy, the title of a popular Japanese TV show based on the book. Big Tent is talking to broadcasters about the show, but the property is likely to be licensed prior to securing TV exposure, based on its color palette, appealing design and undersea themes. “There’s no need for media support, whether books or TV, which is great in this market,” says Rich Collins, Big Tent’s CEO. “The name Lucy Cousins means something, and her art style is brilliant and very distinct.”

Parr’s Colorful Planet

Todd Parr, author and illustrator of over 30 books, is launching a new brand, Planet Color by Todd Parr, along with his licensing agent, Suppertime Entertainment. It will teach kindness, politeness and manners through playful associations with color. Gerry Renert, partner at Suppertime, notes that Be Hospitable, a custom book title Parr created for Hilton Hotels last year, got a good response. “Todd’s always been known for his bright colors. Why not meld his appreciation for color with the messages of kindness and consideration?”

Planet Color’s first licensee is Four Peas, which is marketing a line of backpacks, lunch bags and duffel bags for toddlers. Future products may include arts and crafts, cameras, printers, or stationery, as well as some publishing formats, such as coloring and activity books. An “online playground” is being developed for kids 4—8; it will include elements such as The Kindness Game.

Licensing Launch for Gaspard and Lisa

Gaspard and Lisa, the Parisian stars of 25 books by Anne Gutman, illustrated by George Hallensleben, will soon make their television debut in a series commissioned by French broadcaster TF1. Chorion secured the licensing and television rights for the property from publisher Hachette Livre; the U.S. publisher is Random House.

Licensed products for preschoolers, centered on toys and games but also including gifts, stationery, apparel and home décor, will follow the broadcast debut, which is expected in 2010 in France and in other territories in 2010 and 2011. “It will all flow from the television series, which will look very much like the distinct painterly look of the books,” says Amory Millard, executive v-p corporate communications at Chorion.

“It’s a unique look, and a very rich and beautiful look,” says Chorion’s Megan Laughton, supervising producer on the animation. “We’re doing a literal adaptation. The books have made it so easy.”

Gaspard and Lisa has been a licensing success story in Japan—2009 marks its 10th anniversary in that territory—with products mainly aimed at young women.

In Brief

HIT Entertainment signed Fisher-Price as the master global toy licensee for Thomas & Friends. Products will be introduced in 2010.... Kohl’s latest Kohl’s Cares for Kids charitable program features Dr. Seuss book-and-plush sets for $5.00, including I Can Read with My Eyes Shut, I Can Moo! Can You?, If I Ran the Zoo, and And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, each packaged with a Cat in the Hat plush.... Universal partnered with Campbell’s Soups for a promotion tied to the Universal Studios film The Tale of Despereaux.... RJM Licensing, on behalf of Chorion, signed two new licensees for Paddington Bear: Madame Alexander for miniature plush and Silver Needle for needlepoint canvases.... Purina Dog Chow tied in with the film Marley & Me for a promotion that included a contest and premiums.... Scholastic announced an alliance with Wendy’s for an I Spy kids’ meal program running in February and March and featuring five I Spy premiums.