A Smurftastic Summer

Simon & Schuster is getting set for a Smurfy summer with the release of 10 Smurfs titles, half with a classic look and half based on the 3D-animated movie being released in August. “We’re thrilled with the sell-in we’re getting,” says Valerie Garfield, v-p and publisher, novelty and licensed publishing. “People’s faces just light up when they see it. There’s a visceral and nostalgic reaction to the brand, and it just makes everyone smile. That doesn’t happen with all brands.” Classic titles will go on sale in May, followed by movie titles in July, followed by more classics in the fall. “This is a larger program than we generally do for movie tie-ins, because we think it will have a longer life,” Garfield adds.

“One of the things we liked about it was the long tail. The window for movie licensing is very tight, and the window for publishing especially is getting tighter and tighter.” The opportunity to seed the market early with classic titles and then follow up with more classics after the movie was an important part of the decision to take on the license, she says. Other factors included the charm and family-friendly nature of the script, the appropriateness of 3D animation for these characters, the property’s base in publishing prior to its 1980s TV exposure, and the fact that nothing Smurfy has been on the market for a long time. “They’ve been pretty smart in terms of licensing and managing the property,” Garfield says. “The buzz has been building steadily over the last year.”

Simon & Schuster plans to work with Sony on cross-promotions similar to those the two companies did to support Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs last year, as well as creating joint efforts with other Smurfs licensees. Lafig Belgium is the licensor of the core property.

Workman Adds Wizard of Oz Scanimation

Workman is adding its second licensed movie-based title, The Wizard of Oz, to Rufus Butler Seder’s Scanimation series. Set to publish in September, the title follows last spring’s Star Wars Scanimation book. “We had been looking to see what the next natural step would be for our Scanimation titles,” says Raquel Jaramillo, director of children’s publishing. Putting together memorable movie moments and Scanimation made sense, especially given Seder’s background in filmmaking and love of cinema. Meanwhile, Workman had collaborated recently with Star Wars licensor Lucasfilm on a Fandex title and was looking to do something else with the studio. “It just seemed like the perfect marriage between form and format,” she says.

The Star Wars tie-in commemorates scenes—such as Darth Vader’s “Luke, I Am Your Father” revelation—from the entire series of six films, but the fact that The Wizard of Oz is based on a single movie did not prove too challenging. “Everyone’s seen it many times and it’s indelibly etched in our minds,” Jaramillo points out, noting that the book offers Scanimation versions of the Wicked Witch melting, Miss Gulch turning into the Wicked Witch through the window, the trip down the Yellow Brick Road, and the flying monkeys. The cover features the clicking of Dorothy’s heels as she says, “There’s no place like home,” set on a background of ruby-red glitter foil. “The Golden Era is [Seder’s] favorite era in movies, so this was really just a labor of love for him,” Jaramillo says.

The Wizard of Oz: A Scanimation Book will have a 300,000-copy first printing; overall there are 4.5 million Scanimation titles in print, with about two million of those for the original Gallop! More licensed versions are planned for the future.

Silver Dolphin Offers First Licensed Titles

Baker & Taylor imprint Silver Dolphin, best known for its illustrated, value-added educational books, has introduced its first two licensed offerings. Its new Watch Me Draw ‘n’ Go series, launching this spring, includes Watch Me Draw ‘n’ Go: Dora’s Favorite Adventures and Watch Me Draw ‘n’ Go: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. The deluxe how-to-draw titles include a book, drawing pad with prompts, removable poster, reusable stickers, four twistable crayons, and an educational note to parents, for $12.95. The titles were packaged by Walter Foster, which has worked with Silver Dolphin in the past and already had relationships with Nickelodeon and Disney.

“The market for licensed titles is so incredibly competitive—that’s one reason why we’ve stayed away from it,” says associate publisher Lynn Brennan. “But this has a low price point and adds a lot of value and is different from the other licensed titles out there.” She adds, “If it’s the right format and new and different but still fits with Silver Dolphin, we would consider more [licensed titles]. I don’t think our list will ever be dominated by licenses, but a few titles each season could work.”

Brennan says the books have been attracting some interest from Target and Wal-mart, for which the Silver Dolphin price point is typically too high, along with bookstores and special sales channels such as Michael’s and museum shops.

Changes Ahead for Transformers Publishing

Little, Brown has taken over as the storybook licensee for Hasbro’s Transformers property, according to Matt Gildea, director of publishing for Hasbro. Little, Brown’s first titles will be tied to the third movie, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which releases July 1, followed by additional books based on the new TV series, Transformers Prime, which debuts on The Hub this fall. HarperCollins had been the licensee for the first and second films in 2007 and 2009.

Gildea cites Little, Brown’s success with properties such as Marvel Rescue Heroes as one reason for it being a good fit with the property. LB will publish leveled readers, 8x8s, and original novels, with the goal to create an ongoing Transformers fiction series. Other continuing publishing licensees remain on board, including Bendon for activity books, IDW for graphic novels, and Reader’s Digest for novelty titles.

In other Transformers publishing news, Hasbro has licensed becker&mayer! for Transformers Vault, a $30 volume that covers the history of Transformers from its beginnings in the 1980s through the third film. Abrams will publish the book, which will include more than 250 images and value-added memorabilia, in May.

In Brief

Chorion signed new publishing licensees for Olivia, including Toy Box for CDs-with-storybooks, Publications International for sound and look-and-find books, and Carson-Dellosa for themed classroom activities. It also signed Rock Paper Pencil for Olivia stationery, Fruit of the Loom for underwear, Bakery Crafts for cake décor, Rubie’s for costumes, and Hedstrom for sports toys.... Zenescope Comics is offering its comic book and graphic novel library for download on Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP) .... Carson-Dellosa is teaming with Crayola for 250-plus-page activity books and flash cards featuring Carson-Dellosa content and Crayola dry-erase technology. Crayola will sell the books in mass channels and the publisher in educational, teacher and toy stores.... Running Press is publishing I Ken: My Life As the Ultimate Boyfriend, packaged by becker&mayer!, under license from Mattel.... Alex Beard, author of The Grapevine Jungle (Abrams), licensed North American Bear Company for plush toys.... Jelly Belly is developing Beatrix Potter jelly bean gift sets for fourth quarter 2011.... Her Interactive is bringing its licensed Nancy Drew interactive games, which have sold more than eight million copies, to mobile phones. Riptide Games is developing the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch versions, starting with Nancy Drew Mobile Mysteries: Shadow Ranch.... HIT Entertainment licensed KidKraft and Kids Only for Thomas & Friends room décor and furniture, respectively.... The Joester-Loria Group licensed Jay Franco for Pinkalicious bedding and room décor and Kidzworld for furniture.