Harry Conjures Up Consumer Products

As the final installment in the Harry Potter film series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 2, premieres this weekend, several longtime Warner Bros. licensees are introducing new merchandise timed to the release. Products include games, such as Harry Potter Clue from Hasbro and Scene It? Harry Potter: The Complete Cinematic Journey from Screenlife; collectible artifacts and wands from The Noble Collection; a Lightning Bolt Bracelet from NECA; and the rerelease of Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans from Jelly Belly, among others.

One successful subset of Harry Potter licensing has been the LEGO Harry Potter brand. New items coming out in conjunction with the film include playsets from LEGO, LEGO Harry Potter t-shirts from BioWorld, and LEGO Harry Potter: Building the Magical World from DK Publishing, which came out in May and continues to command the number-one spot on The New York Times Children’s Picture Book Best Sellers list.

HarperCollins released Harry Potter: Film Wizardry, written with input from the films’ cast and crew, last October.

Parragon Powers Up

Parragon Publishing has signed on as a licensee for Power Rangers: Samurai, the newest incarnation of the now-classic Power Rangers. The franchise first went on air in 1993 as The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and, since then, has accumulated more than 700 episodes and $5 billion in retail sales of consumer products, according to licensor Saban Brands. Saban, the original series developer, sold the property to Disney in 2001 and bought it back last May. The new series, Power Rangers: Samurai, premiered on Nickelodeon in February.

Parragon was involved with previous Power Rangers versions as part of its deal with Disney, and Wendy Friedman, the publisher’s president of North America and Latin America, says the program was successful globally, particularly in the U.K. “Saban and Nickelodeon have done a great job reenergizing it and bringing it to a whole new audience,” she says, adding that the property has broad appeal. “For boys, there aren’t as many strong properties, so it fills a great need, but at the same time it’s almost as strong with girls. It also has a huge historic cult following; you can see it at places like Comic-Con.”

Parragon will publish a wide range of products, from coloring/activity titles, board books and boxed activity kits to journals, 3D titles and “how to be a Power Ranger” books. Distribution rights include the U.S., U.K. and Latin America (excluding Mexico and Brazil), with the first titles being introduced next February. “It was very significant to us to do as much of a global program as possible,” Friedman explains.

In-House Umizoomi

When Nickelodeon developed its line of math kits based on the preschool series Team Umizoomi, it opted to put the program together internally, in conjunction with a team of educational consultants, rather than signing a licensee. The kits, which contain a 48-page workbook, 48-page activity book, 24-page storybook, and 24 flash cards, as well as a Team Umizoomi episode on DVD, launched exclusively at Toys R Us this month. They also will be sold direct to consumers via an infomercial and on Nickelodeon’s Web site.

“It’s a new business model,” admits Paula Allen, Nickelodeon’s senior v-p global publishing, who says the idea came from the highest levels of the company. The kits are the initial Team Umizoomi consumer products to hit store shelves, marking the first time an educational offering has led the way for a Nickelodeon show.

The fact that the math kits were developed in-house does not mean the studio is moving away from licensed publishing, of course. Three hundred licensed Nickelodeon books will be released this calendar year, according to Allen, who reports that 2010 was the best year ever for Dora the Explorer book sales. This year’s titles range from classics such as Dora and SpongeBob to Scholastic’s Big Time Rush book, based on a TV series about a boy band consisting of four friends from Minnesota who move to L.A. to make their mark. “The fairs are taking a big stand on the book,” Allen says.

Nickelodeon expects to announce a book partner soon for the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series; other properties to watch include the preschool TV show Bubble Guppies and the online gaming property Monkey Quest.

Disney: Where the Boys Are

Disney Publishing Worldwide has expanded its reach into the boys' market with a number of key initiatives. It is expecting big things from its Marvel children’s publishing program, for which it assumed management in June 2010. “The number of licensees is about the same [as when publishing was handled by Marvel], but the volume of titles grew substantially this year,” says Jonathan Symington, DPW’s v-p global sales, marketing and licensing. “Next year will be big for Marvel.”

Much of the program, which encompasses a full roster of titles starring Spider-Man, The Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, and other properties, comes from DPW’s own imprint, Marvel Press (including most of the formats Random House formerly published under license from Marvel). But there also are a number of licensees on board, including Bendon for lower-priced formats. “What we’re doing differently is that the licensees used to develop content,” Symington says. “Now Disney creates the content for books that are aimed at the younger kids.”

Meanwhile, DPW and its licensees have published 40 new titles tied to this summer’s Pixar release, Cars 2, adding formats such as novelty and coloring and activity books to a program that has been going strong since the first film was released in 2006. Symington expects Cars 2 to surpass Toy Story 3 as the company’s biggest single licensed publishing program to date. Even before the film, Cars—which Disney says is an $8 billion global consumer products brand—had come to rival Disney Princess as DPW’s number-one publishing program overall, Symington says. Mickey Mouse & Friends ranks third and Disney Fairies fourth as global publishing franchises.

Other Disney properties with new or growing publishing efforts include the TV series Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Phineas and Ferb, and Shake It Up, as well as this fall’s Muppets movie (with tie-ins from Little, Brown). In addition, the classic-style Winnie the Pooh feature film is coming out this month. “We saw a nice uptick with the publishing business in Europe, where the film was released in the spring,” Symington reports.

In Brief

Ludorum signed a number of publishing licensees for its preschool series Chuggington, including Modern Publishing for coloring and activity titles, Giddy Up for Color Blast, Color N Carry, Surprise Ink, Water Wow and Stik Piks products, and LeapFrog for Tag and Tag Jr. books. Scholastic is the trade publisher for the property.... Recent licensees signed by Penguin include Komet Creations for Llama Llama and Skippyjon Jones security blankets and growth charts, Zoobies for Llama Llama plush/pillow and blanket sets, Cozy Toes for Skippyjon Jones costumes and t-shirts, Tara Toy for Mad Libs games and Chik-fil-A for a Mad Libs promotion.... CPLG US, a division of Cookie Jar Entertainment, licensed The Bridge Direct as the master toy licensee for Richard Scarry’s Busytown, as well as Viper Comics for comic books and graphic novels based on Johnny Test, airing on Cartoon Network.... Nelvana licensed master toy rights for Max & Ruby to Fisher-Price.... Summertime Entertainment and its agent Travis James signed IDW for a four-title comic book series and graphic novel for the 3D-animated film Dorothy of Oz, set for a summer 2012 release. Based on the books by L. Frank Baum and Roger Stanton Baum, the film also has been licensed for toys, apparel, accessories, calendars, paper goods, collectible dolls and a theme park attraction.... HarperCollins will be the licensee for Fox’s summer 2012 Ice Age: Continental Drift, and will also create the first Ice Age seasonal and storybook titles not tied to specific films.... Peanuts Worldwide signed The Orb Factory for Fancy Nancy craft activities, including mosaic kits.... Ladybird is publishing Hello Kitty preschool books in the U.K.... Houghton Mifflin’s The Learning Company is releasing a line of five math-related videogames for the Wii console, for children in grades 3-6….Atlantyca licensed Geronimo Stilton to Sony Computer Entertainment España for a PSP videogame, available in Europe.... Warner Bros. partnered with Japanese retailer Uniqlo for a line of Harry Potter t-shirts for all its stores worldwide outside the U.S.... Scholastic’s Clifford is the latest book property to star in the Kohl’s Cares charitable program, which offers book-and-plush sets for $5 each, with profits donated to children’s health and education initiatives.