Candlewick, CopCorp Say Hello to MoshiMoshiKawaii

Candlewick plans to expand its MoshiMoshiKawaii publishing program, launched in 2011 with three search-and-find titles, with the addition of two smaller-format activity/search books in August of this year. The property was recently assigned to agency CopCorp for licensing representation in the U.S. and Canada.

“We don’t have anything else like it on our list,” says Mary McCagg, Candlewick’s director of licensing, noting that the property has been building in all of Candlewick’s trade and mass accounts. “The covers are really eye-catching. It’s one of our most creative and unique properties.” The licensing program will add interest and awareness, she says.

MoshiMoshiKawaii originated about 10 years ago in Japan, where it is called Usacolle Friends and is featured in books from publisher Gakken. Repositioned and renamed for international territories by global licensing agent Plus Licens, the property has expanded into publishing—followed by merchandise—throughout Europe and in Australia and New Zealand, Russia, and Brazil. In Japan, Moshi Moshi is a phrase that is used to answer the telephone or get someone’s attention, while Kawaii means “cute” or “darling.”

Walker Books, Candlewick’s U.K. affiliate, saw the property at the Bologna Book Fair a few years ago and began publishing it in the U.K. McCagg notes that Candlewick staffers couldn’t stop laughing at the cute characters during the “decide meeting” where they evaluated the books’ potential for the U.S. market. “At first glance, they all look the same, but they’re actually all different. It really does engage you for hours.” There are 250 unique rabbit characters to date, each with a backstory and a little message of empowerment.

CEACO is on board for puzzles, and collectible toys, games, stationery, apparel, and social expressions will be some of the next categories to be licensed. The main market is young girls, with some spillover into older age groups. “Everyone who looks at MoshiMoshi has this emotional reaction,” says Carole Postal, president of CopCorp. “That’s the first thing you look for in a licensed property. It has that ‘Ah’ factor.”

Licensed Annuals: Stocking-Stuffers for British Kids

Pedigree Books says it’s the leading producer of children’s annuals – hardcover activity books published each year as Christmas gifts—in the U.K. market. It also releases similar gift books in softcover, which debut April 1 for the Easter and summer holidays, along with yearbooks for adults. The spring books are in a different format each year, with this year’s being Activity Handbooks, a more portable version with a smaller trim size.

“Obviously licensing is very important in the annuals category,” says Matthew Reynolds, Pedigree’s sales and licensing manager. “There are almost no generic annuals on the market.” Recent licenses for the company include Build-A-Bear Workshop, Tintin, and Angry Birds, among others; longer-term licenses include Star Wars, which it publishes for adults and children.

Each year, the mix is about 70% new titles based on recurring licenses and 30% titles tied to brand-new properties. “Retailers expect something new on the classics every year,” Reynolds explains. “But if you have a hot title, retailers might want to add those.” He adds, “We did a condensed range this year to make sure we weren’t bringing out too many for the retailers to back. There’s only so much shelf space available, and we wanted the retailers to back them all instead of having to pick and choose.”

Annuals generally don’t backlist; on rare occasions the company may reprint a coveted title for a second year. Content is a mix of stories, character or personality profiles, and activities, with the proportion varying by license. Angry Birds skews toward activities, for example, while Star Wars leans toward storytelling. The books are distributed in bookstores supermarkets, pharmacies, and high street shops, and through e-commerce.

Most annuals are meant for younger children, but Pedigree has been expanding into tween and teen titles. It recently signed the videogame brands Medal of Honor and Battlefield from EA Games, and it has had recent success with Family Guy. “That showed us we can take the annuals into an older market,” Reynolds says. “That’s a new dimension for us.”

Little Prince to Reign Over Merchandise

The estate of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and its global licensing agent, Propertiz, has retained Lawless Entertainment as its licensing sub-agent in the U.S. and Canada. “It’s one of those classic properties that, no matter who you talk to, they always say the same thing: ‘Oh, yes, of course I know The Little Prince. I read it as a child, or my mother read it to me, or I read it to my children,’” says Cathy Malatesta, Lawless Entertainment’s president. “It’s timeless.”

Licensing has been ongoing in France (where there are 20 licensees), Germany, and other countries in Europe, Latin America, and Asia. A television series is on the air in some countries as well. French publishing house Gallimard has an extensive publishing program that ranges from TV tie-in picture books and board books to a series of novels and book-and-DVD packages.

In the U.S., licensing will focus initially on products for infants and toddlers, including apparel and décor. Expanded publishing also is in negotiation. Malatesta has meetings scheduled with retailers at the Licensing International Expo in June, and expects the licensing program could come together quickly. “There’s been an almost instantaneous positive reaction in the U.S.,” she says. “Pretty much everyone has brand awareness.”

Lawless Entertainment also recently began representing Michael Scott’s The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, published by Random House. Talks are ongoing with a film production company, and a videogame is in development.

Chorion Bunnies Hop to New Owners

Two pairs of bunnies formerly overseen by bankrupt literary property owner Chorion have jumped to new homes.

Sony Creative Products acquired Gaspard and Lisa, the book property created by Anne Gutman and Georg Hallensleben and published by Random House in the U.S. Chorion’s Silver Lining Productions division had represented the property since 2005, and Sony has held master licensing rights in Japan and other parts of Asia since 2008.

Meanwhile, Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana division took over Rosemary Wells’s Max and Ruby, published by Penguin in the U.S. Nelvana already had a partial ownership stake in the property and is the producer of the Max and Ruby television series that airs on Nickelodeon. Max and Ruby also came to Chorion through Silver Lining Productions.

Chorion has now divested all of its properties except the Georges Simenon estate. Noddy went to Classic Media; the remainder of the Blyton estate to Hachette UK; Eric Carle to The Joester-Loria Group; Paddington Bear to The Copyrights Group; Beatrix Potter and The Octonauts to Silvergate Media; Mr. Men and Little Miss to Sanrio; and Agatha Christie to Acorn Media.

In Brief

Pinkalicious, licensed by the Joester-Loria Group, is featured in a Burger King promotion this spring.... Random House is publishing eight titles tied to the Disney/Pixar film Brave, which hits theaters June 22, and a Little Golden Book, The Mighty Avengers, in conjunction with the Marvel film that opened to record-setting box office totals last weekend.... TK Brand Group will represent David McKee’s Elmer the Patchwork Elephant, through a deal with Andersen Press, for North American licensing. Current licenses are Kids Preferred for plush toys, Oceanhouse Media for apps, and Lakeshore Learning for storytelling kits.... Papercutz is adding a Thea Stilton title to its Geronimo Stilton graphic novel line, licensed by Atlantyca.... RJM Licensing has been named the licensing agent for Michael O’Mara Books’ Where’s the Meerkat? series, which debuted in the U.K. last fall and is distributed by Barron’s in the U.S.... Rovio licensed Unieboek | Het Spectrum to distribute its Angry Birds books in the Dutch-language market.... Sesame Street licensee Dover Publications will publish Simple Science Experiments with Elmo and Friends, one of the first titles to highlight Sesame Street’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum.... Mattel and Classic Media signed DC Entertainment to produce comics and graphic novels for Masters of the
Universe, celebrating its 30th anniversary this fall.... Titan Books will publish an official tie-in novel for Warner Bros.’ The Dark Knight Rises.... Big Idea Productions is releasing journals and devotional prayer books tied to its new VeggieTales DVD release, The Penniless Princess—God’s Little Girl.... Miles Kelly has expanded its license with Discovery Enterprises International to add additional nonfiction and reference books under the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and Explore Your World brands.... Bonnier becomes the master publisher for Mattel’s Barbie in the U.K.... In e-book news: Sony licensed zuuka and iStoryTime for a movie storybook app based on The Pirates! Band of Misfits; Big Idea Entertainment licensed Playful Owl for reading-readiness apps; Little Airplane Productions licensed Barnes & Noble to distribute a Small Potatoes e-book for the Nook; Ludorum licensed Chuggington and Sesame Workshop licensed Sesame Street to Leapfrog for LeapPad apps; and Pretty Ugly LLC licensed Callaway for UglyDoll mobile apps.