‘Bravest Warriors’ Head to Perfect Square

Perfect Square (formerly Viz Kids) has secured the rights for books tied to Bravest Warriors, a series of shorts that debuted on the YouTube channel Cartoon Hangover last November. Created by Adventure Time’s Pendleton Ward and produced and licensed by Frederator Studios, it will begin its second season in September. This is the first time Perfect Square has licensed an online-only property for books. “That’s a non-issue for the under-25s,” said Beth Kawasaki, senior editorial director, children’s publishing. “They’re used to getting information on different screens in different ways.”

Kawasaki noted that the series attracts at least 1.5 million views per episode, not to mention having a social media presence that includes 30,000 Twitter followers and 90,000 “likes” on Facebook. “Fans everywhere on social media are going crazy over this series. They tell their friends, and their friends, and their friends. They’re creating fan art, posting things, and watching episodes over and over.”

Although the five- to seven-minute episodes offer less of an existing canon to work with in terms of editorial development than a traditional half-hour TV series, “That’s not been a hindrance,” she reported. “It’s actually been quite the opposite. In some ways we have more freedom.”

Books will come out in 2014, with at least three titles likely in the first year. Formats will target both the show’s core audience of teens and young adults aged 13–24, as well as tweens 8–12. Meanwhile, BOOM! Studios began publishing Bravest Warriors comic books earlier this year.

Grosset & Dunlap Goes on Quest for Dark Crystal Author

Penguin Young Readers’ Grosset & Dunlap imprint plans to release a YA prequel novel based on Jim Henson’s 1982 film The Dark Crystal, with the author selected through a contest running this fall. “This is personal for me,” said Francesco Sedita, Grosset & Dunlap’s president and publisher. “As a kid, I loved The Dark Crystal and watched it probably 117 times. It’s been part of my life for 30 years and is so much a part of the way I think.”

There has been no new entertainment tied to the franchise since the release of the original film – directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz and based on the designs of Brian Froud – but the Henson Company had been working on developing a backstory, with potential future entertainment incarnations in mind. In a February meeting at Henson’s offices, the idea came up to share this bible with the fan base through a prequel novel and to engage the fans through the author contest. “It just made a ton of sense to do this,” Sedita said. “It’s a part of the universe of the Jim Henson Company to give back to the fans this way.”

The contest asks professional and aspiring writers to submit 7,500- to 10,000-word stories from October 1 through December 31, based on the lore set forth on the new and comprehensive Dark Crystal Web site. Five finalists will write revised samples and detailed outlines, which will be posted on the site. The final winner, who will be selected by Sedita and Cheryl Henson, will receive a $10,000 one-book contract.

The two companies offered a panel on the contest at Comic-Con. “The audience was really excited,” said Sedita, noting that the property has had a life in fan fiction over the years. “They were taking notes and they asked some pretty intense questions.”

Even without any new entertainment to support it, Sedita believes the prequel will resonate with today’s readers. “I think the nostalgic readers will come to it, but if we find the right author and craft the story in the right way, we can bring in a new audience,” he said. “The broad strokes of the property really translate to the moment we’re in in YA.”

Dumb Diary Author Benton to Try Board Books

Artist, author, and licensor Jim Benton has been publishing books with Scholastic for nine years, starting with Dear Dumb Diary in 2004. In 2015, the company will publish the first board books from the prolific creator.

“It’s a natural next step,” said Abigail McAden, associate publisher and Benton’s primary editor at Scholastic. She pointed out that Benton’s books already range from middle-grade readers, such as Dear Dumb Diary, to It’s Happy Bunny books, which are appropriate for kids as young as fourth or fifth grade but are also sold in adult-targeted stores, such as Spencer’s, where It’s Happy Bunny merchandise is sold.

“I love that at Scholastic we can let him explore new things, like board books, and shape the content accordingly,” McAden said. “When he writes Dear Dumb Diary, he has the voice pretty dead on. He’s uncannily, very much like a middle school girl. And when you pull his work down to the preschool level, it’s still very Jim Benton. The books will still have his signature wacky sense of humor, but without the sarcasm.”

Next spring, Scholastic will also publish a new Benton picture book, The End (Almost), which may evolve into a series. And Dear Dumb Diary, with 8.6 million copies in print to date across 12 Dear Dumb Diary and four Dear Dumb Diary Year 2 titles, continues to move forward. The most recent title was published in July and another is planned for next June. In addition, the Hallmark Channel is premiering a movie musical based on the first book this September 6, with the screenplay co-written by Benton.

More Despicable Books from Little, Brown

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers published six titles for this summer’s Universal movie release Despicable Me 2: Meet the Minions – a leveled reader, 8x8 storybook, junior novelization, reusable sticker book, chapter book, and picture book, with all except the sticker book available as e-books as well – compared to four for the inaugural Despicable Me film in 2010. It shipped a combined total of 450,000 copies for the six titles this year, well beyond the 100,000 copies initially shipped of the first film’s four titles.

But the original books live on. Due to the success of the first film and its DVD release, LB shipped an additional 150,000 copies in 2011 and 2012, beyond the original 100,000. Those titles have seen new life with the second film, which opened at #1 at the box office and has remained at the top all summer, with $290.2 million in ticket sales worldwide to date.

The next film in the franchise will focus on the Minion characters. “We think the Minions are reaching an older demographic, too,” said Erin Stein, editorial director for brand, licensed, and media tie-in publishing. She noted that at Comic-Con, teens purchased copies of the Make a Minion Reusable Sticker Book at LB’s booth, and adults seemed to be as excited about their Minion keychain giveaways as younger fans were.

Little, Brown cross-promoted this year’s group of books with ads in Hasbro’s Despicable Me 2 Monopoly and Operation board game boxes and provided books for advance film screenings and blogger outreach prize packs, along with its Comic-Con presence.

“We slot a few movie tie-in programs per year, alongside larger evergreen properties such as Monster High, My Little Pony, and Transformers,” Stein explained. “It’s an important promotional piece of our licensed publishing program and balances the more long-term programs.” While she says the company is selective about which films it takes on, she added, “It’s worth taking a chance on something new if it really clicks with us, and if we see a lot of potential for growth into an evergreen franchise.”

In Brief

Pedigree Books is publishing a Sonic the Hedgehog annual in the U.K. About 20% of the content will feature augmented reality technology giving access to content via mobile devices.... Random House is the master publisher for DreamWorks Classic’s Peabody and Sherman movie; IDW is on board for comics and graphic novels and Ludia for iOS, Android, and Facebook games.... New books from Discovery Communications include Here Comes Honey Boo Boo with William Morrow; Sharkopedia, tied to Shark Week, with Time Home Entertainment; and Finding Bigfoot with Macmillan.... Unforgettable Enterprises is representing Quirk Books and illustrator John Martz in a licensing program for Who’s On First?, a children’s book inspired by the famous Abbott and Costello routine. Unforgettable handles licensing for the Abbott and Costello estates.... CBS Consumer Products signed Titan for original novels based on the Sherlock Holmes-inspired series Elementary.... Paramount licensed Crown Publishing Group, Titan, and Duckworth for World War Z tie-ins.... Hasbro authorized becker&mayer, IDW, and Little Brown to produce collectible gift books tied to Transformers and My Little Pony, leading up to the 30th anniversaries of both properties. Meanwhile, Egmont Media is publishing an interactive storybook app tied to Hasbro’s Transformers Prime.... Nickelodeon signed Gund for plush and Cartwheel Kids for toys based on its new Peter Rabbit series.... Big Idea, a division of DreamWorks, signed Group Publishing, Ideals Publications, and Mardel for new print formats, and Cupcake Digital, Fingerprint Play, and Story Panda for a variety of digital formats for VeggieTales.... babyGap will launch a limited-edition collection of Paddington Bear gifts and clothing in 2014, featuring the Peggy Fortnum illustrations from the original books.... NBCUniversal signed Lion Forge for digital comics based on 1980s and 1990s TV shows Airwolf, Knight Rider, Miami Vice, Punky Brewster, and Saved by the Bell.... SMC Entertainment assumes licensing responsibilities in North America for the book-based preschool TV series Poppy Cat.... Electronic Arts’ DICE Studio licensed several publishers for Battlefield 4, including Orion Publishing (novel), Titan (art books), and Prima (strategy guides).... Prima also launched official strategy guides for EA Sports’ Madden NFL 25 in both print and online editions. Prima has sold more than three million units under the Madden NFL brand since the first guide’s release 13 years ago.