Starting in January 2016, Parragon will become the licensee for core coloring, sticker, and activity books for many of Disney’s key franchises, including Frozen, Disney Princess, Disney Princess Palace Pets, and existing and new Disney-Pixar films. The company has published several Disney titles in specialty formats in the past, but this marks its first broad-based Disney license in North America.
“We plan to be responsive to the market, to listen and adapt,” says Paul Gregory, president of Bath, England-headquartered Parragon Publishing. He has been in the U.S. this week showing the company’s range of Disney formats to key retailers. “This license could be a game-changer in the activity market. We don’t want to follow what the others are doing. We want to be a leader and have the others follow us.”
Long-time Disney partner Random House is the current licensee for coloring and activity titles tied to these franchises. After January, it will continue to publish novelizations, leveled readers, board books, picture books, and other young reader formats tied to Disney properties, according to Seale Ballenger, publicity director for Disney Publishing Worldwide. “The company is placing particular emphasis on expanding its program in growing categories, including chapter books,” he says.
Meanwhile, Parragon will launch with 37 books across nine different series, Gregory reports, and will publish a total of 85 titles in the first year of the deal, including 20 movie tie-ins. (Among the Disney-Pixar films scheduled for 2016 and 2017 are Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory and Toy Story 4.)
Key series in the first list will include 1000 Stickers, Copy Coloring (which are packaged with chunky crayons), Jumbo Activity Packs, and premium Sticker Treasuries. Prices will be concentrated in the $2.99 to $9.99 range at first, with later expansion down to $.99 for value chains and up to $30 specials for club stores such as Costco.
Most of the initial formats are being brought in from international territories – Parragon holds the Disney license in 35 countries – with slight tweaks for U.S. consumers. “We’re in almost every country, bar Antarctica, and we’re starting with formats that have been proven around the world over a long period of time,” Gregory says. “But the future’s a blank sheet of paper. We’ve been presenting 40 different formats to retailers [in North America] and getting feedback about what they like and what their customers want. We want to get their thoughts and ask them how they can help shape the program.”
Parragon first secured the Disney license in 2005, starting with the U.K. Its Disney-licensed books account for 25% of total children’s book sales in the Australia/New Zealand market, Gregory reports. Most recently, the company has expanded its Disney program into Singapore and Malaysia and Sweden, Denmark, and Norway.