Candlewick Corrals Shaun the Sheep
Candlewick Entertainment is publishing four tie-in titles – a novel, two early readers, and a board book – linked to Shaun the Sheep: The Movie, produced by Aardman Animations and being released by Lionsgate on August 5. The titles follow Candlewick’s debut of an original fiction series starring Shaun, called Shaun the Sheep: Tales from Mossy Bottom Farm, which launched with an ebook-only title last November and a print-and-ebook title, Shaun the Sheep: The Beast of Soggy Moor, in February. Two more books are planned for this fall.
Shaun debuted as a character in the short film Wallace & Gromit: A Close Shave, and his namesake TV series has been on the air for a decade in the U.K. In the U.S., the series has been available only through streaming, initially on Netflix and currently on Amazon Prime.
“We try to be as global as possible [when seeking licenses],” says Joan Powers, group editorial director of Candlewick Entertainment. “Shaun is beloved in the U.K. and we knew it would be strong there, and in other countries. We didn’t have to rely on the U.S., where he’s less well known. But the people who love Shaun here love him a lot.” The company has been happy with the U.S. results so far; the first Mossy Bottom Farm title has gone back to press. “The sales here are on a par with the U.K., where Shaun is a household name,” Powers says.
“It can be hard to find [licensed] properties that are a good fit for Candlewick,” she adds. “We’re not looking for general cartoony things. But we love working with Aardman. They’re a lot like us; they’re small and independent and do their own thing.”
Aardman’s properties, including Shaun and Wallace & Gromit, have been represented for licensing in the U.S. by JLK Brand Group since May.
Return of the Powerpuff Girls
Penguin Young Readers Group has added the new version of Cartoon Network’s Powerpuff Girls to the roster of properties under its Cartoon Network Books imprint. The first books will debut in fall 2016, after the spring premiere of the new TV series, with formats currently under discussion. “It’s really about planning for the long-term, 2017 and beyond,” says Lori Burke, Penguin’s executive director of licensing acquisitions and media. According to Burke, “The new show is slightly modernized, but it still has the fundamentals. They haven’t taken away what’s good about it.”
The series is a reboot of the classic Powerpuff Girls TV show, which debuted in 1998 and had a total of 78 episodes, driving $2.5 billion in retail sales of licensed merchandise globally, according to Cartoon Network. Spin Master will be the worldwide master toy licensee for the new iteration, with a range of playthings debuting in 2016.
Separately, Penguin has signed on as the publishing licensee for a newer property, FremantleMedia’s Kate & Mim-Mim, a preschool TV series that airs in 80 countries. In the U.S., it will begin its second season on Disney Junior later this year. Penguin holds North American rights for storybooks, leveled readers, e-books, and coloring and activity formats.
The company went in a slightly different direction with another recently acquired license, Shovel Night, an interactive quest-based action-adventure game for console and computer platforms, from developer Yacht Club Games. “It has a rich storytelling potential,” says Burke.
Kappa Cooks with Disney
Kappa Books is introducing a new licensed cookbook format specifically for the value channel. The digest-sized paperbacks marry licensed characters with recipes and other content provided by ChopChop magazine. The kids’ publication is from ChopChopKids, a nonprofit organization that teaches children to cook with their families as a means to help reverse the obesity and hunger epidemics. ChopChop’s editorial staffers author the books.
Disney, which already has cookbooks on the market at higher price points, is the first property owner to lend its characters to the new format. “This matches Disney’s mantra of healthy eating, with the validation of ChopChop’s James Beard Award-winning healthy content,” says Andrew Steinberg, president of Kappa’s Modern Publishing division. The first four titles ship this summer, including Anna’s Best Breakfast Cookbook and Frozen Treats Cookbook, both tied to the film Frozen; Disney Princess Tea Party Book; and Disney After School Snacks Cookbook, which features characters from Disney and Pixar films.
Kappa is in negotiations with other licensors for further titles in the new format.
Perhaps a ‘Player Piano’?
The Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Trust has retained brand strategy and design firm Kick Design to develop a consumer products program inspired by Vonnegut’s writings. Kick has created several design collections based on Vonnegut’s text and drawings (including the well-known asterisk from Breakfast of Champions and phrases from Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle). Planned products include apparel and accessories, home goods, stationery, spirits, apps, and gifts.
“The name of Vonnegut has such gravitas,” says Eddie Jabbour, Kick’s creative director. “There are very few writers whose words have even more relevance today than when they were written. The same moral and philosophical issues he was writing about decades ago are still applicable today.”
Jabbour notes that licensing will raise funds for the Trust, but almost as important is its ability to attract new audiences. “Vonnegut’s fans are multigenerational and represent a very passionate circle,” Jabbour says. “Licensing can extend that circle and bring more awareness to the genius of Vonnegut.” Licensees to date include Out of Print, Postertext, Unemployed Philosophers Guild, and Litographs.
Licensed merchandise can help co-promote literary products as well, such as through retail cross-merchandising or e-commerce recommendations. To create a unified look for merchandise and e-publishing, Rosetta is using Kick’s branding for its Vonnegut e-book list, while Audible is doing the same for its audiobooks, including its recently released edition of Breakfast of Champions (read by John Malkovich).
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