Quirk Will Stay ‘Home Alone’ This Christmas

When Jason Rekulak, publisher of Quirk Books, was talking to an executive at 20th Century Fox about potential tie-in books to a film the studio is producing based on Quirk’s Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, conversation revealed that Home Alone was the studio’s top money-maker on the digital streaming channels. The exec mentioned that he wished he could do a picture book that seemed like a pre-film classic, something like The Polar Express.

The idea piqued Rekulak’s interest. “We don’t normally do movie tie-in picture books, but that intrigued us,” he said. Focusing on the half of the film that was from the boy’s point of view – starting with Kevin’s wish that his family would disappear, leaving out the family’s experiences in Paris, and ending when he wishes them back – seemed like a good approach.

“We thought, if we do that, it becomes a classic children’s storybook and a unique opportunity for a tie-in book that doesn’t feel like merchandise,” Rekulak says. “It has the burglars, it has the scary old guy next door. It’s the magical core of Home Alone. It’s a clear, coherent, fully realized story.”

The book, to be published in October, is illustrated by Kim Smith in a retro style that reflects the feel of the film. “If you look at the movie, it has a red, green, and white color palette. The house has an absurd amount of poinsettias,” says Rekulak. “We use the same palette, in a muted way.”

Quirk is now contemplating other properties that would lend themselves to classic picture book treatment. “We’re considering things that are touchstones for a certain generation of parents that would still resonate today,” Rekulak reports. “This was the most fun I’ve had all year. I’d like to do it again.”

A Force-ful New Line of Little Golden Books

On July 28, Random House released a Little Golden Book for each of the first six Star Wars films – The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and the Return of the Jedi – each with a custom golden spine featuring characters from the franchise. A boxed set of all six will release on September 1. This marks the first Little Golden Books that retell the films.

“We asked ourselves, what might Star Wars Little Golden Books have looked like if they had been published back in the 1950s or 1960s?” says Chris Angelilli, v-p, editor-in-chief, and director of license publishing at Random House Children’s Books. “We wanted the books to look perfectly natural alongside The Poky Little Puppy, The Saggy Baggy Elephant, Scuffy the Tugboat, and other classic Little Golden Books. When searching for illustrators, we were inspired by the works of Tibor Gergely, Garth Williams, Gustaf Tenggren, and – of course – Mary Blair. We also didn’t want every single Star Wars Little Golden Book to look alike, so we encouraged the artists to pursue their own style.”

Random House and Golden Books have been involved with Star Wars several times over the years, according to Angelilli. RH published the original Star Wars children’s books in the 1970s, as well as tie-in formats for the theatrical releases of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. Golden Books published a series tied to the Star Wars Special Edition releases in the 1990s and even two Star Wars Little Golden Books in 1998. The latter were original stories rather than complete retellings of the films.

In other Random House licensing news, the company is following up its first Step into Reading book tied to the nature-themed TV series Wild Kratts with more leveled readers, 8x8 storybooks, and Little Golden Books, starting in 2016. It is also working on four board books, two for fall 2016 and two for summer 2017, based on a newer brand called Blabla Kids. The Blabla Kids products are designed by Florence Wetterwald, who will be credited as the books’ author.

“The Blabla dolls and merchandise are very charming and ‘homemade’ in style, so we are looking at the books as trade versus licensed,” Angelilli says. “The creative process has been very intimate, the same as a trade project, with only a handful of people working on the book creation.”

Happiness Is… Creating Brands from Bestsellers

Chronicle Books is boosting its licensing activities through a “bestsellers-to-brands” strategy. “We’re looking at which brands have good potential for a life beyond the books,” says Lynda Zuber Sassi, Chronicle’s director of mass market and licensing. “Where can we leverage the popularity and extend the brand through our licensing partners?”

The initial focus is on three properties: the Happiness Is… and 642 Things franchises on the adult side, for which Chronicle is working with licensing agent HAP Consulting, and Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site from the children’s imprint, represented for licensing by Dimensional Branding.

For Happiness Is…, the company already has a range of books – including the flagship Happiness Is….500 Things To Be Happy About, by Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar – plus journals, notecards, sticky notes, and calendars. Chronicle is looking to expand the brand, with its tagline “a gift for every happy moment,” into categories such as individual greeting cards and party goods initially, followed by a wider range of products, from sleepwear and apparel to tabletop and pet items. “It’s inspiring and lighthearted, and it lends itself to being the go-to brand for happiness,” Zuber Sassi says.

642 Things, meanwhile, is a series of prompted, open-ended journals with titles such as 642 Things to Write About, 642 Fashion Things to Draw, and 104 Things to Photograph. “It’s about endless, quirky inspirations to get the creative mind going,” Zuber Sassi explains. “As we’ve seen with the adult coloring book trend, people are clamoring for creative outlets.” Potential categories include art supplies, board games, dry-erase boards, wall decals, and other items meant to spur creativity.

Chronicle introduced Happiness Is… and 642 Things – both of which have strong social media followings and wide distribution in all retail channels – at Licensing Expo in June. It also gauged interest there for other key franchises, and is working on some opportunities that arose at the show for those brands as well.

Dynamite’s Licensing Roster Explodes with New Properties

Comic book publisher Dynamite Entertainment has signed a diverse range of new licenses over the past few months, including Internet meme Grumpy Cat, YouTube comedy duo SMOSH, nostalgic videogame brand Atari, mixed martial arts property Cage Hero, 1990s Hispanic-skewing characters Homies, and Betty Boop. Most take the form of core digital and print comics and graphic novels, including a line of retro Atari Force comic reprints. But some will be featured in other Dynamite formats, which include art books, instructional books, and prose, as well. Atari and Homies, for example, will lend their names to art/history books.

“Doing licensed projects well, we feel, is a strength and core competency of the company, so we want to continue to expand our licensing roster,” says Rich Young, director of business development. “When looking at licenses, our main focus is their potential for comic books and graphic novels, but we keep an open mind. If there is a property that we can publish in multiple categories, we consider that as well.”

The new licenses help Dynamite to continually offer something different to its fans. “You always have to be coming up with fresh content and new ways to keep things interesting for the marketplace. Otherwise you’re dead in the water,” Young says. “As a comic publisher you’re only as good as the last month’s or quarter’s worth of books you solicited and shipped.” Young notes, however, that Dynamite has held many of its licenses for some time, including Red Sonja for 10 years and Army of Darkness for 11.

The company also has been expanding its presence in toys and games, including collectible statues such as The Women of Dynamite series, which crosses over several licensed franchises. It will announce its first games in the next few months.

In Brief

Scholastic is providing mini books to be included in a DVD-plus-book gift set in conjunction with licensor-producer eOne’s release of Peppa Pig: The School Bus Trip, based on the Nick Jr. TV series.... Genius Brands signed Kids Preferred for Llama Llama plush toys, puppets, and jack-in-the-boxes…. Houghton Mifflin partnered with Sesame Workshop for Sesame Street Let’s Cook!, featuring 50 recipes and an ABC of ingredients.... Licensing agency Remarkable Brands will represent Bear in Underwear (Blue Apple Books), Veggies with Wedgies (Simon & Schuster), and other brands owned by Todd Goldman (a.k.a. Todd H. Doodler).... Disney Consumer Products is overseeing a merchandising program for the Marvel comic book event Secret Wars, encompassing apparel, collectibles, and other products.... Line Webtoon, a digital comic service, partnered with YouTube style star Michelle Phan for a 27-chapter series called The Enchantress.... Toy State is creating Nikko-branded DC Super Friends remote-controlled vehicles under license from Warner Bros. Consumer Products.... Mattel and Speakaboos are teaming for a Thomas & Friends interactive adventure story on Google Play.... Zenescope Entertainment partnered with Phicen for collectible figures tied to its comic books, including Van Helsing, Wonderland, Neverland, Inferno, OZ, and Robyn Hood.... Mercis signed BOTI Global for Miffy toys.... IDW and its agent Idea Patch have signed Trau & Loevner for Zombies vs. Robot apparel and Fright Rags for 30 Days of Night apparel.