Can Little, Brown Fix It? Yes It Can!
Little, Brown is launching a series of books tied to the rebooted preschool TV series Bob the Builder, produced by Mattel’s HIT Entertainment division. The show, which has aired on PBS in the U.S. since last November, has a new look and introduces kids ages 2–6 to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), while promoting social-emotional growth.
The team at Little, Brown, which has long worked with Mattel on the Ever After High and Monster High series, was looking for a preschool property. It knew parents and teachers would be familiar with Bob from the earlier incarnation of the series that ran on Nick Jr. from 2001–2005 and on PBS Kids thereafter, according to Kara Sargent, editor-in-chief, brand and licensed publishing. She adds that the show’s themes were also appealing. “It has really great messaging for preschoolers,” she says. “It’s about teamwork, but it’s also about recovering from mistakes. In almost every episode, one of the machines makes a big mistake and then owns up to it, and the team rallies together to fix it.”
The new show takes its cues from the original, but it differs in many ways. “The brand tenets are still there,” Sargent says. “There are machines and building and trucks and big skyscrapers. But the new animation style brings it to new heights, and the storytelling expands in new directions. There’s a more robust cast of characters. Bob is much more three-dimensional; he’s not just a builder, he sort of takes on the role of the dad and helps teach the team life lessons.”
The first list of eight titles, released on July 12, features two 8x8s, two leveled readers, three board books with novelty features, and a deluxe novelty storybook. Future titles will likely include tie-ins to holiday and special episodes, as well as core preschool formats.
S&S Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts
Simon & Schuster is the children’s publishing licensee for the all-female remake of Ghostbusters. Its movie tie-ins, which hit stores in June, include a novelization, a handbook, and two ready-to-reads for ages 6–11.
In the months leading up to the release, the movie generated vehement online protests, particularly about the casting, from a pocket of the original film’s fans. “We thought it was a big summer movie with a great script, a fun new take, and a fantastic cast, and that it would make great summer reading,” says Valerie Garfield, v-p, publisher, novelty and licensed publishing, who says the controversy did not affect the publishing strategy or sell-in. “Did we have one iota that this would unfold? No. We thought the movie would attract attention, but not the kind it has attracted. We’re very proud to support it and watch the interesting dialogue around it.”
S&S decided to focus on tie-in formats that were “a bit older than 8x8s,” Garfield says. “The movie is charming, but it’s about ghosts and the supernatural, so it may not be for younger readers.” She also expected the readership to break 50/50 male and female, despite the casting. “We didn’t look at it as a girls’ property in the least. Maybe we were naïve, but we didn’t think the women characters would be a barrier. It’s got slime!”
Meanwhile, S&S has signed on with Warner Bros. Consumer Products to create a series of Batman books specifically tailored to boys 7–10, starting with two 8x8 storybooks this fall. Beginning readers and chapter books will follow. “This is a more kid-friendly Batman,” Garfield says. “We use active poses, but not violent poses. We show Batman making a fist, but he’s not punching. For the Joker, we show a little more of his sillier side than his sinister side. These are subtle changes, but they make a big difference.”
For 2017, S&S secured to rights to Sony’s Emojimovie: Express Yourself, which is about the lives of the emojis that live in a 15-year-old’s phone. Formats planned include ready-to-reads, an 8x8 with stickers, a board book with an emoji wheel, and a junior novelization for kids 5–7. “These are the first books kids will be able to read, but their parents won’t,” Garfield jokes.
Disney’s ‘Frozen’ Journey North Starts with Publishing
Random House’s deluxe novel Disney Frozen Northern Lights: Journey to the Lights, released on July 5, takes the characters from Frozen – the $1.27 billion global box office hit – on a new adventure to solve the dimming of the Northern Lights. “It’s a further extension of the story and the world of the movie, which is always our objective in publishing,” says Jeanne Mosure, senior v-p and group publisher, Disney Publishing Worldwide. In addition to featuring Anna, Elsa, Olaf, and friends, the book introduces a new character, Little Rock.
Disney Frozen Northern Lights: Journey to the Lights, which was a collaboration between Disney’s publishing unit and film studio, has, in turn, inspired additional spin-off book formats from Disney and its licensees, appealing to fans ranging in age from 3 to 12, all under the Disney Frozen Northern Lights umbrella. In September 2016 will come a sticker book and a Big Golden Book from Random House, which will follow up with a Step into Reading title in January and another Big Golden Book in July 2017. Meanwhile, Disney Book Group will offer Disney Frozen Northern Lights: Adventure Notebook, an in-world title “written by” the characters Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff, for ages 8–12, in November 2016.
Disney and some of its licensees will also feature Northern Lights content within their existing Frozen publishing programs. In September, there will be two Northern Lights stories among 18 total in the Disney Press Frozen Storybook Collection. One of Joe Books’ Frozen comic books, due in October, will feature Northern Lights content, and Redan will publish a full issue of Frozen magazine devoted to the new story. Other publishers involved with the program include Identity Direct, which is offering a personalized book, and Parragon, which is selling Happy Tins – a collector tin featuring books with products such as art supplies – among other formats.
Beyond publishing, the story is the basis for a series of four animated shorts produced by the Lego Group, featuring the distinctive Lego style and sense of humor and utilizing the voices of the actors from the original film. The shorts will air on the Disney Channel and digital platforms this fall. Disney is also offering digital games based on the property, and both its Frozen website and its new Frozen Instagram account will feature content from the story. Frozen licensee Jakks Pacific is rolling out a doll and role-play toys based on the story this fall, with other Frozen merchandise licensees rolling out Northern Lights products in 2017.
Traditional Frozen publishing continues as well, of course, with more than 700 Frozen books (including Northern Lights titles) coming out globally in the second half of 2016, including a Matthew Reinhart pop-up from Disney Editions in October. All told, there have been 5,000 Frozen books to date, according to Disney. “It’s been so successful around the world,” Mosure says, adding, “New formats continue to do well year after year.”
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