Scholastic Grows with Girl Power
Scholastic has acquired the license for She-Ra, the new Netflix-distributed series from DreamWorks, based on the 1980s TV show and Mattel toy. “We told DreamWorks we were specifically looking for girl-empowerment properties, and when they first shared the news about She-Ra with us, we couldn’t wait to see it,” said Debra Dorfman, v-p and publisher, global licensing, brands, and media at Scholastic, Inc. “When we saw it, we were blown away by the storylines, the friendship themes, the look of it, and the strong female character who was an everygirl at the same time.”
The core of the program is an original middle-grade chapter book series by Tracey West, with the first title, She-Ra: Origin of a Hero, currently set for release on July 1, 2019, and a second scheduled for August. A graphic novel by showrunner Noelle Stevenson and an in-world guidebook are also on tap, as well as guided journals and novelty box sets.
Speaking of girl power, Scholastic is also releasing original YA novels and an in-world guidebook for RWBY, a YouTube series from Rooster Teeth that launched in July 2013 on YouTube that features four main girl characters training to be huntresses. The book series will launch just before San Diego Comic-Con next July, and will show what happens after the fall of the academy the girls attend, which is portrayed in the TV series. “There’s so much room for original storytelling,” Dorfman said.
Dora Teaches the World English
Nickelodeon has partnered with Oxford University Press’s English Language Teaching (ELT) division for a comprehensive program that will reach more than 200,000 preschoolers in 30 territories. The venture, which will launch in Chinese classrooms in January 2019, encompasses three levels, for ages three through six.
“Education has been one of the fundamental properties of our brand and Dora the Explorer throughout our history,” said Linda Lee, the network’s v-p of global publishing. “We’ve done other language learning products, but nothing with the same breadth and depth as this. For us, this is a great step into the ELT world, with a partner that has so much brand recognition in that space.”
“We’ve had an ongoing dialogue with Nickelodeon for years,” said Peter Marshall, managing director for OUP’s ELT division. “With Dora you have an internationally recognized, much-loved character who resonates with young learners. The combination of Dora with the educational and English language learning expertise we have at OUP is a really good one.”
The program has two parts. Learn English with Dora the Explorer is the coursework component, encompassing 170 different products, including activity books, readers, and phonics books; apps, games, and music; and parents’ and teachers’ guides. The lessons are wrapped around episodic and thematic content from the television series.
The second component is Reading Stars, a graded series of 45 phonics and storybook readers to complement the classroom content, sold both in schools and at retail. The readers highlight two other Nickelodeon preschool properties, STEM-centric Blaze and the Monster Machines, and math-infused Team Umizoomi, along with Dora.
“There are a lot of storybooks out there, but very few are graded to an ELT curriculum,” said Clare Hambly, OUP’s primary publisher. “We’ve both learned so much from working together. The ELT curriculum is new for Nickelodeon, and we’ve learned a lot about the brand guidelines they’ve put in place to protect Dora and the brand.”
A Handbook for Odd Squad Agents-in-Training
Macmillan’s Imprint division has acquired the rights from Sinking Ship Entertainment for books tied to the PBS-aired live-action series Odd Squad.
“For years I’ve been hearing from friends who are parents that they and their kids love the show,” said Erin Stein, Imprint’s publisher. “When I met with Sinking Ship at the Licensing Show, it seemed really fun and really different. It’s funny and wacky and you’re learning math lessons when you don’t realize it.”
Although Macmillan has exclusive master publishing rights for North America, it is starting with just one title in fall 2019. “Sinking Ship wanted to do something really creative with the publishing, and that’s music to my ears,” Stein said. “We hope this will be the must-have book to go with the show. If it’s successful, the Odd Squad world is very complicated and there’s plenty of content to keep the program going.”
The middle grade handbook takes the form of an in-world training manual for new Odd Squad agents, including training tips and how-tos, weaving in the math concepts that are used as tools to solve cases. “Licensed handbooks are really working, and the in-world concept is what kids want nowadays,” said Stein. “The book is organized so it feels like inside tips that only agents would have, and it extends the experience of being an agent.” The show’s creators, Tim McKeon and Adam Peltzman, are the authors.
Joe Books’ Princess Goes to Target
Disney Consumer Products and its licensees Hasbro and Hybrid Apparel have launched a range of merchandise inspired by Amy Mebberson’s illustrations for Joe Books’ licensed Disney Princess comic books, published since spring 2016. The Disney Princess Comics line of dolls and clothing, along with a new set of five books created for the initiative, was highlighted exclusively in Target stores during August.
The spotlight books—one each, featuring Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Rapunzel—are 6x9 paper-over-board hardcovers consisting of 64 pages of comic strips, some of which are new and some repurposed from Joe Books’ series. Mebberson worked closely with Hasbro, Hybrid, and Target to design the merchandise, as well as with Joe Books on the new titles. “She’s nearly the whole creative force behind the launch of the comics,” said Steve Osgoode, Joe Books’ president and publisher. “They have a unique look and feel.”
At Target, the books were displayed along with the figures and apparel in both the book and toy departments. “It’s been great how front-and-center everyone wanted to make the strips and the comic books in this,” Osgoode said. “We’re a relatively new player and a small player, especially compared to the other partners, so it’s been a remarkable thing to see.” In addition to joint displays, images of the comic strips and book covers appear on Hasbro’s boxes.
“Consumers are embracing the rollout,” Osgoode added. “You see pictures on social media of kids wearing princess attire, sitting on the floor in Target reading the books. It’s a level of consumer awareness that we haven’t had, and we’ll see the benefits of that across all our products.”
Now that the promotional period is over, the books will move into Target’s book departments for the holiday season, before expanding into broader distribution in 2019, coinciding with Hasbro’s and Hybrid’s product roll-out.
Bendon Binges on Netflix Properties
The newest additions to Bendon’s extensive portfolio of licenses for the coloring and activity category, Llama Llama and True and the Rainbow Kingdom, are both Netflix Originals. “More brands are starting to come from streaming and that’s where kids are watching,” said Jenny Hastings, Bendon’s executive v-p.
True, licensed by Brand Central on behalf of Guru Studios, was recently renewed for a fourth season. “It’s bright and colorful and fits right in line with our category,” Hastings said. The property is being featured on all of Bendon’s standard coloring and activity book and kit formats, with the assortment expected to be ready to ship to retailers in the second quarter of 2019.
Llama Llama is a different type of license in that it is based on the well-known Anna Dewdney books published by Viking. “We try to have a mix of traditional brands along with current hits and movies,” Hastings explained. “It’s the tried-and-true nature of the brand and the storybook side of it that appealed to us about Llama Llama.” The program will launch in the first quarter of 2019.
Meanwhile, many of Bendon’s longtime licensing partners are releasing new properties. Hastings noted that retail accounts are increasingly asking for retro brands, leading the studios to bring back or rethink older properties. Nickelodeon recently debuted a reimagined Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV show and is rejuvenating SpongeBob SquarePants with new toys and other products, for example. For 2019, Hastings reported that retailers are looking forward to the Toy Story and Frozen sequels from Disney.
Scholastic’s tie-ins to the new Clifford TV series will launch in 2019, starting with It’s Pool Time, an 8x8 storybook, in May. Three more tie-ins will follow in the summer and fall, with a full program debuting in 2020. The original jacketed picture book will be released in January 2019.... Nickelodeon licensed DK for two adult humor titles for the U.K., U.S., and Canadian markets: Hey Arnold! Guide to Relationships and Rugrats: Guide to Adulting.... Highlights for Children signed Phoenix International for novelty books and Leap Year for activity and arts and crafts products, as well as Siscovers for bedding and home décor.... Zenescope is publishing a two-part graphic novel series tied to Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The comic book publisher also signed FanSets for collectible pins based on its characters.... Disney Lucasfilm Press has published the first-ever original picture book tied to Star Wars, Are You Scared, Darth Vader?, written by Adam Rex.... 20th Century Fox has signed Rizzoli for The Official Bob’s Burgers Sticker Book and the Official Bob’s Burgers Guided Journal, follow-ups to its The Bob’s Burgers Burger Book: Real Recipes for Joke Burgers. Meanwhile, Penguin has released a second Bob’s Burgers Mad Libs title.... Spotlight Licensing has signed Cobble Hill Puzzle Company as the latest licensee for The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.... Valiant Entertainment partnered with VirtTrade for a digital collectible card game app featuring its characters…. Author Jake Parker and his agency Hansen Literary Management have retained Alita’s Brand Bar as their licensing and promotional representative for Inktober, a monthlong celebration of ink drawing.... In the U.K., Haynes Publishing has announced a new licensing program for its relaunched technical manual and lifestyle brand, Bluffer’s Guides.... Elf on the Shelf and its U.K. agent Rocket Licensing signed Hachette Children’s Books for The Elf on the Shelf Bumper Activity Book, featuring games, puzzles, coloring pages, and more than 150 stickers.