An Expansion of Richard Scarry’s Busy World
About six months ago, Random House Children’s Books took on consumer products rights for its longtime author Richard Scarry and his Busytown brand, forging a representation deal with Scarry’s son Huck, who manages the estate. Huck Scarry is working with Random House to develop a new logo and style guide that captures a more contemporary, streamlined take on the property’s classic busy style, ensuring that all licensees’ products, as well as books, have a consistent look at retail.
“With the pandemic, people have gravitated toward the classic, nostalgic brands they grew up with,” said Rachel Bader, director of licensing at Random House. “This property lines up with a lot of the hot spots for parents with young kids.” She noted that parents are looking for properties that teach preschoolers about the world around them, occupy them at home or on the go, take them away from the screen, and teach them word recognition and early reading, all of which apply to Scarry’s work.
The author had some licensing success in the past, when Cookie Jar Entertainment, the producer of the TV series Busytown Mysteries, which ran for two seasons starting in 2007, oversaw a merchandise program based on that show. But licensing activity has been limited recently and only one licensee, Ravensburger, was making Richard Scarry product at the time of the representation deal.
Since then, Random House has renewed Ravensburger’s agreement, for a Richard Scarry version of the search-and-find board game Eye Found it. It has also signed three new licensees: Yottoy for plush; University Games for board games, card games, and puzzles; and Out of Print for adult and children’s t-shirts, fleece sweatshirts, onesies, tote bags, pouches, socks, and enamel pins. Other products being considered include educational and role-play toys; vehicles and playsets; electronic, sound, and digital toys; arts and crafts; party goods and stationery; sleepwear, tops, and bottoms for babies and toddlers; home goods; and foods such as cereal or healthy snacks.
RHCB is expanding its Scarry publishing program as well. “We are ramping it up a little bit, with the licensing extensions in mind,” said Sonali Fry, v-p and publishing director, who oversees Scarry publishing for RH. The company is currently releasing six to eight titles per year, versus three to five in the past, and may boost that number as the licensing program expands further. New releases include a mix of new titles in established formats, such as board books, readers, picture books, and Little Golden Books, as well as new formats for the brand, including sticker and activity books, novelty board books, 100 First Words, and 5-Minute Stories.
Pikachu Heads to Preschool
Pikachu Press, founded in 2012 as the in-house book publishing arm of the Pokémon Company International, is launching a line of chunky interactive board books under the Pokémon Primers brand. The series started with Pokémon Primers: ABC Book and Pokémon Primers: 123 Book, published in March, to be followed by two more titles, on colors and shapes, in October. This is the first time the company has released books for this age group, although some of its licensees have published into this space. Each book has more than 100 flaps that reveal key icons of the franchise, such as Poké balls and berries, as well as a pronunciation guide for Pokémon character names.
Part of the impetus for the series was the success of the Pokémon Playhouse preschool app, combined with this year’s 25th anniversary of the property. “We realized that our fans were starting to have kids of their own and wanted to bring their kids into something they love,” said Heather Dalgliesh, director of publishing. She noted that the books serve as a “communications bridge,” bringing kids into the property for the first time as well as educating parents on the world of Pokémon, giving both a common language. “We’re excited for the reception we’ve had for the books,” she added. “There seems to be a place for these in the hearts of Pokémon fans.”
Pikachu Press publishes activity, sticker, pop-up books, and book-plus titles tied to the world of Pokémon. Pokémon Company International also works with outside licensees, including Scholastic for handbooks, guidebooks, and chapter books; Viz for graphic novels; Random House for Little Golden Books; Abrams for calendars; and Legendary Comics for Pokémon: Detective Pikachu movie tie-ins.
Bananya Added to Running Press Kids’ List
Running Press published a children’s book, The Secret Life of Bananyas, on April 6, following up on a Bananya mini kit released last December. Both are sold under license from Crunchyroll, one of the leading anime distribution companies in North America. The book and kit, both based on Crunchyroll’s Bananya TV series, are available across major book retailers as well as in Target and Walmart and in the Crunchyroll Store.
Bananya appealed to the Running Press team in part because the company has had success with cute “kawaii” properties, including Hello Kitty, Pusheen, Gudetama, and Aggretsuko, in its mini kit and RP Studio lines, said Jennifer Leczkowski, director of RP Minis and licensing. She noted that she had seen a lot of Bananya merchandise in the retailers where the mini kits are sold, but no Bananya books. “Who wouldn’t love a kitty in a banana?,” Leczkowski asked. “We thought it was adorable.”
Running Press’s relationship with Crunchyroll also includes a mini-kit based on Mitchiri Neko, another kawaii cat brand, as well as an upcoming book for adults that includes several of the distributor’s properties. The Secret Life of Bananyas serves as an official illustrated guide to the characters and their adventures and represents RP Kids’ first foray into character guides.
The Secret Life of Bananyas is the latest addition to the expanding Bananya licensing program, which has generated sales of more than one million units of product to date. Bananya merchandise includes apparel and accessories, Bluetooth speakers, puzzles, carbonated beverages, fabric, vinyl figures, board games, novelties, pins, and posters.
Separately, RP Kids is expanding its Bob Ross children’s program, adding the Bob Ross Activity Book in June and This Is Your World: The Story of Bob Ross in September, followed by another picture book and a board book coming in 2022. “People just can’t get enough of Bob Ross,” Leczkowski said. Other new licensed titles for 2021 include a Janis Joplin addition to the Baby Rocker series (April); a Sesame Street mindfulness title, Breathe, Think, Do with Elmo (July); a picture book based on the original Ghostbusters movie (September); and an Elf on the Shelf search-and-find title (October).
Jokar Brings Meoshi World Publishing to the Americas
Jon Rosenberg, president of Jokar Productions, has been retained as the agent representing Korean property Meoshi World for publishing and stationery in the Americas. The brand was created by Lima Kim and Jan Borkowski at HwaHwa Studio in South Korea. It was brought to Rosenberg by Kevin Gillis, founder of Run with Us Productions, the Canadian production company that is developing the brand for television.
“A lot of properties are pitched to me, and a lot of times it’s an obvious ‘no,’ ” Rosenberg said. “But this one just resonated. It has human values, good storytelling, and life lessons along the way. And the timing’s right. Korean culture in the Western world is of great interest right now.”
The property is about a strong female protagonist, Jimin, and her friend Hoon. Jimin lives in both the real world and the myth world, and her guide to the latter is Meoshin, a pet cat in the real world who shape-shifts into a powerful cat-being in the myth world. The Meoshi World universe encompasses hundreds of mythological creatures. “It’s a storyline based on mythology, monsters, and ghosts, which is appealing,” Rosenberg said.
Meoshi World is publishing-led, with two illustrated character guides having been released in South Korea and a third guide in development. Rosenberg is charged with bringing those books to North and South America, as well as creating original publishing based on the property for kids 3–12, including activity and sticker books, early reading titles, chapter books, and middle-grade novels, as well as notebooks, journals, and calendars.
Animation is in development, as is a consumer products program. “But we’re not dependent on that at all,” Rosenberg said. “It can really live on its own in publishing.”
Dr. Seuss Enterprises is celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Lorax with a line of sustainable licensed products from new and existing licensees, including plush from Aurora, travel tumblers from Tervis, apparel from Tentree, a bracelet from MantraBand, dog toys from Barkbox, interactive digital books from Oceanhouse Media, and a limited-edition maquette sculpture by artist Leon Rijn from Chase Art. Publisher Random House Children’s Books is also releasing new titles printed on recycled paper, including The Lorax Deluxe Doodle Book, The Lorax: 50th Anniversary Edition, Dr. Seuss’s Thank You for Being Green and Speaking for the Trees, and Let’s Go to the Garden! With Dr. Seuss’ Lorax…. Random House Children’s Books has secured consumer products rights to Grumpy Monkey, the bestselling picture book by Suzanne Lang, illustrated by Max Lang. Yottoy is introducing plush this summer, Isaac Morris has just been signed for apparel, and RHCB’s sister imprint Clarkson Potter is debuting puzzles next spring…. Dick Bruna’s Miffy will appear on infant and toddler apparel from Australian company Cotton On and plush from U.S. toy company Douglas…. Nelvana has paired with Hot Topic for a line of Max and Ruby t-shirts for young adults, spurred by the recent popularity of the property on Tik Tok…. ZAG’s latest licensees for Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir include Crayola for coloring and activity books and Inkology for notebooks and stationery…. IDW is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog with an 80-page comic book, as well as a deluxe hardcover edition with bonus content. IDW is also releasing Sonic the Hedgehog: The IDW Collection, Vol. 1, first in a new line of oversized hardcover editions including ongoing series, annuals, and mini-series being released in the recommended reading order…. Separately, IDW paired with Humble Bundle for Humble Comics Bundle: Dungeons & Dragons by IDW Publishing, which includes up to 28 Dungeons & Dragons graphic novels, as well as individual issues of the D&D series Infernal Tides and At the Spine of the World. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Hasbro Children’s Fund. Hasbro and its Wizard of the Coasts division own the rights to D&D…. Macmillan Children’s Books in the U.K. will publish a picture book, film tie-in picture book, and activity and novelty books tied to Aardman Animations’ 30-minute stop-motion holiday special, Robin Robin, which will launch on Netflix in November…. Doritos purchased more than 13,000 copies of Flat Stanley books from HarperCollins to donate to First Book, playing off the brand’s commercials starring Matthew McConaughey. The series of ads, which debuted during the Super Bowl and will run through 2021, were inspired by Flat Stanley and star a flat McConaughey, who regains his multiple dimensions after eating new Doritos 3D Crunch chips.