From Disney to Dogs, Random House Expands Its Tie-In Range

This fall, Random House Children’s Books is releasing seven titles for kids ages 3–7 tied to the feature film Encanto which premieres in theaters on November 24. “The animation is absolutely stunning, and the music is amazing,” said Chris Angelilli, v-p and editor-in-chief of licensed publishing. “It’s Disney, so it has humor and pulls at the heartstrings. And it has diverse characters and a diverse cast.”

The movie tells the story of 15-year-old Mirabel, the only child who lacks a unique gift, such as super strength or the power to heal, within her large Colombian family, the Madrigals. When the magic of the Encanto where the family lives is threatened, Mirabel sets out on a journey to bring the magic back to her household. The characters are voiced by Stephanie Beatriz, Wilmer Valderrama, and John Leguizamo, among others, with Lin Manuel-Miranda contributing original songs.

Initial titles include a deluxe 8x8 pictureback, with text in both Spanish and English, a Little Golden Book, Step 2 and Step 3 Step into Reading titles, and a junior novelization and deluxe junior novelization, all out October 12, as well as a tabbed board book introducing the many characters in the film, set for a November 9 release. A graphic novel, a format that RH has recently been including in its licensed programs, is in development but does not yet have a pub date.

In addition to Encanto, RHCB is publishing books for the new Disney+ streaming series Monsters at Work, which debuted in July and is based on the classic Disney/Pixar film Monsters, Inc. The first three titles, the 8x8 Meet the Monsters!, a digest-sized The Laugh Floor Joke Book, and a Step 3 Step into Reading book, Tyler’s First Job, debuted on September 7, with another 8x8 coming next spring and a Screen Comix title—a graphic novel illustrated with screen grabs—set for summer. Separately, a two-in-one 8x8 pictureback tied to Dug Days, a series of animated shorts that premiered on Disney+ this fall and is based on the dog from the Disney/Pixar film Up, released on September 28. “We fell in love with the property as soon as we saw some early animation,” Angelilli said. The book contains stories from two episodes, “Dug Meets the Puppies” and “Dug Versus Squirrel.”

Beyond Disney, RHCB is expanding its publishing program this fall for the Netflix series Go, Dog. Go!, based on the classic P.D. Eastman title. Two new Golden Books, Happy Sniffsmas! and Happy Ballentine’s Day!, came out October 1 and December 21, respectively. The first collection of two Step into Reading titles based on the show came out in February, close to the January premiere, thanks to the existing awareness for the book. They were followed by an activity title with a rainbow pen in the summer. Next year comes an Easter board book and two Step into Reading titles, one for Father’s Day and one environmentally themed. “The plan is to build a backlist of core formats, especially seasonal and Step into Reading titles, which is what we do for all of our animated series,” Angelilli said.

Two studios, Dreamworks Animation and Wildbrain, produce Go, Dog. Go!, with Random House, with the P.D. Eastman estate reviewing all the scripts and other materials. “We couldn’t be happier with it,” Angelelli said. “It’s a great show. Wildbrain and Dreamworks have a real feeling for the original book. They just got it, right from the beginning.”

That Girl Lay Lay and Nickelodeon Choose Scholastic

Scholastic is pairing with Nickelodeon and ViacomCBS Consumer Products for a collection of books for kids ages 7–10, for the U.S. and Canadian markets, inspired by 14-year-old hip hop artist Alaya “That Girl Lay Lay” High. Her new comedy show, That Girl Lay Lay, launched on Nickelodeon on September 23, but the publishing program is tied to Lay Lay herself and not the series.

“I loved her positive messages and what she’s achieved at such a young age,” said Debra Dorfman, Scholastic’s v-p and publisher, global licensing, media, and brands. “It’s aspirational for young kids. She has self-confidence and is passionate about music. She’s driven, but she has so many other interests. At the end of the day she’s a kid who’s a big dreamer.”

The first list includes three titles. It’s Time to #Slay, written by That Girl Lay Lay with Kwyn Bader, releasing on January 14, 2022, is a full-color memoir that tells the story of Lay Lay’s career, from creating her first raps at age five through going viral and signing a record deal at age 11, along with advice for aspiring entertainers and insights into her future goals. The scrapbook-style format includes exclusive content and full-color photos of Lay Lay on every page. “It has anything a fan would want to know,” Dorfman said.

A guided journal, Bust Your Own Rhymes by Terrance Crawford, is set for publication on February 1 and is an interactive book with tips on how to become a star, including advice on how to be confident, quizzes to determine the reader’s star potential, and activities touching on rhyming and freestyling, designing an album cover, planning a world tour, and creating costumes.

The third title, Lay Lay Slays the Talent Show by Jevon Bolden with illustrations by DeAndra Hodge, on sale May 3, is the first title in a chapter book series. The books are about Lay Lay and her music group, who are also her high school friends, as they create new routines, perform, and have adventures. In the book, Lay Lay makes sure her friends get as much of the spotlight as she does, Dorfman said. “It’s very on par with who she is.” All the titles will feature the positivity, confidence, and passion for music for which Lay Lay is known. Lay Lay and her father have been very involved in the development process, looking at everything from early outlines to final text and illustrations. “We want the books to really show what it’s like with her and her friends, so we get a sense of who she is,” Dorfman said.

An activity book and the second chapter book are due out in October 2022, bringing the total number of titles to five for the year. Lay Lay also has a line of consumer products, including apparel, accessories, and toys, among other categories, and Scholastic is in discussions for possible cross-promotional and cross-merchandising opportunities.

Little, Brown Sends a Message with Line Friends

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers has acquired the publishing rights from Line Friends for Brown & Friends, a set of characters that got their start in Asia as digital stickers through the mobile messenger app Line. The first book, Line Friends: Brown & Friends: I Love You Beary Much, is a full-color hardcover gift book for ages eight and up. It features age-appropriate themes of love and friendship, inspirational quotes, and advice, along with illustrations. The title features four key characters—Brown, a bear; Cony, a rabbit; Moon, a character with the moon for a face; and Sally, a chick—with cameos from other Line Friends characters. Brown & Friends’ on-sale date is October 26, and a similar gift title with Halloween themes will follow next year.

Editor Mary-Kate Gaudet said the Little, Brown team had become interested in the characters after seeing them in the backgrounds of influencers’ posts on TikTok and Instagram and then in a shop in Times Square, one of two U.S. Line Friends stores. “It was perfect for us,” she said. “We’re moving away from more mass formats and pursuing higher-end price points, and this was a good fit for that.”

The look of the characters was appealing as well. “The kawaii art style is huge right now,” Gaudet said. “We’ve wanted to tap into that segment of the marketplace.”

Sister imprint Running Press teamed with Little, Brown on the license, with Running Press planning a mini-kit consisting of a 32-page mini book featuring all the Line Friends characters and a mini-bobblehead of Brown.

Gaudet noted that the property is gaining more awareness in the U.S. market; a consumer products program that launched earlier this year will help the brand grow further, and a Netflix TV series is in the works. LBYR has rights for the U.S. and Canada, along with select markets in Asia, where the property has long been a big hit in the consumer products space.

PI Kids Boards the Mighty Express Licensing Program

Phoenix International Publications’ PI Kids imprint has joined the Mighty Express licensing program, securing rights for sound books, look-and-find titles, book blocks, and bath and cloth books for preschoolers in North America. The first titles will debut in summer 2022, including a one-button sound book, a new format that does well in drug and grocery channels; an I’m Ready to Read title, which is strong in mass channels; and a title in the non-sound Look and Find format. Higher-priced formats for club stores will follow. The program will include four to six titles per year through 2024, according to John Russell, v-p of global licensing.

Spin Master, the toy company known for developing Paw Patrol and other preschool TV series, developed and licenses Mighty Express. The show debuted on Netflix in fall 2020; season five premiered on October 12. The series centers around a team of trains and their kid buddies, who keep deliveries on schedule no matter what challenges face them.

“The market was ready for a reimagining of train properties,” said Russell, noting that other train-centric brands like Thomas and Chuggington have a different, more nostalgic look and feel. “This is a more contemporary take that is relevant to today’s kids.”

PI Kids was also drawn to the focus on teamwork; the sound effects and short-form music in the show, which is a good match with PI Kids’ sound book formats; and the variety of characters with different functions, which allows for innovation in play patterns. Spin Master’s track record on Paw Patrol, which it developed and licenses through Nickelodeon, was also appealing. PI Kids has been a long-time Paw Patrol licensee, and “it’s been a massive success for us,” Russell said.

The look of Mighty Express was another selling point. “Visually, it’s stunning,” Russell said. “It will really pop on the shelves and online. We look for that from a marketability perspective.”

Penguin Young Readers is the global master trade licensee for Mighty Express, with 8x8s, board books, shaped board books, leveled readers, holiday books, and other trade formats, as well as sticker, activity, coloring, and novelty titles, coming out early next year.

In Brief

Penguin Random House, through its Penguin Ventures unit, has refreshed the Peter Rabbit brand in advance of the property’s 120th anniversary in 2022. The new look will appear on social media, publishing, and licensed products this fall in the U.K. and next year in the U.S. and the rest of the world.... In other PRH news, several outbound licensing agreements have been granted for Random House children’s book properties. Hatley is creating books-to-bed pajamas for Dream World by Emily Winfield Martin and Richard Scarry’s Busy World; Super 7 is selling adult collectibles and giftware for Richard Scarry; Isaac Morris and Clarkson Potter are marketing Grumpy Monkey t-shirts and puzzles, respectively; Spreadshirt is creating apparel, accessories, and gifts (for Europe) and Master Pieces is releasing puzzles for Hello, World!; Happy Threads is producing All Are Welcome kids’ t-shirts; and Galison Mudpuppy is offering Andrea Pippins puzzles.... BBC Studios has authorized Crayola to produce Bluey coloring packs, stationery, and arts and crafts.... Agatha Christie Ltd. has granted Hunt A Killer the rights to produce a board game based on the 1923 Hercule Poirot short story “The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge”.... Rights to Usborne’s That’s Not My series have been granted to Icon for wall stickers and Widdop for melamine dinner sets, cushions, money boxes, wall clocks, and art frames in the U.K., via agency Bulldog Licensing.