Random House Children’s Books has acquired publishing rights from Hasbro for Kiya & the Kimoja Heroes, a new TV series produced by Hasbro’s eOne division in partnership with Disney Junior; Triggerfish, a studio based in South Africa and Ireland; and Frog Box and France Télévisions, both in France. Random House becomes the first licensed publisher and first licensee overall for the property. The books are expected to be released starting in summer 2024.
The animated action-adventure series premiered in the U.S. on Disney Junior and Disney+ on March 22. The show is about a seven-year-old African girl, Kiya, whose passions are dancing and martial arts. When she puts on her Kimoja crystal headband, she becomes Dance Ninja, whose superpower is the pirouette POW. “The focus of the show is kids’ everyday passions being combined with superpowers,” said Michael Kelly, Hasbro’s v-p of global publishing. “These are really relatable activities for young kids. Converting those into a superhero story is a unique take on the genre.”
“She has Dance Ninja superpowers, how cool is that?” asked Chris Angelilli, v-p and editor-in-chief of licensed publishing at Random House Children’s Books. “Kiya literally had everything we were looking for in a preschool property. It has a diverse set of characters, action and adventure, humor, community, and empathy, as well as a Disney+ series with a Hasbro toy line. In addition to the characters themselves, we think preschoolers will be drawn in by the music and dancing in each episode.”
In each 11-minute installment, Kiya and her friends Jay (a.k.a. Flying Rockstar) and Motsie (Tech Racer) learn valuable life lessons as they right the wrongs of the three mischief-causing Flawed Friends. “These are the ‘villains’ of the show,” Kelly explained. “They lose their tempers or are self-centered, which is again very relatable. If you’re in preschool or kindergarten or first grade, sometimes you have a tough day.”
The action takes place in Kimoja, a fictional city inspired by southern Africa, and features African and Asian protagonists and a diverse cast of friends and parents. “It’s exciting to see a show that’s produced in South Africa,” Kelly said. “It’s very genuine. It’s absolutely not just checking a box.”
The deal between Hasbro and Random House is brand new and discussions about the publishing program are in their earliest stages, but “we know we’ll feature Kiya in all of our bestselling preschool formats, including Little Golden Books and Step into Reading, as well as novelty and activity formats,” Angelilli said.
Kelly and Angelilli both noted there were opportunities for interesting titles down the road, potentially including novelty books with moving parts to capture the action of the series; fiction or nonfiction titles with STEM themes, as one of the show’s heroes and a Flawed Friend both have a passion for science and technology; stories that incorporate the music that plays a central part in the show; or books featuring crystals, which give the characters their superpowers.
“We’re really excited about this,” Angelilli said. “It has so many great things going for it.”