Wandering Planet Kickstarts Nancy Drew Action Figures
Independent toy company Wandering Planet Toys is releasing retro-style collectible figures depicting Nancy Drew as she looked on the covers of classic Nancy Drew Mystery Stories. Under a license from Simon & Schuster, the company conducted a successful Kickstarter campaign that concluded on May 18, with 956 fans pledging a total of $130,126. The final toys are expected to be shipped to backers in June 2024, with plans to secure retail distribution as well.
Wandering Planet was founded by animation writers and producers Doc Wyatt and Gavin Hignight. In writers’ rooms while they were working on shows, the two friends, who are big toy fans and collectors, discussed what products they would make if they could. After Hignight had the idea to create action figures based on The Prisoner, a 1967 British spy show that the friends discovered in the 1980s, the partners approached ITV for the rights, conducted a Kickstarter campaign, and delivered the first wave of toys at the end of 2022.
“We like the idea of making toys that never happened but should have happened,” said Wyatt, noting that Nancy Drew meets that objective. The detective was born in the 1930s and has starred in seven films and three TV shows (including one on the air now), as well as plays and musicals, and had a line of dolls 50 years ago. But there have never been any action figures. “She’s been around longer than Batman,” Wyatt said. “She deserves action figures.”
The toys are four-inch, retro-style collectible figures based on the cover art by Rudy Nappi, which was produced from 1953 to 1979 and was still used in the 1980s when Wyatt and Hignight were growing up. The first wave of toys includes green-dressed Nancy as depicted on the first book, The Secret of the Old Clock, with an old clock and a screwdriver as accessories; Nancy from Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase, with a flashlight accessory; The Secret in the Old Attic Nancy, with a red dress and a candle and sheet music as accessories; and the Nancy of The Clue of the Dancing Puppet, with the story’s spooky faceless puppet as the accessory.
Two two-figure sets are also part of the offering, one based on The Mystery at Lilac Inn, which includes Nancy in her black-wig disguise along with the translucent “ghost” from the story, and the other tied to The Crooked Bannister, featuring both Nancy in her purple jacket and the threatening robot from the book.
In addition to the figures themselves, backers on Kickstarter got access to a number of exclusive items, depending on how much they wanted to invest. Notable among these is an all-new Nancy Drew mystery novella, billed as a “lost” story and written by one of Simon & Schuster’s official writers under Carolyn Keene’s byline. The novella, The Clue of the Curious Collection, has a new cover by Ruth Sanderson, who illustrated 18 titles in the early 1980s, and is five chapters long, as opposed to 20 to 25 for a typical book of the era. It is written in the style of the 1950s and 1960s, in keeping with the action figures.
The main line is packaged in a resealable “secret book-box,” which can be shelved seamlessly with the collector’s actual Nancy Drew books. The four main figures also come packaged on vintage cardbacks, a format many toy collectors prefer.
The initial idea was to create a line that would appeal to adults who were first exposed to Nancy Drew in the 1980s. “But we found it’s really multigenerational,” Wyatt said. “Our backers were emailing us stories about how they discovered Nancy Drew or their memories about reading the books. There’s a warm sense of multigenerational appreciation for Nancy Drew.”
Odd Dot Creates Build-A-Bear Books in New Partnership
Macmillan Publishing Group’s Odd Dot division has partnered with Build-A-Bear Workshop and its Build-A-Bear Entertainment subsidiary for a line of books tied to the Build-A-Bear brand. Foundation Media Partners represents Build-A-Bear in its entertainment, media, and licensing activities.
“Publishing and books are natural extensions to bring our overall message of heart to children and families in new ways,” said Build-A-Bear CEO Sharon Price John, “as well as serving as a powerful conduit to bring more of the characters and stories to life for kids. Books allow the brand to expand storytelling capabilities and touch audiences beyond the physical products offered.”
Odd Dot has rights for board books, picture books, chapter books, and sticker and activity books. “Because the Build-A-Bear brand is known for retailtainment experiences, and Odd Dot specializes in activity-type books, a natural focus is expected to be on the interactive interpretations of stories and the exploration of fun concepts designed to enhance a child’s reading experience,” John said. She mentioned examples ranging from board books with tactile or seek-and-find elements to sticker books and journals. “We also believe that future projects will explore more storytelling and character development inspired by some of Build-A-Bear’s popular sub-brands.” That could include chapter books, for example.
Some of the storytelling IP Build-A-Bear and Foundation Media have developed to date includes Honey Girls, a 2021 live-action feature film on Netflix, and Glisten and the Merry Mission, a movie upcoming for the 2023 holiday season. A film based on the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is in development with Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine production company.
Build-A-Bear got its start in 1997 as a pioneer in experiential retail, selling 225 million plush figures over the past 25 years. In addition to its entertainment content, it has been expanding into music, with its Build-A-Bear streaming channel on iHeart Radio and digital ventures including its online “Bear-Builder,” animated Bear Builder 3D Workshop, and Build-A-Bear Tycoon game on Roblox. Build-A-Bear Workshop reported record profitability for the second year in a row in fiscal 2022, on total revenues of $467.9 million.
The publishing deal is likely to expand distribution for Odd Dot beyond traditional booksellers. “There are clearly opportunities to sell a selection of the books in the Build-A-Bear locations,” John said. “And we do expect cross-promotions and cross-merchandising to be explored and leveraged to create synergy between the books, the brand, and the consumers.”
Boom! Expands World of Creed with Limited Comic Series
Boom! Studios is publishing a four-issue comic book series inspired by the Creed film franchise, a spin-off of the Rocky films that has included, to date, Creed in 2015, Creed II in 2018, and Creed III this spring. The project is being produced under license from MGM, in collaboration with Outlier Society, the production company of actor Michael B. Jordan—the star, director, and producer of Creed III—and Chartoff-Winkler.
The series is co-written by LaToya Morgan and Jai Jamison. Morgan is known for her work on TV series including The Walking Dead and Into the Badlands, as well as her graphic novel Dark Blood, published with BOOM! in fall 2021. Jamison is currently a story editor on Superman & Lois and wrote Earth Prime: Superman & Lois #2 for DC Comics.
The Boom! team approached Morgan to see if she wanted to pitch an idea, knowing she was a huge Rocky and Creed fan. “I had to jump at the chance,” she said. After Boom! loved her initial pitch, she was asked to develop the idea to present to Jordan and Outlier. As the current showrunner on Duster at Max (formerly HBO Max), Morgan was strapped for time, so she called in one of her mentees, Jamison, to work on the project with her. “Outlier flipped for it and ended up selecting our pitch,” Morgan said. “It was so much fun for me as a fanatic of the film.”
Jamison is also a big fan. “Creed is one of my favorite films of the past couple of years,” he said. “I love the way they’ve taken an old beloved property and reworked it for the modern age with a new spin, while still paying homage to the original.”
Artist Wilton Santos and colorist DJ Chavis, along with Jordan, executive producer Elizabeth Raposo, president of Outlier Society, and associate producer Christina Raquel, director of development and film for Outlier, round out the creative team for the Creed comics. The first issue features variant covers by Mateus Manhanini, Valentine de Landro, Paris Alleyne, and more.
Morgan and Jamison worked closely with Boom!, Outlier, and the other partners to ensure that the story fit with the other expansions that are being developed as part of the Creed brand. Jordan serves as creative director on the comics, reading and making notes on everything Morgan and Jamison wrote. “He has uplifted the franchise so much,” Morgan said. “We wanted to build out our comic without messing up or drifting into the other projects.”
The Creed comic book series begins 10 years after Creed III, as Adonis Creed’s daughter Amara prepares to become the next champion and needs to leave her father for a new trainer to move to the next level. “We really leaned into Amara’s specialness,” Morgan said, noting that the complex character is a boxer, a young Black woman, and hearing-impaired. “We put a lot of love and intention in telling the story in an honest way, and I’m really proud of that. We talked a lot about the issues of having a family with that legacy, and how you forge your own path and be yourself.”
A consultant was brought on to ensure that the use of Black American Sign Language as portrayed in the comic was natural and realistic. “It’s part of her personality and character,” Jamison said. “But the story is also just about her wanting to be great and doing what it takes to get there. It’s a rich story about overcoming fear and overcoming obstacles, and about having grit and spirit. All kinds of people can find themselves in these characters.”
The first issue launches in comic book shops and in the BOOM! Studios webstore, as well as on digital comics platforms, in June.
This License Is No Nightmare for Printers Row
Printers Row Publishing Group’s Thunder Bay Press imprint published its first licensed title tied to Disney’s The Nightmare Before Christmas in July 2021, and the property has quickly become one of the top performers among Thunder Bay’s many licensed craft and activity titles for teens and adults. Printers Row’s Studio Fun International children’s imprint is also expanding its children’s list based on the property, while its Canterbury Classics imprint is about to release its first Nightmare title.
The film has wide appeal to all ages, thanks to both the look and the storyline, according to Peter Norton, v-p and publisher at Thunder Bay Press. “The storyline, the innate darkness, and the fantasy aspect make it appeal to a lot of people,” he said. “And there’s the aesthetic of the whole film. The art is fantastic.” Norton also believes the pandemic made the story timelier than ever. “The isolation and loneliness of the characters resonates even more now than in the past,” he added. “The film is about finding your people, in a way.”
Canterbury’s release, the $19.99 Disney Scripted Classics: Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, is the third Disney title in the Canterbury Classics series, after The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. The imprint focuses otherwise on classic literary titles such as Dracula and The Hound of the Baskervilles. The Nightmare title, which has an August 15 release timed to the 30th anniversary of the film, is a hardcover that includes the full screenplay of the movie and the lyrics to all the songs, placed in context within the script. The title also features behind-the-scenes facts about the artists and writers and how different scenes were developed, little-seen illustrations such as concept sketches, and historical details. The cover features an early concept image of one of the best-known stills from the film, which is used in its 3D animated form on other books and products.
Thunder Bay Press, meanwhile, published The Nightmare Before Christmas Word Search and Coloring Book as its first Nightmare title in July 2021, along with a sticker art puzzle book. A crochet book, The Nightmare Before Christmas Word Search, Quips, Quotes, and Coloring Book, and an embroidery title, followed in 2022. Sales for the first title alone have reached between 40,000 and 50,000 units, Norton estimated, with the crochet title, the bestseller to date, exceeding that. All told, there are 11 titles on the list with pub dates from 2021 to 2025, plus three custom editions for retailers.
For this year, new releases will include a book that assists the reader in making paper models of locations from the movie and a glow-in-the-dark coloring title, while 2024 will bring color-by-number, paint-with-water, and rock painting. Many of these formats have been successful for Thunder Bay’s other licensed brands.
As for Studio Fun, its first two titles, a Disney Animated Classics edition (September 2021), and a Movie Theater Storybook and Projector (August 2022), are being joined this year by an 8x8 retelling of the film, with more than 40 stickers, and The 13 Days of Halloween, a case that folds out in to a graveyard scene and features 13 mini activity, story, and pop-up books. More titles are planned through 2025.
“The license obviously gets more promotional space during the Halloween and Christmas seasons, but one of the great things about it is that it’s year-round,” Norton said, adding, “This year, I think we will see a lot of uptick at Halloween due to the anniversary.”
IDW, in collaboration with Dark Horse Comics, is publishing a four-issue crossover comic series this July that brings together Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, published by IDW, and Netflix’s Stranger Things, published by Dark Horse. The series will be written by Cameron Chittock with art by TMNT artist Fero Pe; the first issue will be released with several cover variants.... Boom! Studios has acquired the global rights to publish comic books based on Bee and PuppyCat, an animated series produced by Frederator Studios and airing on Channel Frederator. Genius Brands represents the property for licensing.... Kidz Bop paired with Audible for its first audiobooks, an eight-episode series called Kidz Bop Never Stop: The Tour Bus Adventures, launching on May 25 in time for the start of the Kidz Bop Never Stop live tour.... Collectibles marketer DeAgostini has launched its licensed Moominhouse collectible in the U.S. market. Through a subscription, fans collect pieces to construct a 27-inch tall, 14-inch wide model of the Moominhouse, as well as figurines of key characters and other accessories. The design is based on the original book illustrations. Rights & Brands oversees Moomin licensing globally.... Warner Bros. Discovery Global Consumer Products is expanding its collectibles line with The Noble Collection in a renewal of their existing license. The deal includes items tied to book-based properties including The Wizarding World, DC Comics, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, and the Game of Thrones TV series, among other IP. The companies have been working together since 2008, when Wizarding World replica wands were introduced.... Sesame Workshop launched a program in conjunction with long-time partner the PNC Foundation to help kids ages 2–5 and their families prepare for school. It included an activity book, Dream Big!, available at PNC Bank locations, as well as activity guides, printable worksheets, an original song, and bilingual videos.... Bababoo and Friends, a character-based book and wooden toy brand from Europe, for children ages one and up, launched in Barnes & Noble stores this spring after debuting in the U.S. in specialty stores and online in 2022. Customers who purchase a toy at Barnes & Noble will receive a free in-box gift and exclusive access to a video series produced for B&N as part of the deal.