Emotions Run High in ‘Inside Out 2’ Tie-Ins

Inside Out 2, the sequel to the 2015 Pixar film Inside Out, was released in theaters last Friday, garnering mostly positive reviews and representing the biggest box office debut of the year in its first weekend. The tie-in publishing program includes close to 200 titles globally, across all formats and ages.

Inside Out and Inside Out 2 are universally relatable,” said Aimee Murata, senior editor, global feature animation, at Disney Publishing Worldwide. “Inside Out’s poignancy ultimately lies in its ability to depict the complex, beautiful, and at times confusing array of human emotions. It’s especially important to normalize these emotions for young readers who may still be learning how to articulate their feelings and understand the feelings of others.”

The social-emotional content makes the film appealing to older fans as well. “We’re all human beings and we all have emotions,” said Chris Angelilli, VP, editor-in-chief, and director of licensed publishing at Random House Children’s Books. “Whether it’s an adult remembering moments from their childhood, a parent or caregiver helping children navigate their feelings, or a child dealing with some new emotions—everyone can relate to the themes in Inside Out and Inside Out 2, not to mention all of the great characters and the humor in the films.”

The publishing strategy for the sequel follows along the lines of the original. “We took a focused approach to Inside Out 2 by building on the successes of the first program while also exploring the themes and characters that are unique to Inside Out 2,” Murata said. In particular, there is a focus on main character Riley’s Emotions, the colorful characters whose headquarters are in Riley’s brain, and their personalities. These include the original five (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust) as well as the four new Emotions from the sequel (Anxiety, Envy, Ennui, and Embarrassment).

The publishing program in North America, which hit stores in May, includes an 8x8 storybook, Team Riley; a board book, Meet the Emotions; a Little Golden Book; a junior novelization; and a Step 2 Step into Reading title, Changes for Riley, all from Random House. RH is also reissuing two titles from the original 2015 program, Inside My Mind, a combination guided journal and activity book to help children become more aware of and deal with their emotions, and The Emotions’ Survival Guide, a hardcover Angelilli terms “self-help lite,” which was vetted by an expert and helps readers navigate their feelings, with advice from the Emotions characters.

To round out the list, RH’s sibling publisher DK adds an Ultimate Sticker Book to the mix, while the Disney Press imprint offers the middle grade novel All in the Mind and a picture book, Go to Sleep, Anxiety! Chronicle Books adds an art-of book, a format that Murata said has become a perennial favorite among Pixar fans, as well as a mindfulness journal, Feeling Feelings. Other publishers include Bendon for coloring and activity titles and Phidal for novelty titles including the Inside Out 2 Busy Book.

New to the program this time around are two graphic novels: a two-in-one book that retells both films, and The New Adventures of Inside Out 2, which includes four original stories featuring the characters from the new film. The first is from Random House, which recently acquired graphic novel rights for Disney animated features, and the second is from Papercutz.

Due to the success of the publishing program for the 2015 film, several activity books, choose-your-own-adventure-style chapter books, and leveled readers have been published in the interim, with an 8x8 about controlling your temper, starring Anger, published as recently as 2021. “Inside Out has become an integral part of Pixar’s brand and legacy, so it’s also commonly featured in multi-property Disney and Pixar formats like storybook collections, bind-ups, and box sets,” Murata said.

Rebel Girls Empowers Fans with New Fiction, Cookbooks

After building a vast library of inspirational nonfiction books, including its flagship biographies of current and historical figures, Rebel Girls is publishing its first fiction series, with six initial books set for publication starting on August 13. DK, which became Rebel Girls’ global sales and distribution partner for English-language titles starting in spring 2023, is the publisher.

“This is a big deal for us,” said Jes Wolfe, CEO of Rebel Girls, who noted that fiction offers opportunities for the Rebel Girls brand that nonfiction cannot provide. “There’s a lot more world building, imagination, and creativity, which was fun for all of us,” Wolfe said. “There’s also a lot more opportunities to make the girls as relatable as possible and emphasize the attributes of the Rebel Girls brand.” The stories highlight how the characters solve problems, create positive friendships, and rely on creativity and courage. Each book features a different historical figure and topic, with examples ranging from sports to STEM.

The middle grade series, titled The Secret Society of Rebel Girls, is about three girls and a boy, all middle schoolers with diverse backgrounds, interests, and strengths. While attending the Ada Lovelace School, they tackle challenges with assistance from historical figures, with whom they communicate through a mailbox that suddenly appears in the woods. The first book, Nina and the Mysterious Mailbox by Marti Dumas, introduces the characters, sets up the premise, and tells a story involving a school election and the wisdom and experience of Cleopatra.

Lion Forge Entertainment has optioned the rights to create a live-action TV series based on the books, which is being developed by a team headed by Lion Forge president and COO Stephanie Sperber and is currently being pitched to studios. Anna McCleery, who conceived the story and characters for the book series and the television, is writing the pilot, based on the first book, and serves as executive producer.

Separately, Rebel Girls will release its first of three cookbooks in October, through a deal with Ten Speed Press. This represents another new category for the brand. Rebel Girls Cook includes recipes from around the world for kids ages eight and up, tested by 50 Rebel Girls community members, along with fun facts, stories, photography, and illustrations. One of the goals is to help girls develop a positive relationship with food. “Food is fun, it’s social, it’s powerful since it fuels the body and mind, and it introduces us to new cultures,” Wolfe said. The book also highlights the stories of 14 female guest chefs from around the world, including Ali Slagle, Sarah Thomas, and Priya Krishna. “Only 6% of Michelin-starred chefs are women, and this should change.”

Another new venture is Rebel Girls’ first collection of dolls, from Adora. Four 18-inch figures under the Rebel Girls Storytellers umbrella include environmentalist Rachel Carson; motocross star Ashley Fiolek; Cuban drummer Millo Castro Zaldarriaga; and environmentalist and activist Wangari Maathai. Each includes a mini version of the Rebel Girls story about the real-life figure and a link to a complementary audio story.

Rebel Girls has a global community of 33 million girls. The brand has spurred sales of more than 11 million books and generated more than 50 million audio listens.

Bright Matter Builds a Minecraft Workbook Program

Bright Matter Books, the educational imprint that Random House Children’s Books launched in 2022, is readying a new workbook series tied to the gaming franchise Minecraft, licensed by Microsoft’s Mojang Studios.

The series, which consists of four leveled workbooks incorporating reading and math for kindergarten through third grade, is an extension of RHCB’s existing Minecraft license. The licensor was interested in increasing Minecraft’s presence in the retail educational space. “They have a flourishing educational program in schools and wanted to do more,” said Tom Russell, VP and publisher, Princeton Review and Bright Matter Books. “We felt workbooks would be the way to go. It just made sense. There are not a ton of brands that really work in this space, but this felt right.”

A big part of the appeal for Bright Matter was the multigenerational acceptance of the property. “Minecraft is friendly to both kids and parents,” said Russell, who had been seeing younger fans sharing their love of Minecraft through t-shirts and Halloween costumes. “Kids like it because it’s fun, and parents recognize Minecraft and have a positive affinity for it. It’s not like a lot of other video games, because there’s building and thinking in it. Parents and kids can see it at Target, and it’s something they can both agree on. It’s almost universally relatable.” He noted that young adults who were exposed to the game as children—Minecraft celebrates its 15th anniversary this year—continue to play.

All of the curriculum is age-appropriate, enhanced by a fun Minecraft layer in the design and text. “There’s a little more narrative,” Russell said. “Each unit is about a quest.” For example, the user takes over a village or builds a house, with the steps broken down into educational elements. “At the end, you have a finished product, like in the game. And we put in some cool little side quests. After you complete a project, you can hunt in other parts of the book for bricks or elements to add to it. It’s all fun and Minecrafty.”

The look of the books also replicates the game experience. “We went into the game to build the art,” Russell said. “That was a lot of fun.”

The four workbooks are set for publication in January 2025, a few months before the release of Minecraft: The Movie, with Jack Black playing Steve, in April. “That’s a happy coincidence,” Russell said.

Disney Baby Illustrator and ‘King of Cute’ Launches New Brand

Jerrod Murayama is a freelance designer known for his cute character designs for Netflix, Target, Sesame Workshop, DreamWorks, Warner Bros., and especially Disney, where he has contributed art for the theme parks, thousands of consumer products, and more than 100 books for Disney Publishing Worldwide and its licensees.

“Through his work for Disney, Jerrod has garnered a massive following and become known as the ‘king of cute,’ ” said Hugo Stevenson, a toy industry veteran who is Maruyama’s partner in Cutesy LLC, the company founded to market Maruyama’s own creations. The first of those is Little Corgi Cuties, which debuted at Licensing Expo last month.

Murayama is well known for his work developing the Disney Baby look that has been used for preschool books and products across Disney, Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Marvel characters, and he has written and illustrated preschool books for Toy Story 4, Inside Out, Turning Red, The Good Dinosaur, and many more. His Disney Christmas wrapping paper sells out at Target year after year, according to Stevenson.

Early signs seem to predict success for Little Corgi Cuties as well. After some puzzles sold through the Cutesy LLC website “blew up,” according to Stevenson, the company secured a European plush licensee, Gipsy, which signed on immediately after seeing the pitch deck. When its products were introduced at a toy trade show in Deauville, France, in November of last year, 90% of the retailers Gipsy showed the products to wanted to carry them, despite the very challenging retail landscape in the region. After a similar reception at the Nuremberg International Toy Fair in Germany, the plush is now in more than 9,000 stores on the continent, and Rainbow has been signed as the plush distributor in the U.K.

Meanwhile, licensing veterans have joined the team in key territories, a licensing agent is on board in Australia, and agents in the U.S. and Asia are expected to be announced soon. Stevenson also reported strong interest from licensees and retailers, including Hot Topic and Miniso. The initial focus is plush, mini-figures, and other collectible and lifestyle products for an audience ages 12 and up.

An online and social media presence will debut in August, including 24 animated shorts for TikTok and YouTube, timed to the consumer launch of the European plush. The company has also spoken with potential partners for a TV series down the road, according to Stevenson. The latter would lead to kids’ books and other products for a younger audience.

Murayama has developed an avid community of fans, and a photo of the Little Corgi Cuties booth at the Expo posted on his social channels generated 1,300 likes in a few hours, with many followers wanting to know how they could buy the plush, Stevenson said.

Little Corgi Cuties will be joined by other properties in the future, all residing in the same cheerful and playful world of Cutesy County.

In Brief

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