Blippi Is Taking Studio Fun to New Places
Studio Fun, an imprint of Printers Row Publishing Group’s children’s unit, has sold more than 1.5 million copies of the 41 Blippi books it has published since October 2019. Blippi (born Stevin John) is a blue and orange-clad educator-character known for his YouTube content that helps preschoolers explore their world and get excited about learning. “Blippi is so passionate about children, and that passion really comes across in the books,” said Debra Mostow Zakarin, publisher and senior director, Printers Row Publishing Group Children’s Publishing. “He’s the real deal.”
The license for Blippi is unusual for Studio Fun. While five sound books have been published to date, with a magnetic playset coming out in fall 2023, most of the program consists of traditional 8x8s, board books, coloring books, readers, and the like, rather than the interactive and sound formats for which the imprint is known. “We’re the master publisher, so we’re stepping out of what we usually do,” Zakarin said.
The program began with two 8x8 storybooks, Blippi: Things That Go and Let’s See Animals, and those two titles alone have sold a combined 400,000 units. “They went like gangbusters, so we wanted to expand as quickly as possible into formats for all of Blippi’s fans,” Zakarin said. “We’re trying to do absolutely everything to appeal to the wide audience that Blippi has.”
Early in the program, Studio Fun published four books per season across a variety of formats, but that has scaled back to three per season now that most key formats are covered. Notable titles have ranged from Blippi: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, which features photos of Blippi singing and acting out the song, to Blippi: Let’s Look and Find, a board book where the reader searches for Blippi doing different activities on each spread. “Anything with an interactive component does well,” Zakarin said. The current focus is building on bestselling formats, such as adding Blippi: My First Coloring Book for ages up to two, based on the success of a coloring book with crayons for ages 3–5.
The company is also adding more holiday-themed titles across the program. Since 2020, it has published an 8x8 called Blippi: It’s Christmas Time; a tabbed board book called Blippi: Merry Christmas; and A Very Merry Blippi Christmas, a coloring title with crayons, just this fall. A Christmas-themed Let’s Look and Find title is planned for 2024. Meanwhile, Studio Fun continues to showcase Blippi in other popular formats, for example coming out with Blippi: 5 Minute Stories this fall.
The company is starting to roll out more sound books. Zakarin noted that these titles have a unique feature compared to others on the market: Blippi himself. On titles such as the vehicle-themed Blippi Music Player Storybook or the 10-button Blippi: Vehicles Are Awesome, readers hear Blippi’s voice introducing the vehicles, rather than just the vehicle sounds. “Kids relate so much to Blippi,” Zakarin said. “They feel that Blippi is right there with them. And parents like that feature a lot.”
Meanwhile, Studio Fun has acquired the rights to several new licenses, including Karma’s World, which will debut with Karma’s World: Time to Freestyle in January 2023, a book with gel pen, and Karma’s World: Follow the Beat of Your Heart!, a sound book with microphone in summer 2023. The latter is a key Studio Fun format, but this title is unique in that the microphone looks like the one Karma uses on screen, and one of the buttons gives a beat to which the readers can perform the raps and songs they compose.
Also new is Afro Unicorn, an empowering lifestyle brand featuring Black and brown unicorns, which will debut in 2024 with a puffy sticker book. “The creator, April Showers, is a force to be reckoned with,” Zakarin said.
And finally, the preschool property Gigantosaurus, which features problem-solving, humor, curiosity, science, social-emotional content, and of course dinosaurs, will start with two books: a coloring and activity title with crayons in February, and a 10-button sound book in summer.
Abrams Is Not Afraid of the Dark
Abrams’s Amulet Books imprint has acquired the rights from Paramount Consumer Products to produce middle-grade novels and graphic novels tied to the classic Nickelodeon horror anthology TV series Are You Afraid of the Dark?
“For the last three to five years, horror has found a broad audience across all media, and there’s strong demand for horror at a younger age range,” said Anne Heltzel, editorial director of entertainment publishing and content development for children’s books at Abrams, who noted that she and several colleagues are horror fans themselves.
The TV series debuted in the 1990s and was rebooted in 2019, with a third version, Are You Afraid of The Dark?: Ghost Island debuting last summer. Like the TV series, the novels and graphic novels feature a story-within-a-story format. In the novels, for example, an original horror story is told by a member of the Midnight Society, whose contemporary story is interspersed throughout and influences the main horror tale.
The first novel, Tale of the Gravemother by Rin Chupeco, comes out in hardcover on June 27, 2023, with a first printing of 75,000 copies. That will be followed by the first graphic novel, The Witch’s Wings and Other Terrifying Tales, which will release in fall 2023. Two more novels and a graphic novel will alternate in subsequent seasons.
The graphic novels feature three interrelated stories based on lore and legends—again with the storyteller’s contemporary story woven in—with the first title, written by Tehlor Kay Mejia, including tales inspired by urban legends and Mexican folklore. Each of the three graphic novel stories is illustrated by a separate but complementary artist, in this case Justin and Lexis Hernandez, Junyi Wu, and Kaylee Rowena. The graphic novels will be released simultaneously in hardcover and softcover editions.
In addition to a strong horror background, Abrams looked for authors with experience writing for teens, since the property is likely to appeal to readers older than the core middle grade crowd. That includes some adults. “There’s a lot of loyalty from the original fans, and parents are very enthusiastic about it,” Heltzel said. “I think it will probably appeal to nostalgic fans as well.”
Little Prince Anniversary Year Brings New Publishing, Animation
Licensed books and merchandise will play a role in the year-long celebration of the 80th anniversary of the publication of The Little Prince, officially April 6. The occasion will be supported by new publishing, anniversary-themed collectibles, new licensees, and immersive events. Licensing Works! represents the property in North America on behalf of SOGEX, the global licensor for the estate of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Chouette, the master publishing licensee in the U.S. and Canada since 2021—which also holds English-language rights around the world and has done co-editions in other territories—has published three titles to date. Good Night, Little Prince, an interactive board book that came out in January, was the first title, followed by The Little Prince Book of Feelings in August and The Little Prince Around the World in October 2022.
“Chouette has done an amazing job of creating new original content based on the legacy of the brand,” said Jill Collins, partner and head of licensing, retail partnerships, and promotions at Licensing Works!
Three more titles are planned for the first half of 2023. Where Are You, Fox? is a touch-and-feel lift-the-flap board book set for March. In April comes the only official anniversary title for children, a board book with “an original story that simplifies and encapsulates the journey in the original book,” according to Collins. Called The Journey of the Little Prince, the book features the 80th-anniversary logo. The third title will be a gardening-themed board book about the outdoors and exploring nature. More titles are planned for the second half of the year. All of Chouette’s titles based on The Little Prince are published in both English and French editions; Chouette also just added e-books to its grant of rights.
Separately, some of the property’s 45 licensees are creating 80th-anniversary collectibles, including Funko and Boss Fight. And new licensees are coming on board, including Reed Jewelers for bridal and diamond fashion jewelry collections, announced in August. A partner for a junior apparel and accessories capsule collection will be announced in 2023.
All of the property’s licensees will be using marketing materials with 80th-anniversary messaging, including Chouette, which is distributing posters, stickers, and other materials in both chain and indie bookstores.
The year 2023 will also bring the first preschool TV series inspired by The Little Prince, with broadcasters in France, Italy, Portugal, Germany, and Brazil announced. A U.S. distribution deal will likely be forthcoming next year as well. Collins noted that the TV series offers opportunities for new publishing and merchandise.
Other anniversary events include the current exhibition at The Morgan Library in New York City and a traveling immersive exhibit beginning in March 2023 that will tour through the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The Morgan Library gift shop features exclusive merchandise and French and U.S. licensed products throughout the run, including the three Chouette books, and the touring immersive exhibit will offer a similar opportunity.
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