The multimedia company Kids Media, known for its partnerships with some of the world’s biggest brands—think Disney, DreamWorks, and Lego—is on an experimental streak. With some of its partner brands, it is moving into IP collaboration. “With Lego, we are looking into not just new publications but also animation, games, and nonpaper products that can be curated, created, or spun off based on existing characters and stories,” says Ivan Gong, Kids Media general manager. “The potential is vast and exciting, and we are exploring markets beyond China for these new assets.” Gong has also licensed the Russian animated pop-science series The Fixies and is working on various product permutations in print, video, and audio.
Then there is a five-title VR series on dinosaurs. “Chinese parents do not like their children to use mobile devices, owing to the potential risk of digital addiction and distraction from their schoolwork,” Gong says. “With VR-based educational titles, we give children a way of experiencing a new world of learning that is safe, exciting, and fun.”
In contrast, the simple solution of adding a pinyin edition (featuring romanized spelling for transliterating Chinese) to selected series has boosted sales tremendously. “Reader programs for the 6–9 age group really benefit from having a pinyin edition, and it is welcomed by teachers, parents, and students,” Gong says.
Gong has also started teaming up local authors with overseas illustrators for new picture books. The Last War Elephant by author Shen Shixi, who is nationally renowned for his animal-themed fiction, and Lithuanian illustrator Marius Zavadskis is one such collaboration. Another collaboration, The Classics of the Mountains and Seas, presents eight legends from a pre–Qin Dynasty work; the text was rewritten by Kids Media and illustrated by Italian artist Sara Ugolotti and Vietnamese artist Pham Quang Phuc. Kids Media president Hou Mingliang is also the founder of IlluSalon and host of the Global Illustration Award, so the company has ample access to a wide array of illustrating talent.
“We want to create originals that tell—or retell—Chinese stories using a contemporary and universal style that will travel beyond our shores,” Gong says. The Kids Media team will produce 15 original titles this year, putting the company’s total titles at around 1,100. “As always,” Gong says, “our focus is on quality, not quantity.”