Publishers walking the floor of Licensing 2001, the annual trade show where companies exhibit their intellectual properties to potential licensees, perused a roster of licenses ranging from designer-based "girl power" brands to Butt-Ugly Martians. While no single film, television show or brand emerged as "the next Pokémon," attendees saw a range of properties to evaluate for publishing potential.
Most of the exhibited licenses were familiar to attendees, either because they are ongoing or have been privately previewed, but some were formally introduced at this event, held June 12—14 at New York City's Javits Center. Several new properties originated in the world of publishing.
Scholastic's entertainment division touted Terry Deary's Horrible Histories, introduced by Scholastic U.K. in 1993. Billed as "history with the nasty bits left in," the book series has 3.5 million copies of 25 titles in print and has been developed into an animated TV show. Books will launch in the U.S. later this year, followed by the TV series and then licensing.
Scholastic is also adapting its I Spy books, which have generated over 16 million unit sales since 1992, for television. "Translating this property to merchandise, that is a challenge," said senior v-p of marketing and consumer products Leslye Schaefer. "You can't just plop the photos and riddles on products." That said, Scholastic has sold more than one million I Spy CD-ROMs, while Briarpatch markets I Spy games and puzzles and other deals are pending.
Golden Books showed a range of Pat the Bunny merchandise and promoted the Little Golden brand to potential licensees. Licensed books accounted for 85% of the company's business three years ago, according to Rich Maryyanek, senior v-p marketing, with just 15% coming from proprietary brands. Licensed titles have dropped to 65% today, due in part to the termination of some key licenses, notably Disney, but also to increased strength of the company's own brands.
Netherlands-based Mercis Publishing highlighted its Dick Bruna characters, including Miffy. More than 80 million of 99 Bruna books have been sold in 41 languages. Five-minute Miffy TV episodes currently air on Cartoon Network in the U.S., where Mercis's North American licensing agent, United Media, has done deals with retail chain Mervyns and others. Around the world, more than 250 licensees market 10,000 Bruna products.
Hungry Minds announced that its For Dummies brand will appear on Discovery Health Channel in spring 2002 as a four-part miniseries, Pregnancy for Dummies. Other Hungry Minds licensees include Anchor Bay, which has sold 175,000 units of two video titles and plans two more; Centis, for office organizers; and Syracuse Learning, for CD-ROMs. According to Marc Mikulich, senior v-p of strategic brand management, a license with Simplicity for sewing patterns allowed Hungry Minds to place For Dummies books in 500 Wal-Mart stores, where they achieved 82% sell-through.
A number of independent licensing agents exhibited literary properties. The Joester-Loria Group debuted a licensing effort for Mollie Katzen, author of The Moosewood Cookbook, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Still Life with Menu (Ten Speed Press), for which sales have cumulatively totaled $60 million since 1972.
Although best-known as a chef, Katzen was trained as a painter. "I want to use my art more," she said, noting that products such as textiles and calendars will feature her graphics. Katzen also intends to authorize licensed foods that allow time-pressed cooks to easily create homemade meals and kitchen utensils that are suited ergonomically to women.
Sandra Magsamen, whose 20 gift books from Stewart, Tabori & Chang (first published in 1999) and art book from Rizzoli (2001) have cumulatively sold 250,000 copies, is a ceramacist who combines colorful images with inspirational phrases. "What's different about Sandra is the combination of art and verse," said Susan Miller, a partner in Magsamen's licensing agency, Mixed Media Group Inc. "It's that combination that really makes it powerful." Scholastic plans a line of children's books for fall 2002.
Curiosity Kits has sold 100,000 Magsamen activity sets, and Silvestri is set to introduce 250 licensed giftware products this year. Miller explained that licensing a literary property into the gift industry can allow both the publisher and gift-maker to expand their distribution. For example, she is in talks with QVC about doing a Magsamen-themed show, which would include books as well as gifts and ceramics. "At every meeting we're pitching the books," said Miller.
Sharon Pierce McCollough, author/illustrator of Bunbun, the Middle One, the first in a children's picture book series published by Barefoot Books (March 2001) and represented by Coyote Red Licensing, reported interest from animation studios. "We made some excellent contacts," she said. "They're always looking for new literary properties."
Silver Lining Productions, which licenses children's book characters for entertainment and merchandise, introduced its newest property, Ian Falconer's Olivia. According to CEO Amory Millard, toy retailer FAO Schwarz has signed for an exclusive Olivia promotion during the 2001 holiday season featuring the character on the cover of its holiday catalogue and selling products from Gund and Madame Alexander. Silver Lining also represents Rosemary Wells, Babette Cole and Holly Hobbie.
TradeMarketing Services launched licensing for the Magic Attic Club, a gift/book series owned by L.L. Knickerbocker. Five book/doll/outfit sets have been available since 1995 through direct mail and at retail, along with 35 additional books published by Millbrook Press. "I was very gratified at the show about the interest from some of the major toy companies," said Robyn Volker, TradeMarketing's executive v-p.
Despite all the book-related activity, the highest-profile licenses were, as always, those from the entertainment industry. Films—many of them based on existing franchises—included Warner's live-action Scooby Doo and animated Powerpuff Girls releases; Nickelodeon's Jimmy Neutron; Sony Pictures Family Entertainment's Men in Black 2, Stuart Little 2 and Spider-Man (the last colicensed with Marvel); and Universal's The Mummy sequel, The Scorpion King, Warner Bros.' Harry Potter and New Line's The Fellowship of the Ring, both set for release in December, have full licensee lists.
In the realm of television, boys' action-adventure series took center stage. Examples included Just Group's Butt-Ugly Martians, one of the most talked-about properties; 4Kids' Yu-Gi-Oh! and Cubix; Nelvana's Medabot; DIC's Super Duper Sumos; Universal's The Mummy: The Animated Series; and Sony's Phantom Investigators.
Unlike a few years ago, when "edutainment" ruled, there were relatively few educational properties at this show. Among the exceptions were Scholastic's Horrible Histories; DIC's Liberty's Kids, a history-themed PBS animated series debuting spring 2002; and two literacy properties, PBS's Between the Lions (exhibited by WGBH-Boston) and Chip & Cookie, characters created by Wally "Famous" Amos with the tagline "Reading Takes You Everywhere" (Hakan & Associates).
A dozen tween-targeted "girl power" properties, mostly design-based, included 2 Grrrls; Pesky Meddling Girls (Warner Bros.); She's Charmed & Dangerous (Crank); Diva Starz (Mattel); Bratz (MGA Entertainment); Mischievous Girls (InkMonster); Smiley Divas (Smiley Licensing); The Girls (MHS Licensing); Atomic Babes and Flux Deluxe (Santoro Graphics); Funky Girlz (Bliss House); and Wannabe (itsy bitsy Entertainment). 2 Grrrls has licensed Scholastic for books, while Crank plans to launch a She's Charmed & Dangerous title in spring 2002 with Cedco (this will be the first in a projected nonfiction series).
Another group of properties seeking publishing partners consisted of home videos that purport to make infants smarter. The Baby Einstein Co. has licensed Hyperion for books; other brands included Baby Genius (represented by Global Icons), So Smart (Alliance Atlantic), Brainy Baby (Wildflower Group) and Baby Bright (Just Group).
Publishers are unique among licensees in some ways. "In publishing there are many more opportunities than there are for the merchandise," said Risa Kessler, Viacom consumer products' publishing representative, who is selling NBC's Ed, Showtime's Soul Food and the upcoming Paramount film We Were Soldiers Once. On the other hand, she said, film and TV writers "are sensitive about publishing, where they aren't on other products. A T-shirt isn't going to compromise their vision."