The 18,800 publishers, manufacturers and retailers who attended the first post—September 11 Licensing Show, held June 11—13 at New York City's Javits Center, saw a marked increase in the number of inspirational properties being exhibited, as well as the debut of several rescue-themed licenses.
While a few licensors have pitched religious/spiritual properties at past shows (e.g., United Media with Precious Moments), exhibitors presented at least a dozen such licenses this year, many of them rooted in publishing. Tyndale House, along with its licensing agent Z Strategies, showed its Little Blessings line (1.5 million units sold since 1995) and its Left Behind brand, based on Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins's apocalyptic novels, which have sold 35 million copies to adults and 9.1 million children's versions. Left Behind licensees include Harvest House for a 48-page gift book and Zondervan for journals and Bible covers.
Multnomah Publishers focused on The Prayer of Jabez, which has sold nine million units; its sequel, Secrets of the Vine (four million); and The Prayer of Jabez for Women (700,000). Current licensees make calendars, mugs, mouse pads, backpacks and collectibles, among other items.
Intercontinental Greetings showed a book series by Anne Fitzgerald called Dear God, published in the U.S. by Allied Publishing's Leaping Frog division. More than 800,000 books and 850,000 units of stationery products have been sold in mass market outlets such as Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Kmart and Sam's Clubs, according to Intercontinental president George Medina; Christian publisher Kregel Publications will market a special edition to the CBA market.
Scholastic announced that it will represent Noah's Park, an inspirational book, video, apparel and bedding line developed by the Illustrated Word, for licensing and merchandising. Publishing formats on the market to date include illustrated books and coloring and activity titles.
Several licensors of inspirational brands were pitching their licenses to publishers at the show. Some of these properties included Katy Ka Diddle Hopper, a greeting card line launched in 1996 by artist Kathleen Wilson (represented by Moon Mesa Media); Mr. Hugg, a collection of prayer-based verses for children by Eve Meeter (Odyssey Marketing); and the Voice of the Stone by Renate Collins, a New Age property based on the true story of a southeast Asian temple relic (Odyssey). Meanwhile, Heat Licensing is reintroducing the classic animated property Davey & Goliath.
Rescue was another notable theme this year. Primary examples were the New York police and fire departments, both of which made their show debuts. The NYPD, represented by the Joester Loria Group, announced the signing of Applause as its master gift and plush licensee; NYPD's royalties will go to the New York Police Foundation.
The Fire Department of the City of New York's hook-and-ladder truck attracted attention to its FDNY Fire Zone brand, which has licensees for collectibles, toys, interactive and educational categories so far. Proceeds from this effort support the FDNY Fire Safety Education Fund.
Other rescue-related properties included The Call, a Marvel comic book featuring police officers, EMT workers and firefighters, and Amazing Heroes, a children's video line from Primedia that shows behind-the-scenes footage with police officers, paramedics and other rescuers.
As has been typical at recent shows, book-based properties were abundant, both as stand-alones and as the inspiration for entertainment vehicles.
Gullane Entertainment, licensor of Thomas & Friends, featured its Guinness World Records brand. Gabe Bevilacqua, Gullane's senior license manager of consumer products for the Americas, said the core target audience for products such as board and interactive games consists of boys ages eight to 13. "It's a tricky age group," said Bevilacqua, "but Guinness World Records resonates with them."
Berlitz Languages, which has been self-represented at past shows, is now being handled for licensing by Joester Loria, which is targeting products and services related to travel and business, as well as educational toys and games. Other exhibitors representing book brands included SloaneVision with Chicken Soup for the Soul; Wiley with For Dummies, for which Gemini Industries is a recent licensee for consumer electronics accessories kits; and Classic Media, whose 60-year-old Little Golden Books brand will be translated into plush toys by Yottoy Productions.
Following in the licensing/ film footsteps of Harry Potter—Warner Bros. was showcasing the second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets—are Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (published by HarperCollins) and Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl (Hyperion). The first three Snicket titles will be made into a Nickelodeon film scheduled for holiday 2003 release, with author Daniel Handler writing the screenplay and Barry Sonnenfeld directing. Meanwhile, Miramax is developing Artemis Fowl into a film for 2004, with Tribeca Films' Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro producing. Merchandising programs for both are in development.
Licensing action surrounding Dinotopia is on the rise now that an ABC prime-time series has been announced. Seth Siegel, co-chair of the Beanstalk Group agency, said high-end gifts and collectibles will become available in 2002. "If the show thrives and is picked up for 2003, then we'll probably move into toys for Christmas 2003," he said. HarperCollins publishes the original James Gurney books and Random House markets chapter books.
Several children's book illustrators/authors took booths at the show. Artist Wendy Ann Gardner's company, Scary Stories, showed four books being published by Hyperion Books for Children this fall—including Yes, a Cat Named Marty Cohen—under her Naughty, Naughty Pets brand. Meanwhile, author/ illustrator Nancy Carlson returned to the show after a hiatus of four years, with her characters, especially those from I Like Me! (Viking).
Tried and True and Retro, Too
Another focus at the show was continuing franchises and retro properties. Examples of the latter included Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (represented by 4Kids Entertainment), He-Man (Mattel) and ALF (The Wildflower Group). Several nostalgic properties have announced book deals, including Care Bears (Joester Loria) with Scholastic and Modern Publishing, Strawberry Shortcake (DIC Entertainment) with Penguin and the Lone Ranger and Gerald McBoing Boing (Classic Media) with Random House.
On the franchise front, Universal highlighted two films based on classic books. For the November 2003 release of The Cat in the Hat, starring Mike Myers, Random House will publish 12 original titles, including board, chapter, coloring and hardcover picture books, as well as a Little Golden Books version of The Cat in the Hat. Universal will incorporate literacy elements into toys and other licensed products where possible, and is negotiating a nonprofit overlay with a literacy organization. The studio was also pitching a special effects—heavy live-action film, set for late 2003, based on the original J.M. Barrie Peter Pan, with the production design inspired by the Scott Gustafson—illustrated Viking edition of the book.
When films (or television shows) are based on established entertainment or publishing franchises, existing licensees tend to market the bulk of the movie-based merchandise. For example, few new licensees will be signed for Looney Tunes: Back in Action, a November 2003 Warner Bros. live-action/animated film; rather, current Looney Tunes licensees will create tie-in products. Publishing licensees in the U.S. include Dalmatian Press for coloring and activity books, McGraw-Hill for educational workbooks, Walter Foster for how-to-draw titles and Publications International for sound books. (Scholastic has two tie-ins for the direct-to-video production of Tweety's High Flying Adventure.)
Films give existing licensees opportunities for additional titles and promotions. Wild Thornberrys licensee Simon & Schuster will publish four books tied to the December 2002 movie based on its animated series of the same name. Marketing activities will include in-theater promotions and cross-promotions between movie theaters and bookstores. Random House/Golden Books, also a Thornberrys licensee, will give away 1,200 zippered Thornberrys pencil pouches to customers who purchase two of its activity books.
The interest in all things Japanese doesn't show any signs of abating, with more than seven Japanese companies exhibiting and over 30 Japanese-origin properties exhibited. Publisher TokyoPop showcased Initial D, an anime/manga line that has sold 30 million books in Japan and generated $300 million at retail in Asia, while ShoPro USA, a joint venture between Japanese publishing giant Shogakukan and U.S. publisher Viz Communications, exhibited Hamtaro. Hamtaro launched on Cartoon Network this month and has generated $2.5 billion in retail sales of merchandise since its launch on Japanese TV in 2000; Viz will publish books in the U.S.
The proliferation of corporate brands available for licensing was evident at the show, and while publishing is not appropriate for all of these, more publishers are taking a look at the sector.
Hasbro is one licensor that has expanded its brands' exposure in publishing. During this year's show, it was talking to publishers about a line of Play-Doh books for 2003, according to Tom Klusaritz, Hasbro's v-p of global publishing and new business development. The company has created photographic images of characters and environments sculpted out of Play-Doh for publishers' use. Hasbro was also pitching its Playskool brand.
Cable television licensors, such as A&E Television Networks and Discovery Networks, are also becoming more active in publishing. Carrie Trimmer, A&E's director of licensing and consumer products, said its Ultimate Biography Compendium, packaged by Avalon and published by DK in May 2002, will be followed by three to four Biography titles per year. Meanwhile, Scholastic is publishing three history series branded under A&E's History Channel logo. "We know there's a lot of cross-generational viewing," Trimmer said.
Show producer Advanstar reported attendance was up 4% over last year's show, but most exhibitors felt the event was sedate, with less walk-up traffic than usual, fewer exhibitors and no single property generating any "buzz" (although the fact that Disney took a booth for the first time attracted attention). Yet many attendees and exhibitors were upbeat about the licensing business in general, which they said seemed poised to come out of the doldrums it has been experiencing for the past several years.