Toymaker Hasbro has made a significant splash in publishing over the past five years, from its bestselling My Little Pony program to comic book lines for Transformers and GI Joe. By creating characters, artwork and backstories, Hasbro has repositioned some of its brands as content-driven intellectual properties, instead of simply toys—a move that has sparked new interest in different lines. "We've focused on our core brands and tried to find the right formats, price points and licensing partners to take those properties into retail with content," said Tom Klusaritz, Hasbro's v-p of licensing and retail development, who came to the company in late 1999.

The resurgence of Hasbro's My Little Pony brand was driven in large part by its success in publishing, with lead publisher HarperCollins and other partners taking the brand into all distribution channels. There are now 100 My Little Pony titles in print, and Klusaritz noted that publishing was one of the cornerstones for reviving the Pony line. "We made My Little Pony into more than just a toy, and we couldn't have done that without our publishing partners, especially HarperCollins," he said.

While Hasbro has long had licensing deals in place for children's publishers, the company is now trying to deepen those relationships. "We work with them [publishers] much more closely, hand in hand, on the creative execution, as well as marketing and distribution," Klusaritz said. Meanwhile, within Hasbro, the company's product, brand and intellectual property teams work together to develop content that reflects the toys' brand positioning.

Tonka has been another of Hasbro's publishing success stories, blossoming into a steady backlist program with more than 75 titles published collectively since 2003 by Scholastic, Bendon, Reader's Digest and Publications International. One element of that effort, Chuck My Talking Truck, has been strong enough in publishing, first with Scholastic and then with Bendon, that the Tonka brand team is considering relaunching Chuck into the toy market, according to Klusaritz.

Some of Hasbro's new projects include a comprehensive children's book program for Playskool for 2008, supplementing the recently announced deal with Sourcebooks for a Playskool parenting line (PW, Sept. 4). Also in the works is an extensive program tied to the 2007 Transformers feature film release, with HarperCollins serving as master publisher. Trivia, crossword and other game books for Hasbro's classic board games, including Monopoly and Candyland, are also under development.