Candlewick Connects with ‘Dot.’
Candlewick Entertainment has secured world English rights for tie-ins based on the Jim Henson Company-licensed TV series Dot., which airs on Universal Kids and Hulu in the U.S. The show, which is produced by Industrial Brothers in association with Henson and the Canadian Broadcasting Company, debuted in 2016. It is based on a picture book written by Randi Zuckerberg and illustrated by Joe Berger (HarperCollins, 2013).
“Dot is a tech-savvy girl who is a great role model for other girls,” said Joan Powers, group editorial director for Candlewick Entertainment and Walker Entertainment. While the character, whose full name is Dot Comet, is comfortable using tablets, mobile phones, videogames, and drones to solve problems, every episode ends with her signing off. “Dot uses technology all different ways, but she also knows when it’s time to experience the real world,” Powers said. “The balance is just perfect.
The cast of characters is diverse in ethnicity and includes boys and girls as well as Dot’s app developer mom and her flannel shirt-wearing woodworker dad. “Her parents are quite involved, which I like,” Powers said. “I’ve always thought Randi Zuckerberg is very interesting as a media person, parent, and creator,” she adds. While Zuckerberg is not involved with the tie-ins, the sensibility of the show is similar to the book’s, and the look and feel is close to the original illustrations created by Berger, whom Candlewick has published in the past.
The publishing program will begin in April 2019 with two Level 2 readers based on episodes: Leaf It to Dot, about a nature hike with Dad where Dot tries to earn a badge by finding a bird of prey; and Rocket Out of the Park, in which Mom assists the kids in making a rocket at a maker faire. Both will be published simultaneously in hardcover and paperback in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Future plans include a picture book called Dot Unplugged, to coincide with the National Day of Unplugging in March 2020. A series of chapter books is also under consideration.
Scholastic Gets Feisty
Scholastic has acquired the global master publishing rights in English for Feisty Pets, a line of plush animals that transform from cute to feisty when given a squeeze to the back of the head. The prank toys have attracted 100 million views to a series of YouTube shorts that put the toys in a variety of comical situations. They have also spurred viral videos featuring parents and kids scaring family members, friends, and pets.
“I love the toys,” said Debra Dorfman, Scholastic’s v-p and publisher, global licensing, media, and brands. “They’re a little scary and funny, leaning more to the side of funny and not mean-spirited in any way. For kids, scary has wide appeal, and that cuddly-to-ferocious feeling is the best.” The sweet spot for the books is kids seven to 10.
The publishing program will start in spring 2019 with The Official Feisty Pets Handbook, featuring a lenticular cover to capture the cute-to-scary transition, as well as a meme book, Let’s Get Feisty. Quirky Quizzes and Weird Word Games will follow in July, with original chapter books debuting in September, as well as a prank and joke book. Scholastic will also develop items such as locked journals for Scholastic’s clubs and fairs and potentially some exclusive titles for individual retailers.
The chapter books will establish personalities and backstories for some of the 50-plus characters, which include the likes of Sammy Suckerpunch and Glenda Glitterpoop. New characters are introduced regularly. There is no real content behind the property to date, so Scholastic is working closely with creator Mark Forti of William Mark Corporation to develop original material. Jazwares markets the toy line, with brand extensions overseen by Surge Licensing.
Ameet Enters the Wizarding World
Ameet, a licensed publisher based in Lodz, Poland, best known for its global book program for the Lego brand, has acquired a worldwide license from Warner Bros. to create creativity, coloring, and activity formats tied to feature films under the Wizarding World brand. The next movie is Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, set for a mid-November 2018 release. The first Ameet titles will debut globally in fall 2019.
Coloring and activity titles tend to appeal to children younger than the sweet spot for Harry Potter and the Wizarding World. “I think of what we’re doing as recruitment for the Wizarding World brand,” said Eric Huang, v-p and publisher at Ameet. “Millennial parents who grew up on Harry Potter are now Wizarding World-mad. They want to introduce their kids to that world, but at four, five, or six they’re still too young for the novels and even the films.”
With its in-house art studio, Ameet can develop original artwork for its licensed titles, rather than relying on assets supplied from the licensor. That was one of the factors that attracted Warner Bros. to Ameet, according to Huang, who added that this is the first time Ameet has illustrated a live-action film. “We have to find that balance between hyperrealism and a look that appeals to younger kids,” he said. “We want it to be realistic enough, but fun and coloring-booky.”
Initial titles will be straightforward CA formats, but the 2020 list might include some novelty elements. “When we showed this to publishers at Frankfurt, they would say things like, ‘ooh, it would be cool if that came with a wand,’ or ‘what if it came with an eraser that looks like a golden snake?’ ” Huang reported. “So there’s definitely demand for that kind of thing.”
Ameet and Warner Bros. are in initial conversations with potential sub-licensees around the world, including both current WB publishers and others. Ameet will distribute the books itself in its core markets of Poland and Germany.
For IDW, Hindsight and Foresight Are 20/20
IDW Publishing launches its 20th anniversary year in January 2019 with a five-book comic event called IDW 20/20. Each week for five weeks, an original comic book story will offer a new look at one of IDW’s licensed worlds, revealing secrets from 20 years past or 20 years into the future. “Our 20th anniversary is a pretty auspicious occasion,” said group editor Bobby Curnow. “We wanted to start the year with something special to celebrate.”
The writers, who in some cases are strongly associated with the franchise being featured and in others are new to the property, were given the flexibility of going into the future or past. “They are offering an unseen glimpse of the characters and worlds,” Curnow said. “They can really explore how the characters change in 20 years.”
Initially, the idea was to go 20 years into the past, but in some cases previous events conflicted with the licensor’s storylines for the property. “These are stories that do count,” Curnow explained. “They are considered to be in continuity. They’re canon.”
Featured properties in IDW 20/20 will be Sony’s Ghostbusters, Hasbro’s Jem and the Holograms, and Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, whose storylines will take place two decades in the future, as well as Hasbro’s My Little Pony and CBS Consumer Products’ Star Trek, which are set two decades in the past. Some, such as the Turtles and My Little Pony, were included in the event because they are among IDW’s top licenses, while others, such as Jem and Ghostbusters, were included because the writer had a really great story in mind, according to Curnow.
IDW 20/20 will be the kick-off for a series of promotions taking place throughout 2019 to mark the company’s anniversary.
Ferly Travels Through ‘Justin Time’
Ferly (formerly Kaiken Entertainment) has acquired global publishing representation rights, outside of Iberia and Italy, for Justin Time, a preschool animation series from Guru Studio. The TV show originally launched in 2011 and is now available on Netflix in the U.S. and on a variety of broadcast and streaming channels globally.
“This brand is really so suited for publishing, and not much has been done with it yet,” said CEO Laura Nevanlinna. “Some brands really support publishing as an avenue to reach children, and Justin does that.” She noted that the show has an edutainment angle, involving history and geography as well as imagination and problem-solving. “[The characters] Justin, Olive, and Squidgy have adventures all around the world—and in the past—as they learn to solve very child-sized problems,” she said.
Licensees will take the lead on developing publishing programs for the property in their respective territories, with a focus on story-driven formats such as readers, storybooks, and audiobooks, supplemented by some global titles developed in-house at Ferly. Conversations are just beginning with publishers around the world.
Ferly, a spin-off of Angry Birds developer Rovio, is an entertainment company involved in TV, film, apps, and licensing, as well as publishing. On the publishing side, some of its other current ventures include handling global licensing and publishing activities for the Dutch property Ollimania; representing Rainbow’s Winx Club for licensing and publishing in the Nordic countries; and extending its internally developed YouTube property Momolu, based on the work of Helsinki-based artist Leena Fredriksson, worldwide. Ferly expects to sign a global master publisher for Momolu soon.
DC Wakes to Rooster Teeth License
DC Entertainment is pairing with Rooster Teeth, a producer of online and digital entertainment and media, to create a range of comic books based on the latter’s portfolio of properties, beginning with RWBY and gen:LOCK in 2019. Both Rooster Teeth and DC are WarnerMedia-owned companies.
RWBY is an anime-style show about four young huntresses-in-training who work together to battle monsters; Scholastic recently signed on as the master book publisher. gen:LOCK, meanwhile, is a story about a team of pilots recruited to control giant weaponized mecha (robot bodies). “As our flagship animated properties, both shows have a huge audience—audiences who are hungry for more stories set in their respective worlds,” said Matt Hullum, Rooster Teeth co-founder and CEO.
The comics and graphic novels will be published in a digital format before being bundled into trade paperback graphic novels, with soft comics a possibility for certain properties. They will focus on expanding the worlds of the shows, filling in storylines between seasons, and fleshing out secondary characters. “We’ll be creating new stories that feed our core target audience, but also garner the attention of comics fans at large,” Hullum said. “We’re aiming to entertain our existing fans while also creating new ones along the way.”
Hullum noted that many on the Rooster Teeth team are comics fans. “We grew up on the adventures of Batman, Wonder Woman, the Sandman, Transmetropolitan, and more—and of course these stories have greatly influenced our own. In many ways, our branching out into comics is bringing our storytelling back to its roots.”
Founded in 2003, Rooster Teeth has built a fan base of more than 45 million subscribers to its YouTube Network, five million unique monthly visitors to its online hub, and three million registered community members.
Timed to the Frankfurt Book Fair and Brand Licensing Europe earlier this month, a number of U.K. licensors and publishers have announced new ventures: Alpha Group and its licensing agent in the U.K. and Ireland, Rockpool Licensing, have licensed Centum as the master book publishing licensee for the preschool TV series Super Wings…. Rocket Licensing granted rights for Scholastic U.K.’s Horrible Histories series to Ancestors of Dover for reproduction coins, quills, ink, activity kits, jewelry, and other items and to Paul Lamond Games for puzzles and board and card games…. Bulldog Licensing’s merchandise program for Usborne’s book series That’s Not My…, including the bestselling title That’s Not My Unicorn, now includes baby apparel from Dennicci and toys from Rainbow Designs.