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Licensing Trends m4e’s Hans Ulrich Stoef
LICENSING EXPO & NATPE BUDAPEST EDITION
Studio 100’s Patrick Elmendorff Suzy Spafford www.tvkids.ws
THE MAGAZINE OF CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING
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Entertainment One Family • Simon’s Cat • Peppa Pig • Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom
In This Issue A new acquisition for Entertainment One (eOne) Family, Simon’s Cat is being launched at this year’s Licensing Expo. “Simon’s Cat shorts have generated 358 million views online and 1.72 million subscribers on its dedicated YouTube channel,” says Olivier Dumont, the managing director of eOne Family. Peppa Pig, which has sold in every territory worldwide, is the company’s most successful property to date. “Peppa Pig strikes a chord with the audiences...due to its universal familybased themes and gentle humor,” says Dumont. Then there is Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom, which has been enjoying strong broadcast ratings in Spain, Germany and the Benelux region. “During Licensing Expo the three properties [mentioned] above will be top priority for us,” adds Dumont.
“Our strong portfolio of preschool brands has a proven track record within Central and Eastern Europe.” —Olivier Dumont
Royal Plush Brands with built-in awareness continue to lead the L&M arena
Interviews m4e’s Hans Ulrich Stoef Studio 100’s Patrick Elmendorff Suzy Spafford
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Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom
Mondo TV S.p.A.
Ricardo Seguin Guise Publisher Anna Carugati Editor
• The Drakers • Cat Leo • Gormiti
Mansha Daswani Executive Editor
One of the primary goals for Mondo TV S.p.A. at the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas is to promote The Drakers— a co-production with Ferrari about two young Formula X drivers—to partners in North and South America. “Programs about racing cars, like Drakers, are unique nowadays,” says Matteo Corradi, the company’s CEO. Other highlights include Cat Leo, a Russian comedy focused on a nice cat and two troublemaking mice, and Gormiti, a 3D CGI action series that follows the adventures of the new Princes of Gorm.The latter title, according to Corradi, has been a hit among boys and is expected to continue to perform well. Mondo will also be presenting these three shows as highlights at NATPE Budapest this year.
“These properties will satisfy the tastes of all kids.” —Matteo Corradi
Kristin Brzoznowski Managing Editor Joanna Padovano Associate Editor Simon Weaver Online Director Victor L. Cuevas Production & Design Director Phyllis Q. Busell Art Director Cesar Suero Sales & Marketing Director Vanessa Brand Sales & Marketing Manager
Terry Acunzo Business Affairs Manager
Saban Brands • Power Rangers • Julius Jr. • Digimon Fusion
Ricardo Seguin Guise President
The yearlong celebration for Power Rangers’ 20th anniversary is in full swing.At the upcoming Licensing Expo, Saban Brands will be giving a first look at the upcoming 2014 season, Power Rangers Super Megaforce.The company will also be promoting two new additions to the Saban Brands catalogue, Julius Jr. and Digimon Fusion. “With Julius Jr., we foresee a successful new television property for the preschool market,” says Elie Dekel, the president of Saban Brands. The Digimon franchise has been a success for 14 years and has a new iteration on the way. “Through the new series, upcoming licensed merchandise and mobile and online integrations, Digimon Fusion will allow fans to really connect with the digital world within the series for the first time ever.” Julius Jr. 6/13 World Screen 61
“Our priority this year will be the development of future licensing and merchandising initiatives for our newest properties, Digimon Fusion and Julius Jr.” —Elie Dekel
Anna Carugati Executive VP & Group Editorial Director Mansha Daswani Associate Publisher & VP of Strategic Development TV Kids © 2013 WSN INC. 1123 Broadway, #1207 New York, NY 10010 Phone: (212) 924-7620 Fax: (212) 924-6940 Website: www.tvkids.ws
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AG Properties’ Care Bears.
Brands with built-in awareness continue to lead the licensing business, which now also includes a hefty digital component. By Kristin Brzoznowski
he sluggish economy and lower overall household incomes have continued to put a squeeze on the licensing and merchandising (L&M) industry. Indeed, the amount of money spent on toys per household has declined, according to NPD Group’s Toys Market Dynamic survey. The average toy-buying family in the U.S. spent $165 on toys last year, down from $181 in 2011. However, in a bright spot of news, there are actually now more households buying kids’ consumer products overall. The report shows that the number of households that bought a toy in 2012 increased to 124 million, up from 117 million. Across the globe, those dealing in children’s L&M face a similar mix of highs and lows. The lows are largely due to retailers being risk-averse and hesitant to take on new brands; the highs, many distributors note, come from working with properties that already have strong awareness. Among those fortunate
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enough to be in the latter category is Saban Brands, home to such megahit properties as Power Rangers. “Saban Brands has licensed its Power Rangers and Paul Frank properties since acquiring the brands in 2010, and each of these properties has grown dramatically through licensing and merchandising over the past three years,” says Kirk Bloomgarden, the senior VP of Saban Brands Global Consumer Products. “The company is also launching two new television shows later this year, Julius Jr. and Digimon Fusion, each of which has robust licensing and merchandising plans for product in 2014.” Bloomgarden says that the attributes that make Power Rangers a popular property for L&M today are the same ones that have driven its success as a TV show over the past 20 years. “At its very core, Power Rangers provides its audiences with a highly engaging story line, relatable characters,
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Greener pastures: Studio 100 is promoting three series that are CGI updates of classic brands, including Heidi, for which the licensing and merchandising plans are beginning to take shape.
Outdoor adventures: Among the products spawned from m4e’s Mia and me is a popup play tent from Germany’s John.
and a property that is of interest across the world. Those characteristics continue to make up one of the most powerful entertainment brands around today.” As the global master toy licensee for Power Rangers, Bandai America creates action toys that bring the characters from the live-action series to life. In addition to Bandai, Power Rangers now has nearly 200 additional licensees globally, creating products across all categories. “As it is now in its 20th season, the Power Rangers brand has fans spanning two generations,” says Bloomgarden. “The brand has seen tremendous growth, with
sales more than doubling from 2011 to 2012. Saban’s Power Rangers remains one of the top five boys’ live-action brands to this day.” The Paul Frank lifestyle brand also maintains global appeal, which Saban Brands has leveraged through licensing and merchandising. Currently, the brand has 180 licensees worldwide, creating merchandise for all ages. On Julius Jr., Fisher-Price is the master toy licensee and has a toy line on the way. GOT THE POWER
For Power Rangers, toys tend to be the strongest product category, followed by back-to-school items, sporting goods, apparel and publishing. For Paul Frank, apparel is the most successful product category worldwide. Just as Saban Brands touts the multigenerational appeal of Power Rangers and Paul Frank as strong L&M selling points, American Greetings (AG) Properties also offers a catalogue that is ripe with opportunities to reach children and parents alike. “Many of our brands appeal to multiple demographics on a global scale,” says Gabrielle Oliff, the VP of brand and marketing at AG Properties. “In particular, Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake span infants, kids, tweens, teens and adults. Packages from Planet X is the first boy brand that we’ve launched in over five years, so we’re really excited to see how that takes off as well.” Given that Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake have been in the market for quite some time, the brands are already heavily licensed. However, Oliff says that there are still opportunities for licensees looking to get on board depending on the market, mostly for non-toy categories. For its newer brands, including Boofle, Packages from Planet X and The WotWots, AG Properties is looking for master toy partners and supporting categories as well as retailer exclusives. Oliff says that properties are evaluated from the very beginning to see if there is L&M potential, rather than once a show has become a TV hit. This is made easier by the fact that AG Properties has internal entertainment-development and digitaldevelopment teams, “which we work hand-in-hand with to fine-tune content and understand how best to monetize it.” Studio 100 Media, too, gets a beneficial boost from its strong L&M infrastructure. Sandra Vauthier-Cellier, the com64 World Screen 6/13
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apparel, footwear, housewares, back-to-school and stationery, outdoor and beyond,” she says. For Heidi, Studio 100 is developing a “retro-collection mood board, which capitalizes on present brand assets for apparel, accessories, stationery and bags.We are also starting to pitch key master toy partners for the brand-new CGI series.” The brand awareness for this trio of Studio 100 highlights comes from the fact that they are all book-based properties. Having an established web presence could also be a sure-fire L&M driver. Entertainment One (eOne) Family is hoping this is the case for its newly acquired Simon’s Cat property. Simon’s Cat shorts have generated more than 350 million views online and the brand has 1.72 million subscribers on its dedicated YouTube channel. “This acquisition is part of an overarching strategy to extend eOne’s portfolio to include pop-culture brands that will broaden the target demographic of our brands beyond children,” says Olivier Dumont, the managing director of eOne Family. “It also demonstrates our desire to build brands that have their roots in the digital space as opposed to the traditional route of licensing TV properties.” PIGGING OUT
Frankly speaking: Saban Brands’ Paul Frank property has its own standalone retail stores that sell an assortment of products.
pany’s chief brand officer, explains, “A unique element of our business is that we develop and source our own merchandising items such as plush, puzzles and board games, among others. We distribute and sell these items under our Studio 100 brand and are now expanding our presence internationally with the help of distributors and retailers.” BRAND BUILDERS
Studio 100 is focused on three main properties for L&M, its flagship being Maya the Bee, aimed at children 3 to 6. Vic the Viking targets boys 5 to 8, while Heidi is meant for girls 4 to 8. All three properties are classic brands that are being refreshed with brand-new CGI animation. “From a licensing perspective, Maya the Bee now has 300 licensees around the world and we are currently looking for additional partners on both Vic the Viking and Heidi,” says Vauthier-Cellier. “We believe in long-term properties with strong brand awareness,” she continues. “This strong brand awareness helps in the extension of the property in every category. Our three properties are classics based on famous novels that spread great universal values.” For Maya the Bee, the core licensing categories have largely been covered, with publishing, toys, electronics, infant and preschool play items and footwear already in place. Vic the Viking has several partners on board, but Vauthier-Cellier says that the company is definitely looking to sign up more. “We truly believe the exciting and universal themes such as adventure, discovery, astuteness and teamwork will inspire more licensees in toys and games, 66 World Screen 6/13
Also in the company’s portfolio is Peppa Pig, which is its most-successful property to date. “Peppa Pig is on fire internationally, with Spain, Italy, Australia and the U.S. leading the charge and L&M rollouts to follow in Russia, Latin America and the rest of the world next year,” says Dumont. “The U.K. remains the number one territory for Peppa and the team will be ensuring the momentum continues here.” Mondo TV S.p.A., meanwhile, is placing its bets on shows that have big-name partners attached. This includes The Drakers by Ferrari, Gormiti and Dinofroz by Giochi Preziosi and Patito Feo by Televisa. “For all of these properties there is an existing TV series; therefore, the L&M market is the natural development to increase the brand’s popularity,” says Roberta Puppo, the international licensing manager at Mondo TV. “For example, speaking of The Drakers, the huge awareness of the Ferrari brand is a big incentive for the L&M sector, not to mention that it is the very first time that Ferrari has entered the kids’ market.” The 3D CGI Gormiti series is broadcast on Cartoon Network across Europe, as well as on numerous free-TV channels in the region, giving it a strong level of exposure that will assist in the L&M rollout. Dinofroz is already well known thanks to an existing toy line and is now the basis of an animated series Mondo TV co-produced with Giochi Preziosi. For Patito Feo, Mondo TV manages the brand for the Russian territory. Puppo notes,“Its potential comes from the great success and awareness it obtained in southern Europe (Italy, Spain and Greece) and that we plan to replicate in Russia as well.” The new Gormiti 3D series already has several merchandise categories covered, including party and gift products, DVDs, activity and coloring books, food, underwear and nightwear, oral care, sunglasses and accessories. Dinofroz is following the same path, with deals closed for beauty care products, activity and coloring books and, of course, toys. “For both of them we are now mainly focusing on key categories like apparel, publishing and food,” says Puppo. Regarding The Drakers and Patito Feo, Mondo TV is working hard at the moment to ensure a wide TV presence for
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Driving success: eOne Family has sold Peppa Pig into every single territory in the world, with merchandise sold in multiple markets.
each show, which will then push the properties organically into licensing and merchandising. Puppo notes, however, that for these two shows Mondo TV “is already working on negotiations with the most important players in the main categories: toys, publishing, back-to-school, stationery, food and apparel.” Klaus Forch, the executive VP of legal affairs and sales at Your Family Entertainment (YFE), agrees that the chances of a property succeeding in L&M greatly increase with wide TV exposure on the right channels or a high level of existing awareness. The YFE L&M catalogue includes Moorhuhn, also known as Crazy Chicken, a successful German casual game, as well as the popular children’s series Shadow of the Elves and The Fairly OddParents. It also represents the merchandising rights of around 100 properties from its own inhouse catalogue. STYLE SAVVY
“Our benefit regarding these series is first of all an existing style guide for a lot of different product groups, which our clients deem necessary for a successful lineup,” says Forch. “The series Fairly OddParents has an extremely high TV exposure in German-speaking Europe, with more than 50 broadcasts per week. Crazy Chicken has already achieved a brand awareness of 75 percent and is listed in the Duden, the most important German dictionary.” A benefit for YFE is that it can provide a brand exposure on its own platforms as well. YFE operates two Germanlanguage TV channels and a live streaming online portal, all of which can be used to raise a property’s profile. If a show doesn’t have built-in brand recognition or sizable TV exposure, Forch says that YFE will still consider a property for L&M if it has strong educational values. “Retailers focus on sustainable and successful brands with an educational focus. High-value TV content, therefore, can 68 World Screen 6/13
also be a good basis to develop a successful L&M [presence], because parents and children already have a positive outlook on it. In these times, parents focus as much on quality as quantity when it comes to [monitoring] children’s screen time. The Journal of Pediatrics has concluded that reducing children’s exposure to violent media, while increasing their exposure to pro-social content, can positively impact their behavior. This is a relevant aspect when it comes to the L&M of TV brands.” COMPETITION HEATS UP
Forch echoes the sentiment of many in the kids’ entertainment business that competition for retail space is still stiff. The L&M market remains very crowded, and retailers that have experienced many flops in the past are less willing to take risks on newer, untested properties. To bolster its chances of securing shelf space for a given brand,YFE has been working to develop marketing concepts that include the needs of retailers from the outset. Hans Ulrich Stoef, the CEO at m4e, which is home to the Mia and me brand, among others, reports using similar tactics to win over children’s retailers. “With Mia and me, we involved the retailers from the beginning. We told them exactly what we wanted to achieve, what the story is all about. With original content they are usually very reluctant. There are so many promises made—as a retailer you’re hit with 1,000 calls a week about new properties coming up and every one is the greatest and in the end they don’t deliver. We did not overpromise but have been very transparent in what we want to achieve and why we are doing Mia and me. What happened in Germany and in other markets is that we delivered.” Though retailers’ demands differ market by market, the commonality is that they are always looking for something that differentiates them from their competition.“They want something exclusive or first-to-market,” says Saban’s Bloomgarden.
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Farm fresh: YFE is expanding the presence of the German casual game Moorhuhn, a.k.a. Crazy Chicken, with new products and even a movie.
Not only do companies have to compete with each other for limited retail space, they must also vie for the attention of youngsters who are increasingly putting down their action figures and picking up digital devices.Through tablets, smartphones and the like, kids are constantly connected to entertainment on demand. While this may pose a challenge for some of the more traditional toy categories, it has opened up new opportunities to monetize digital ancillaries. AG Properties is among the companies stepping up to meet the challenges brought about by kids’ love of all things digital. “Retailers look for a 360-degree approach to brands since the consumer makes contact with properties on so many different levels,” says Oliff. “TV, online via social media and streaming content, consumer products and promotional partnerships and outreach have all become incredibly important to us as we sustain evergreen properties and look to launch newer brands.” ATTENTION DEFICIT
Oliff adds, “Digital is a space that we have just entered and have had a huge amount of success in. We have launched social-expression apps with Budge Studios, and Cupcake Digital is [working on] interactive storybooks.” Though the company has already made headway in the digital arena, Oliff says that AG Properties has yet to scratch the surface of potential opportunities. “People are constantly creating new ways to monetize in that space and we have to remain nimble in order to be a part of it.” Entertainment One Family dove into the world of apps to extend the reach of its preschool property Ben and Holly’s
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Boys toys: Mondo TV’s Gormiti has a wide TV reach across Europe, which helps drive its licensing business.
Little Kingdom. Developed by P2 Games, Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom: Magic School was released in late May, following on the success of the brand’s first app, Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom: Big Star Fun, which launched in 2012. “Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom continues to expand its fan base with strong broadcast ratings in Spain, Germany and Benelux and L&M rollout plans for these markets later this year and into next year,” says Dumont. “Given additional broadcast commitment, plans are also in place for rollout in Australia in 2014. Fresh new content, in the form of 52 episodes due for delivery this year, will ensure the brand’s longevity on-air,” which will no doubt continue to be supported through the release of apps and more. New media is quickly becoming a larger part of the overall strategy at Studio 100 as well.Vauthier-Cellier says, “Digital is now a key focus for us and we are working on several very exciting projects that should be disclosed by the end of the year, hopefully.” Vauthier-Cellier also reports new L&M opportunities popping up in territories that were once not so lucrative. “The emerging countries such as Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, India and China have great potential, but also have challenges since sometimes the licensing market is not yet properly organized or used to this new business. We have to adapt to this and be flexible and proactive. As a new entrant into the international scene, Studio 100 International has to compete against big players in Asia and Latin America, mainly covered by the U.S. majors or very local properties.” Vauthier-Cellier sees “infinite potential” in these emerging countries for furthering the group’s L&M business. The key to achieving this, she says, will rest in the company’s “dynamism, imagination, flexibility and ability to react quickly.”
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A decade ago, Hans Ulrich Stoef co-founded m4e with a view to tapping into television, DVDs, merchandising and other platforms to develop successful brands for kids and families. The company has been working to build itself into an independent content powerhouse, acquiring the distribution outfit Telescreen and later the TV-Loonland catalogue, reinvigorating classic brands and developing new ones like Mia and me. Stoef, m4e’s CEO, shares his strategy for the company with TV Kids.
TV KIDS: Why has Mia and me resonated with broad-
casters, audiences and the licensing community? STOEF: First of all because it is simply a very good show
and a unique concept. It is a hybrid of live action and CG animation—which nobody has wanted to do. Our show has up to six minutes of live action and 16 minutes of CGI animation [in each episode]. Honestly, I think we delivered a show which, from the production-quality standpoint, is simply higher than what has been offered on the market, including the productions from the major studios. We’ve delivered what kids really like to see, and it does catch kids from all cultures around the world. It was a very expensive adventure for a midsized company like ours. The first show alone cost us $12.5 million; that’s a lot of money, but we never doubted that parents and kids would like it. We are now producing a second season…and are developing a feature film for [release at the] end of 2015.We and our co-production partners, March Entertainment and Rainbow, are investing a lot in Mia and me right now, and it’s doing extremely well already in Germany and other markets, like Scandinavia, Benelux, Eastern Europe. From the entertainment perspective, it’s the number one girls’ brand in Germany. We’ve sold, since October last year, 250,000 DVDs in the dying DVD market, on a high price level with only two episodes per volume, which is great! [We’ve sold] 400,000 books in Germany alone, and 260,000 are hard-cover storybooks. The first kiosk magazine (with a print run of 120,000 copies) was released in March and sold 80,000 copies.The magazine has been the most successful new girls’ magazine in many years. Our partners from Panini already increased the print run to 150,000 copies with the third issue. By the beginning of next year, our toy partner Mattel will come to the market with product.That’s very important for us, since we—m4e and Gerd Hahn, our joint-venture partner—are the first German company ever to do a worldwide toy deal with Mattel. A lot of important territories will launch, television-wise, between now and January next year, like Mexico, France, the U.K., Australia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, new Asian territories.
Hans Ulrich Stoef
TV KIDS: As you are developing new content, do you always
have a licensing and merchandising component in mind? STOEF: In most cases yes, and it was always our formula: we
don’t do anything that is not merchandising related. Nevertheless, we deliver entertainment content first, and not only shows that are a kind of commercial for L&M. But, in order to make [a show] merchandisable, you inject certain ingredients
that help you [come up with] toys, for example, or [other products]. But thanks to the changes in the market and new digital opportunities we are now developing a new show with our partners from Studio Campedelli and Cartobaleno that is completely different—it has nothing to do with traditional licensing and merchandising. It has been a total buyer’s market over the last ten years, and therefore producers were forced to produce a certain kind of show in order to get the financing together, and that’s changing now. Creativity matters again! With the digital platforms, the on-demand business, you have more outlets and more sources and more creative opportunities, so that you can start in Germany the development of animated shows that are not that heavily merchandise related. TV KIDS: What are the challenges of producing animation in Germany? STOEF: We are the only country left in Europe which has no tax breaks for animation. And we have hardly any subsidy system at all for animated television shows. Many countries within the E.U. also protect their markets with official or nonofficial quota systems. That does not exist in Germany. As a result, 80 percent of the animated series in Germany are imported.There is a lot of pressure on the license fees. If a lot of competitive shows from foreign countries have the necessary tax breaks or subsidy support, you can imagine how difficult it is for a German production company to have a fair trade and to find fair financing models.We try to be smart about how we finance our shows.The real answer is, we have to come up with new stories and ideas, distinct designs, creative co-production models, with good, highly entertaining content, and with different business models.We have to develop shows that really travel if we want to survive. 6/13 World Screen 73
By Mansha Daswani
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worldwide, even though Vic the Viking and Heidi are still in production. Vic will be ready for delivery at the end of 2013 and Heidi in 2014. TV KIDS: How are your live-action tween shows doing? ELMENDORFF: To date, House of Anubis has been a big suc-
cess story for us—a localized version of the TV series was produced for the Benelux, German and U.S. markets. After several feature films in Benelux, we produced and released the Anubis feature film last year in Germany. Our second preteen project is Hotel 13, which has been produced in cooperation with Nickelodeon Germany. We are looking forward to continuing our collaboration with them for projects in the future. In the live-action genre we are also in discussions with partners and broadcasters regarding other potential cooperations. TV KIDS: What are some of your other priorities for
Studio 100 Media? ELMENDORFF: We are able to produce our classic series
using the latest technologies, such as CGI and 3D stereoscopic, with our animation studios Flying Bark Productions in Sydney and Studio 100 Animation in Paris. Apart from that we are constantly creating and producing new programs in our studios. With the production of the Maya the Bee movie we have set up a new theatrical film division, Studio 100 Film. This is a logical step in the company’s strategy to build up and strengthen its own brands. The feature film, with an upgraded look and in stereoscopic 3D, includes well-known and beloved characters, a new story and new characters who will join Maya on her adventure.
Patrick Elmendorff By Mansha Daswani
Headquartered in Belgium, Studio 100 has developed expertise building 360-degree strategies for its kids’ and family titles. The company is involved in all stages of making true multiplatform brands, from production to TV distribution, theme parks, toys and other consumer products, apps, games and more. As the managing director of the German-based division Studio 100 Media, Patrick Elmendorff is in charge of a business that is placing hits like Maya the Bee, House of Anubis and more on television and digital platforms worldwide. He also oversees a new theatrical movie division that is gearing up for the release of Maya the Bee: Movie.
TV KIDS: You’re rolling out new CGI versions of Maya the
Bee, Vic the Viking and Heidi. How has the response been from the market? ELMENDORFF: We are very pleased with the success of our revised classics and are quite amazed at the amount of presales that we have already achieved for the new Maya the Bee animated series. To date, the new series has been sold to over 130 territories and is currently airing in Germany on ZDF and KiKA, in France on TF1, in Austria on ORF, in Spain on Clan TV and in Italy on RAI, just to mention a few broadcasters. The popularity of the show is also evident when it comes to ancillary rights—for example, on the licensing and merchandising side we currently have about 250 licensees on board worldwide for the revised classic. Sales for our other classics, Vic the Viking and Heidi, are also doing very well. We are really delighted that Heidi has been placed in more than 76 [markets] and Vic the Viking in more than 45 territories 74 World Screen 6/13
TV KIDS: As one of the largest independents in the kids’
business, what are the greatest opportunities for Studio 100? ELMENDORFF: What’s rather special about the Studio
100 group is that we offer a 360-degree approach, which means that we market our licensing rights in line with a global strategy within sectors ranging from licensing and merchandising and home entertainment right through to stage shows and theme parks. With the production of animation, live-action series and feature films we continue to follow our philosophy to constantly invest in our content and to create new brands. For a company of our size, I believe that makes us relatively unique in this business. Over the last few years there has been a certain consolidation within the market and a couple of players have fallen away. I believe that in order to move forward today you really need a holistic approach combined with strong content. TV KIDS: Given the size of your library, what are the opportunities you’re seeing with digital platforms? ELMENDORFF: It’s very interesting what is happening on the VOD and on the digital side. We’re investing in apps, we’re investing in different kinds of games, we’re working together with key publishers on that side, but let’s face it, television is still first screen and currently everything else is second screen. We’re looking into all kinds of digital opportunities to make certain to not miss out on anything.
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whimsy of women who like to write notes, and it was very well received in the high-end gift shops. And then every year was a nice little success and we had more repeat business. In the meantime, the stores were saying, “What else do you have, what else does Suzy make? Why doesn’t she make little gifts? Why doesn’t she make cards with greetings in them?” And so the evolution was a reaction to the public telling me what they liked. [We] built towards a full range of social-expression products that would maintain Suzy’s Zoo for every season on shelf as well as in card racks, and branch into areas like tote bags and gift-wrap. TV KIDS: How have you extended the brand into the digi-
tal world? SPAFFORD: By virtue of the fact that since we already had many children’s books that were published, we had something to work with that made it easy to jump onto that fastmoving train and create a product that seemed to translate pretty well into the app. [We] had to rule out a lot of things that were much more digital, more graphic, and find a company that had empathy with the Suzy’s Zoo look. TV KIDS: What are some of the future plans for Suzy’s Zoo? SPAFFORD: More children’s stories. The deep stories of
Duckport—the name of the town I created for my characters to live in—to me is quite real. I’ve got it mapped out, literally, with streets and their names and the geography…. I can envision going into a library some day and seeing a whole row of my stories, like Dr. Seuss. There are about 30 books right now that have been published. A lot of them are about the Little Suzy’s Zoo brand and a lot of them are very simple little storybooks. But it’s building up. I would love to see more and more of that. I think one of my favorite fantasies is that I’ll create a big movie. [Laughs] After that I want the theme park! TV KIDS: Did you have any idea how successful Suzy’s Zoo
By Joanna Padovano
It has been 45 years since the Suzy’s Zoo brand made its debut on a line of greeting cards. Today, the animal-themed artwork, created by Suzy Spafford, can be found on a variety of social-expression products, including tote bags, gift-wrap and calendars. Represented by Lawless Entertainment, Suzy’s Zoo also has its own apps and e-books, as well as a television series in development. Spafford talks to TV Kids about the evolution of her whimsical brand, which includes the character sets Suzy’s Zoo, Little Suzy’s Zoo and Wags and Whiskers.
TV KIDS: What inspired Suzy’s Zoo? SPAFFORD: When I first created the brand, I was just cre-
ating colorful pictures that were whimsical, that entertained me. They were little originals in pastel, and I was making them, quite honestly, just to sell along with my watercolors— something that was really inexpensive that people would buy on a whim. I was selling my artwork in these outdoor art fairs. That was my original idea, and I just was having fun doing it. It took about four or five years for it to become published after I created it. Once it became published, it was first a boxnote range, and this was in ’68. The artwork depicted these animal characters doing things that people do. It caught the 76 World Screen 6/13
would become? What do you think has given the brand its longevity? SPAFFORD: I did not expect it to be so successful. I remember when my Dad [said], “I can’t believe you kept this thing going all these years!” I just kept responding to the way people responded to my artwork. And I kept being reassured by the public, because we would get reorders and reorders and reorders and I would get great feedback from reps—“This is what they like, they love the duck, they want to see more turtles….” [The key] to keeping it evergreen and to being so successful is just staying true to the little characters that [are] all me. They all just come out of my heart. TV KIDS: Are there plans for any new brands? SPAFFORD: Right now I am creating some new stories
for Dalmatian, the publisher in the U.S. They wanted to branch into [books] for 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds. We’ve already created Suzy and Jack and Corky for a level of reader that’s 9 and 10 years of age. There’s a brand within our Duckport brand called Camp Mudpuddle, and I think that’s the brand I’m going to develop for Dalmatian. It’s basically just younger kids who like to play along the creek and catch frogs.
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