Classic character properties with roots in British children’s literature have been expanding their licensing activities of late, mainly in their home market and largely with a focus on adult consumers. Many of the licensors are capitalizing on high-profile anniversaries and/or entertainment releases, while others are simply trading on retro appeal, especially for fans who grew up from the 1950s through 1970s:
- The estate of illustrator Mary Gernat-How, best known for her covers of books by Enid Blyton and other authors for Armada paperbacks in the 1960s and 1970s, launched a licensing effort late last year, with plans for lifestyle products such as home goods, apparel, and luggage.
- Egmont’s Roy of the Rovers, a football/soccer-themed property for boys, represented by Pink Key Licensing, debuted its consumer products program in 2015 with a focus on Father’s Day gifting for men in their 40s and 50s. The character got its start in 1954 in Tiger, a comic magazine, and starred in its own comic series from the 1970s to 1990s.
- Ladybird Books, overseen for licensing by Penguin Ventures and Start Licensing, marked its 100th anniversary in 2015. The Vintage Ladybird Collection, which centers on books published from the 1950s through 1970s, has inspired a growing list of products. They range from fabric and wallpaper featuring images from a series of books about nature, made by Liberty Art Fabrics, to a music album from Sony Music inspired by How It Works: The Dad, which is under the Ladybird Books for Grownups brand. Ladybird continues to publish today.
- Roald Dahl’s estate, represented in the U.K. by DRi, widened its licensing and promotional activity in the lead-up to Dahl’s 100th anniversary this year, as well as the release of the DreamWorks film The BFG this summer. New products highlighting the original Quentin Blake illustrations have debuted throughout 2016, with a focus on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and The BFG. Licensees producing centenary products include Steiff, Smiffy’s, Aykroyd’s, Ashley Wilde, Rainbow Toys, and more. Entertainment One has led a separate U.K. licensing program for The BFG movie.
- HarperCollins U.K. launched a licensing effort for Judith Kerr’s books, including the 1968 classic The Tiger Who Came to Tea and the Mog series, which started with Mog the Forgetful Cat in 1970. Products incorporate the classic artwork from the book titles. Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s featured Mog in its Christmas commercial in 2015, resulting in sales of 100,000 tie-in books and plush toys in its stores and £1.5 million raised for children’s literacy.
- Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, illustrated by John Tenniel, celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2015 and inspired a significant amount of merchandise, much of it unlicensed since the original story and drawings are in the public domain. A number of organizations oversee licensing programs for Alice-related properties, however; The British Library is among them.
- Penguin Ventures and Silvergate Media are celebrating the 150th anniversary in 2016 of the birth of Beatrix Potter, author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and a pioneer of licensing back in 1903. The property is already featured on a broad range of consumer products, with more than 200 licensees around the world selling items under The World of Beatrix Potter brand. Additional products, promotions, and publishing are being released throughout this year.
- Hachette U.K. and Bulldog Licensing are expanding the Enid Blyton brand as they look forward to the 100th anniversary of Blyton’s first published work in 2017. Hachette and its licensees began releasing new products in 2015, starting with a stationery line. Blyton authored 600 stories, including the adventure series The Famous Five, which was licensed in the 1950s and is the initial focus of current licensing. Hachette owns Hodder, The Famous Five’s original publisher, and purchased the Blyton estate (aside from the rights to Noddy) in 2012.
For more in-depth coverage of the intersection between licensing and publishing, see Karen Raugust’s news items, columns, and features in Publishers Weekly. Recent feature topics include the pairing of noted literary authors with licensed properties, Star Trek publishing in its 50th year, and trends from Licensing Expo.