Properties including Popeye and Garfield have recently signed deals for epiphany figurines to be sold in France. Announcements such as these serve as a reminder of regional licensing opportunities that may exist for products and services tied to local cultures and traditions.
Epiphany figurines, also known as epiphany charms or fèves, are small, hand-painted porcelain figurines that are baked into a traditional King Cake, or Three Kings Cake, which is typically served on January 6, the 12th day of Christmas. This is the Christian holiday of Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. Many countries and regions in Europe, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere, particularly those with a Catholic or Orthodox Christian tradition, celebrate this holiday. (In New Orleans and other parts of the Southeastern U.S., King Cake is typically served during the Carnival season leading up to Mardi Gras and Lent.) Receiving the slice of cake containing the figurine gives the celebrant luck, along with responsibilities such as buying next year’s cake.
In France, epiphany figurines created by the likes of Arguydal—the licensee in the Popeye and Garfield deals mentioned above—became collectible in the 1980s, leading to a boost in licensing activity in this category. The Simpsons, Calimero, Boule et Bill, Looney Tunes, and Star Wars are among the raft of properties that have been attached to this category over the years.
Fèves are not the only licensed initiative related to Epiphany. A number of entertainment licensors, both Europe-centric and global, have worked with licensees such as the Italian candy companies Walcor and Luigi Zaini on epiphany socks containing candy and surprises. And when the Mexican cartoon El Chavo was being introduced on licensed products in the U.S. many years ago, its then-licensing agent United Media worked with retailer Target on a Three Kings Day promotion in 350 stores with large populations of Hispanic shoppers. Then-El Chavo toy licensee Fundex also participated in a Three Kings toy giveaway in Miami.
A few of the many other holidays that can lend themselves to licensing opportunities around the world include:
- Lunar New Year, celebrated in China and across Asia at the end of January or early February each year. In China, it is traditional to give monetary gifts in envelopes called hong bao that are red and the size of paper money. (These are used on other special occasions as well.) Hello Kitty, Disney characters, Rilakkuma, Snoopy, Pokémon, and many other properties have been licensed for hong bao in Asia.
- Holi, the festival of color or the festival of love, celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs across India and elsewhere. One of its traditions is gathering in groups and throwing or spraying colored powder called gulal onto other celebrants. The powder is used either dry or mixed with water, and can be distributed via water balloon, spray can, or water gun. Licensed characters sometimes appear on supplies ranging from Ben 10 gulal packets to Chhota Bheem-licensed water guns.
- Diwali, the five-day festival of lights. Another holiday celebrated in India by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains, it occurs in October or November and celebrates the victory of good over evil or light over darkness. In addition to being a time for big fireworks displays and decorating with candles, the holiday is a gift-giving occasion. Licensed products with Diwali themes range from Diwali greeting cards and coffee mugs featuring characters such as Crayon Shin-Chan and Doraemon to a Diwali Blast mobile game starring Chhota Bheem.
- Children’s Day (Kodomo no Hi) in Japan. Every May 5, children have the day off of school, attend events such as plays and sports contests, enjoy sticky rice cakes and other sweets, show respect to their elders, and fly koinobori, banners or windsocks in the shape of colorful carp. Koinobori are a theme depicted in licensed merchandise including Hello Kitty greeting cards, fabrics tied to the late artist Clifton Karhu (whose art was in a style reminiscent of Japanese woodblock prints), and Rilakkuma plush figures.
All of these and other local holidays can be licensing opportunities for the right property, albeit largely seasonal and limited in scope and geography. It should be noted, however, that with the proper rights and a relevant (often e-commerce) distribution channel, licensed products tied to regional celebrations can also have some global appeal, as expatriates living around the world continue to maintain the important traditions of their homelands.