The Unicorns of the Sea

At New York Toy Fair last February, one of the trends noted was the emergence of narwhals—members of the whale family with long, unicorn-like tusks—as a design and content trend. This was especially true in the plush category, as manufacturers looked to add new dimensions to the still hot but crowded world of unicorns.

Since then, licensed merchandise, plush and otherwise, tied to narwhal characters from entertainment and literature has also started to pop up more frequently on store shelves:

  • Mr. Narwhal, a character from the film Elf, has been featured on products such as Funko Pop! figurines and limited-edition cereal, mugs, and Christmas sweaters, sold through retailers including Box Lunch.
  • Narwhal, of Tundra Press’s Narwhal and Jelly graphic novel series by Ben Clanton, is available in plush form from Merrymakers.
  • Slumberkins, a series of board book-and-plush sets that teach social-emotional life skills, includes Narwhal along with other characters, from Sloth and Hammerhead to Bigfoot and Unicorn. In July, the Jim Henson Company announced it had secured the rights to develop the brand as a live-action-with-puppets television series.
  • Simon & Schuster’s Not Quite Narwhal by Lisa Sima, published in 2017, is about a unicorn named Kelp that was born to a family of narwhals. It is one of the latest of dozens of titles available for use with the Moonlite Story Projector, marketed by Spin Master.

Meanwhile, many of the ubiquitous and still proliferating collectible toy brands on the market have introduced narwhals into the mix as part of their quest to continually come up with new characters. Examples include Yoo-Hoo and Friends (Naree the Narwhal), Smooshy Mushy (Nixie Narwhal), and Ty Beanie Boos (Nori the Narwhal), to name just a few. Many of these have extended into other products through licensing. And of course, nearly all plushmakers, from Gund to Douglas Cuddle Toy, offer a narwhal in their assortments.

Raugust Communications’ December e-newsletter comes out next Tuesday, December 18, 2018. The Licensing Trend of the Month will take a look at how retailers have recently been acquiring licensed intellectual property and what that may mean for the licensing business as a whole. The Datapoint research spotlight will highlight celebrity branding strategies. If you do not subscribe to this free publication, you can sign up here.

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