What to say? Eloise gets larger and larger, and the blimp in her likeness lofting about the foyer of the Javits Center will probably be trundled out at the next Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. As for the rest of the Licensing 2001 International show, except for the endless licensing and marketing of dead movie stars, the industry still seems dominated by books — and mostly kids at that. Arthur, Curious George, Rainbow Fish, Clifford, and Tolkien ruled the day, not to mention his highness himself, Harry Potter, who’s beginning to feel as if he’s been around forever and reigned supreme. Not much new there (but happy 100th, Peter Rabbit).
If one is compelled to browse the film- and TV-originated brands, however, one must concede that the star of the show was probably the Butt-Ugly Martians. These winsome creatures are sort of extraterrestrial ninja-turtle knock-offs coming to a TV screen near you this fall, via massive syndication through WB Kids and Fox in the US. Produced by the Just Group in the UK, where they have recently been released and greeted by pandemonium from local youth, the Martians have been snapped up by (who else?) Scholastic for their publishing incarnation. Actually, the Just Group’s recently acquired UK packager/ publisher Marshall Editions (where chairman Richard Harman has just resigned) will produce the books. Action figures and further licensing bounty are just around the corner. Incidentally, the Martian crew gave a fittingly outlandish party at Mars 2112 in Rockefeller Center, featuring gyrating Martians in their appropriate environment, accompanied by at least two Rockettes on loan from Radio City Music Hall across the street.
On the Harry Potter front, there was a curious booth of first-timers (Muggles Magical Toys, Inc.) staffed by Margaret Lynden and her family from St. Paul, Minnesota. Margaret was nicknamed “Muggles” as a child, and the family trademarked (in 1995) the name and was offering an eponymous doll with magical shoes along with ideas for licenses in the apparel and paper products market. They gamely extended the franchise to their own line of t-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, school bags, and a book. Declaring themselves to be of honorable intention, they say they have teamed up with Scholastic to beat Nancy Stouffer (of the Larry Potter titles available from Thurman House publishers a/k/a Ottenheimer in Baltimore) at her own game.
Another author coveting a share of licensing manna is Susan Branch, whose hand-lettered and illustrated books are published by Little, Brown. Her licensing is handled by Art Impressions, and Jennifer Vincioni, their licensing manager, reported that after they paid for her book tour (NB!) for Girlfriends Forever — as they correctly surmised that the book’s success would have a direct impact on the sale of their licensed tie-in paper products — their sales catapulted from $80,000 to $300,000 in a year.
First-timers included Arthur Andersen (no cuddly investment-banker dolls are on the market yet; they were just on hand as accountants); attorneys Nixon Peabody (as “brand managers” representing Arthur the irrepressible Aardvark); and Chorion Intellectual Properties, who were there to license the next episodes of Noddy, which they had withdrawn from the BBC, licensors of the first series. And Dave Borgenicht’s packaging operation, Quirk Productions, took a modest booth for the Worst Case Scenario series with Chronicle — watch for the Worst Case Scenario board game coming this fall, among other iterations of this best-case-scenario line.
Another major presence at the show was Consor, which has represented the Vatican Library for some time. This year they’ve gone for broke, with an avalanche of refrigerator magnets, wallpapers, place mats, coasters, and trivets — all extremely tasteful, of course. (What the Vatican is selling is its art collection, so these items were adorned with Ghirlandaio, Carraci, and the like.) You can forget about books, though: there was only an old Turner (sic) Publishing on display.