Iginio Straffi: Cool, Calm and Creative

Iginio Straffi has stayed true to his original philsophy based on people, passion, creativity and new content.

Iginio Straffi, founder and president, Rainbow

Since he founded Rainbow, the Loreto, Italy-based animation studio, almost 21 years ago, Iginio Straffi has stayed true to his original philosophy based on people, passion, creativity and new content.

"Rainbow has thrived thanks to the passion, artistic ability and entrepreneurial skills of the people who have worked with us," Straffi says. "The company has been transformed into a holding company that boasts 10 companies dealing with a wide range of productions from TV to movies, toys, multimedia products and publishing.

Today, Rainbow represents one of the largest and most complete animation studios in the world with a portfolio that includes "Winx Club," "Tommy & Oscar," "Prezzy," "Monster Allergy," "Huntik Secret," "Seekers," "PopPixie," "Maya Fox," "Gladiators of Rome" and "Mia and me."

And the company, which also has operations in Moscow, Hong Kong and Singapore, is now developing new properties to drive additional growth and further establish and solidify the studio's position in the marketplace for the future.

"New content is the cornerstone of all that we do at Rainbow," emphasizes Straffi. "The research and development of new content has never been put aside throughout the years, and our creative energy is our most important resource."

One of the most important new projects is "Regal Academy," which is based on the fairy tale adventures of Rose Cinderella, an earthling who discovers she is Cinderella's granddaughter and will attend the Regal Academy, a school for fairy tale characters. The show targets 5- to 10-year-olds and is Rainbow's longest show in development.

"It's a very ambitious project for us. We have worked over seven years on production and development to make sure that it will be a very high-quality show with great characters and a story to win the hearts of kids all over the world," says Straffi. "We trust that kids will love the beautiful design and exciting storyline and hope for 'Regal Academy' to be a major worldwide success.

"Regal Academy" premiered in late May in Italy and is enjoying very strong ratings, says Straffi. It will premiere on Nickelodeon in the U.S. in August.

The licensing potential, according to Straffi, is very strong and it's no surprise that Rainbow has big plans considering the aggressive international expansion of "Winx Club," which has become a multi-billion dollar franchise in retail sales of licensed merchandise.

"We will take advantage of the storytelling aspect of the show and the appealing play patterns that stem from it based on a huge number of role play concepts," explains Straffi. "So far, we have been getting very positive response from the retailers about the merchandise mix."

Toys including fashion dolls and role play toys will be the driving category, followed by fashion and accessories, back-to-school, stationery and gifts.

"It also has a strong publishing-oriented program, as the stories within the show are fresh, appealing and original," he adds.

In addition to "Regal Academy," Straffi says Rainbow is developing its first live action dramedy, "Maggie and Bianca: Fashion Friends." Aimed at a tween and kids audience, the show is set in the Fashion Academy of Milan and combines music and fashion for tales of friendships found and secrets revealed. It is scheduled to release in the first half of 2017.

"We are also building on our evergreen franchise 'Winx Club' through the brand-new 'World of Winx' show, due to be released at the end of 2016 on Netflix with 26 half-hour episodes. The show is a spy story based on a strong serialization," says Straffi. "Our ambition is that Rainbow properties will be always able to fill the imagination of our audience. Our content is rich, our stories are engaging, the audience loves them–every child would like to have 'fantasy friends' in everyday life. Live events, together with a theme park, offer children a new entertainment dimension and experience to share with friends and family."

Straffi believes that Rainbow's "ongoing commitment to keeping our brands fresh and relevant" is what differentiates Rainbow's approach.

"We constantly develop new content to maintain fans' interest. A good example of that is our efforts behind 'Winx,' an IP entering its 13th year since it premiered. We are still investing in new seasons every year and theatrical movies once every few years," Straffi explains. "We devote a huge amount of time and resources to production, as we know that we can't just sit on our laurels and expect existing content to do the job for us. We regularly give fans something completely new, which not only has a boosting effect on a property from the consumers' point of view but also provides licensees with fresh opportunities for merchandising."

Straffi believes the main challenge in the future is to stay competitive with good broadcasting.

"However, that's no longer enough to ensure the success of a franchise," he says. "You need to be appealing for the audience across a multitude of channels including the web, social media, live events and theme parks to provide strong identification power. That's what can really tie kids to a brand in a unique way."

Beyond "Regal Academy" and its other new initiatives, Straffi envisions a strong future following Rainbow's recent acquisition last October of the Canadian animation studio Bardel, which is based in Vancouver.

"We are even more global and clearly a leader in our industry. With a production capacity of close to 1,200 artists, Rainbow will be offering more great IP and shows in coming years across all formats from TV to movies to musicals. We'll continue to monitor the market to identify ideas that push the boundaries of kids' entertainment and delight audiences."

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