Toying With 'Toons

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In June, Cartoon Network Enterprises (CNE) signed an exclusive, long-term global partnership with Mattel, Inc., for a multi-year, multi-property deal that covers original Cartoon Network properties for ages 6 to 11 and also carries a first-look option on all newly created original series and programming. LICENSE caught up with Cartoon Network Enterprises Vice President of U.S. Consumer Products Christina Miller to discuss the specifics of the partnership and the company's strategy going forward.

Q: What prompted you to partner with Mattel?

A: We've always had a strong relationship with Mattel as an advertiser, and it also is our master toy licensee for Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi. We felt Cartoon Network and Mattel were a strong match in terms of being able to bring a full portfolio to market, not just one or two brands. Cartoon Network Enterprises is a relatively new business, so partnering with the No. 1 toy company is a great strength.

Q: What properties does the master toy agreement cover? How will Cartoon Network's other existing licensees be affected?

A: The partnership won't affect rights currently in play, such as Bandai for Ben 10 and SDI for Code Name: Kids Next Door. This particular deal is more portfolio focused, so Mattel will have licensing rights to multiple toy and game categories for the Cartoon Network brand, as well as shows including Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends; Camp Lazlo; Ed, Edd 'n Eddy; The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy; and the newly launched My Gym Partner's a Monkey and The Life & Times of Juniper Lee. Moving forward, The Powerpuff Girls also will play a role in the deal, with its new incarnation, dubbed PPGZ, already on air in Japan.

Q: When are the first products scheduled to hit store shelves?

A: Foster's is the centerpiece of the deal, with product set to launch in spring 2007. This will include three to four assortments of collectibles, game play (think Foster's UNO or other games along these lines), and two or three TV drivers. Products for Ed, Edd 'n Eddy; Camp Lazlo; and The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy also will debut in 2007. As a whole, many of the skus will be assortments. About 60 percent of Cartoon Network's audience views cross-programming, so providing all of their favorite toys and the ability to collect them was important. At the same time, there are favorites and breakout programming, and we wanted to highlight that, too. For instance, we will create specific product for Ed, Edd 'n Eddy, which has a huge following but hasn't been given the chance to perform on shelves. The same goes for Billy & Mandy. Onto this, we will layer new, original programming-specific product, all under one Cartoon Network banner. Our overarching goal is to bring true entertainment back to the now-action-heavy boys' aisle.

Q: What are your plans for licensing out the Cartoon Network brand?

A: Although the agreement also covers the Cartoon Network brand, it's not the place we are launching. But, creating product specific to the brand gives us the ability to wrap the brand in certain attributes such as humor or comedy. Again, it goes back to our core consumer fan base that engages with Cartoon Network as a brand, and not as individual programming. There's a way in which to wrap it all together with solid, tangible items at the retail level.

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