Weekly E-News, February 24, 2004

Disney acquires Muppets, Bear in the Big Blue House
The Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House are moving into the House of Mouse after Disney acquired the two properties from the Jim Henson Company. Also included in the transaction are the Muppet film and TV library, and all associated copyrights and trademarks, as well as all the "Bear in the Big Blue House" characters, television library, copyrights and trademarks. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but it is expected to close within two months. Sesame Workshop retains ownership of the Sesame Street characters. The deal also includes non-exclusive production and consulting agreements under which Henson will develop potential new programming featuring the "Muppets" and "Bear in the Big Blue House" for Disney.

Toys take center stage at awards
The toys were back in town as the Toy Industry Association honored the best and innovative ones of 2003 with T.O.T.Y Awards at the recently ended Toy Fair. Fisher-Price won Toy of the Year and Infant/Preschool Toy of the Year for Hokey Pokey Elmo while LeapFrog Enterprises got the nod for Most Innovative Toy of the Year and Educational Toy of the Year for its Leapster Multimedia Learning System and Infant/Preschool Toy of the Year for its Little Touch LeapPad Learning System. SpinMaster won Vehicle of the Year for Regenerator R/C and Outdoor Toy of the Year for Bounce 'Round. Lego Systems won Activity Toy of the Year for CLIKITS. Game of the Year honors went to Cranium, Inc. for Cranium Hullabaloo while Creativity for Kids scored with It's My Life Scrapbook kit in the Specialty Toy of the Year category. Toy Biz knocked 'em dead with its Hulk Hands as Boy Toy of the Year. MGA Entertainment won two honors, one as Property of the Year for Bratz and the other as Girl Toy of the Year for Bratz Formal Funk Runway Disco. Toy executives Neil Friedman and George Ditomassi and the late game company founder, Milton Bradley were all inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame.

Mervyn's is sweet on new license
Mervyn's customers are finding a sweet surprise in the Baby Shop as the retailer nabbed exclusive rights to Classic Pooh for its Hunny Pots and What-Nots collection. The merchandise includes newborn apparel, nursery bedding and accessories featuring Pooh and his friends and is in 266 locations. The collection neighbors the exclusive line of Mary Engelbreit Baby merchandise introduced last fall. This exclusive line of newborn apparel features Engelbreit's Lamby and Doggy characters, taken from her children's board-book series by HarperCollins.

Penguin extends Miss Spider franchise
Penguin Young Readers Group signed a multi-year deal with Callaway Arts & Entertainment for a new publishing program for Miss Spider created by David Kirk. The two-pronged program will include illustrated storybooks for the trade based on the Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends TV series due on Nick, Jr. in August. A variety of novelty and mass-market formats based on Miss Spider are on tap for the mass market. The Miss Spider backlist will continue to be published by Scholastic, Inc.

BRATZ comes to the big and little screens
Twentieth Century Fox will produce a live action/animated feature film based on MGA Entertainment BRATZ fashion dolls. In addition, the studio will distribute an original BRATZ: The Video! currently in production by MGA Entertainment in the 3Q.

Tuscany reflected in new furniture collection
Laneventure brings the feeling of an Italian terrace to the states with "At Home In Tuscany," a line of furniture and accessories in collaboration with Frances Mayes, author of "Under the Tuscan Sun." An iron gazebo will be the centerpiece of the collection that will also feature olive jars, urns and a statuary mirroring the beauty of Tuscany's pottery. The outdoor furniture line will have custom fabrics with traditional Tuscan colors such as soft greens, golds, rose, coral or terra cotta. The collection will debut in September at The International Casual Furniture and Accessories Market in Chicago and hit shelves in early 2005.

RJM Licensing to support Too Cute for Words
RJM Licensing, Inc. signed a deal to represent new children's property Too Cute for Words. Created by artists Leslie McGuirk and Steve Walker, the property uses pictures in puzzle form to make words and phrases. The initial offering will include boy, girl and unisex messages such as "Cutie Pie," which will appear Q + an image of a cup of Tea + an image of a piece of pie. Categories up for grabs include apparel (sizes 0-4T), posters, room décor, wall coverings, stationery, security blankets, gift wrap and gift bags, over the counter fabrics, picture frames, puzzles and books.

WBCP characters are Nordic bound
Warner Bros. Consumer Products has granted a license to PEAK Entertainment to produce Looney Tunes live shows throughout the Nordic regions. The live shows will star the Looney Tunes characters and will include character meet and greets, mall shows, and activity events across the whole of Scandinavia, including Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark.

A "charming" new deal

The charm phenomenon continues as Casa D'Oro signed a deal with RJM Licensing, Inc. and Candlewick Press for the rights to Guess How Much I Love You. As part of the deal, Casa D'Oro will feature the characters, text, and artwork in Guess How Much I Love You on modular charms created for its Italian Gold Charm Bracelets. Product is expected on shelves in the 3Q of 2004.

International program on tap for Happy Tree Friends
Signatures Network, Inc. is launching an exclusive licensing program in Europe for Mondo Media's Happy Tree Friends. MTV Europe premieres interstitials this month in Asia, Latin America and Russia. In April, the program rolls out to the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia, Romania and Poland. The property will also have an online presence on many of the individual MTV International web sites. An international licensing program will target toys, back-to-school, apparel, gift and novelty, stationery, publishing and mobile technology categories.

Close named to new post
The Wildflower Group named Jonathan Close to the position of director, international services. In his new position, Close will oversee the company's international expansion efforts through sub-agents worldwide for the agency's portfolio of properties and brands, including Newton's Law, Leslie Beck American Casual, Alf and Inkmonster.

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