Macmillan Children’s Books named global master publishing partner for Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget

Multi-award-winning independent animation studio Aardman has announced a second publishing deal with Macmillan Children’s Books, naming the company the global master publishing partner for Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget.

The new feature length film, directed by Sam Fell and featuring the voices of Thandiwe Newton, Zachary Levi, Jane Horrocks, Romesh Ranganathan, Daniel Mays and more, is currently in production at the Aardman studios in Bristol and is due to launch on Netflix in 2023.

Macmillan Children’s Books has acquired world rights in all languages for three years. The publishing will launch on release of the film with a picture book of the film, a novelisation, a sticker activity book and a handbook.

The new agreement follows a previous publishing programme between the companies for Aardman’s animated musical special Robin Robin, which saw a range of picture books and novelty books published.

Robert Goodchild, Commercial Director at Aardman, says: “We’ve built a great partnership with Macmillan Children’s Books through its brilliant publishing programme for Robin Robin. We’re really pleased to be building on this relationship further by releasing these exciting product lines together for Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget. The books will be the perfect film accompaniment for young fans, and we can’t wait to get started on bringing them to life.”

Belinda Ioni Rasmussen, MD at Macmillan Children’s Books, adds: “Following the success of the Robin Robin range of publishing, we are delighted to be continuing our publishing partnership with creative powerhouse Aardman to bring Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget books to life. The original Chicken Run film was the highest grossing stop-motion animation ever and is one of the jewels in the crown of Aardman’s many achievements; we could not be more excited to be collaborating with them on this range of tie-in books for this much anticipated sequel.”


Cyber Group Studios bolsters core team with industry veterans

Cyber Group Studios (CGS), producer and distributor of animated series for children and families worldwide, has named three industry veterans to lead its production, development and R&D. The new hires are in response to the company’s strong business growth which is now at a historical high, with 10 series in production and 10 more in development this year. 

The newly named executives are Laurence Barret, appointed Vice President Studio Operations (Paris); Stéphanie Legraverant, promoted to Managing Director of CGS’ Roubaix studio (Hauts-de-France); and Andreas J Carlen, elevated to Chief Technology Officer for the entire group. All three will report to Dominique Bourse, COO and Co-founder of Cyber Group Studios.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with such a talented team of executives at an exciting moment of growth for our company, where new opportunities are constantly arising in this very fast-evolving industry worldwide,” said Bourse.

Laurence Barret, in her new role as Vice President Studio Operations, will be in charge of managing the Paris studio. She will also supervise all production budgets and the allocation of resources for all the company studios. In addition, Barret will determine and allocate production resources to new projects in development for the company. Barret was previously Head of Production & Studio Director at Ellipse Studio and Head of Production at TeamTO.

Stéphanie Legraverant, previously Production Director at Cyber Group Studios’ Roubaix (Hauts-de-France), has been promoted to Managing Director, Roubaix Studio, in charge of developing the company’s facilities and resources. During her tenure, the Roubaix studio developed a unique 2D production expertise and forged ahead into real-time production with the development of an Unreal native pipe, inaugurated with the studio’s first digital program, Giganto Club (26×11’). Produced in 2021/2022, the digital series exclusively for AVOD platforms and social networks, launched worldwide in partnership with YouTube, on February 3, 2022.

Andreas J Carlen, a veteran software engineering wizard and a Technical Director with more than 25 years of experience in the animation production and videogame industries, has been promoted to Chief Technology Officer of the group. Together, Andreas and his team will be responsible for furthering the real-time production pipe initiated in 2021 to create the Giganto Club; as well as industrializing the production process while keeping it creative-driven for the entire group worldwide.


ZAG appoints Carlotta Caracciolo as Consumer Products VP for MEA

Animation studio ZAG has appointed former MGA Entertainment and Warner Bros executive Carlotta Caracciolo as its first VP, Middle East and Africa, to oversee the company’s consumer products strategy in the region.  The appointment was announced today by Julian Zag, SVP Global Operations and Head of Consumer Products, to whom Caracciolo reports.

In her new role at ZAG, Caracciolo, who will be based in Dubai, will focus on building a consumer products programme for the Middle East and Africa for properties in the ZAG Heroez portfolio, with an initial focus on Miraculous – Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir and the company’s newest series, Ghostforce.

Miraculous has broad reach across the Middle East, with the series available on Disney Channel and MBC, whose MBC3 channel for kids is the most popular and biggest in the region. Combined, Miraculous reaches kids in Arabic across Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Cyprus, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, West Bank and Gaza, Qatar, Saudi, Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Aran Emirates and Yemen. In Turkey, the series is available on Disney Channel. South and Sub-Saharan Africa is covered by Disney; with MBC reaching Northern Africa.

“The Middle East and Africa have become a top priority for ZAG, and the Disney/MBC combination is a perfect duo for us to reach children and families across the region,” says Julian Zag. “Miraculous is garnering strong ratings, particularly in Saudi Arabia, where the series ranked in the number-one slot on MBC following its launch in 2018, and has remained among the top programmes ever since. Carlotta will lead our market expansion in the region and drive the development of licensing partners for our portfolio of brands.”

Caracciolo served for the past three years as Head of Sales and Licensing, Middle East and Africa, at MGA Entertainment, where she was instrumental in launching the licensing and toy programme for L.O.L. Surprise! across the region. Prior, she was a Category Manager at the licensing agency Shooting Stars, where she managed and developed the softlines accounts for clients including Warner Bros and NBC Universal for the GCC region, following her earlier role with Warner Bros as a category manager based in Italy. She started her entertainment career with Warner Bros in Italy in 2011 as marketing and retail assistant.

Caracciolo says: “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with ZAG, and I look forward to growing the licensing and toy footprint in MEA Region, bringing new and exciting collaborations  across multiple categories for consumers to experience the brand.”

Bulldog signs Wow! Stuff for master toy global deal

Licensing agency Bulldog has agreed terms on a deal with Wow! Stuff for the toy company to become the first licensee for the ‘boundary breaking’ 2.5D animated series Odo.

Created by Sixteen South Originals and co-produced with Letko, Odo has now sold into more than 128 countries. In the new Master Toy global deal, Wow! Stuff will create a comprehensive range of toys including plush, dolls, figures and accessories, role-play toys, play sets, track sets, construction toys and bath toys.

Odo is a little owl with big ideas and was recently selected to join the Bulldog family of brands following its stellar TV launch last year. The first series comprises 52 x 7-minute stories and has already been pre-sold to many leading networks and broadcasters worldwide. The series is now airing every weekday on Milkshake! in the UK.

Odo has also been signed by HBO Max in the US and is airing on MiniMini+ in Poland, TVO Kids and Knowledge Kids in Canada and ABC in Australia. Many more territories will roll out throughout 2022.

The series combines humour and heart and aims to teach young children self-efficacy and to believe in themselves to help combat the troubling rise in childhood anxiety and depression levels. Each episode sees Odo positively tackle challenges with the help of his best friend Doodle, under the loving watchful eye of Camp Leader, an eagle.

Wow! Stuff’s Director of Licensing, Kenny McAndrew, is delighted with the deal. “We were pitching against some of the biggest toy companies for Odo,” he says. “Everything Odo stands for resonates and aligns with our own values, we wanted this with all our hearts – and I think that showed through in our pitch! Odo is unique; Odo the owl is gender neutral, the themes are groundbreaking and the series is grounded on social justice. And it’s very, very funny.”

Vicky Miller, Licensing Director of Bulldog Licensing, adds: “Wow! Stuff’s reputation for innovation is really unmatched in the industry and that’s what we wanted for Odo. The series is breaking boundaries in its approach to children’s mental health and wellbeing, it’s a trail-blazer in the preschool entertainment arena. Similarly, Wow! Stuff always goes above and beyond to create innovative, show-stopping product ranges and that’s just what Odo deserves”.


Signature Publishing partners with Cyber Groups Studios to launch standalone Gigantosaurus magazine

Following the success of the two special issues of Adventures with Gigantosaurus earlier this year, Signature Publishing has partnered with Cyber Groups Studios to launch the new standalone Gigantosaurus magazine. Aimed at pre-schoolers, the title is based on the award-winning animated TV series and Jonny Duddle’s original book, published by Templar.

Gigantosaurus supports early-years learning through fun stories, puzzles, colouring and lots more interactive activities, while each issue comes with a Gigantosaurus toy.

Gigantosaurus follows the adventures of four dinosaur friends – Mazu, Tiny, Bill and Rocky – as they explore the prehistoric world, searching through jungles, rivers and more, hunting down the elusive Gigantosaurus and making new dinosaur friends along the way. The fun-filled adventure focuses on friendship and teamwork as each friend overcomes their individual fears. The hit TV series is available on Disney +, Netflix and Tiny Pop, and was rated Tiny Pop’s #1 show when the new series launched, reaching 1.95million viewers during the three-month period.

“With such a massive following and proven magazine sales we’re really excited to be working with Cyber Group Studios on a regular Gigantosaurus magazine,” says Editor Julie Patten. “Plus, it’s such a lovely timeless story, full of adventure, excitement, friendship and fun but, most important of all… the biggest, fiercest dinosaur of them all!”

Gigantosaurus magazine launches on 4 November, with the first issue priced at £4.99. It’s available nationwide at all good supermarkets and newsagents.

YouTube Originals greenlights new episodes of hit Korean animated series Pinkfong Wonderstar

YouTube Originals today announced the new episode pick-up of Pinkfong Wonderstar, SmartStudy’s popular animated series, returning with new adventures this November. The 13 new episodes of the series will be sequentially released on Pinkfong’s Korean and English official YouTube channels and will be available on the YouTube Kids app from November 9.

Pinkfong Wonderstar was the first Korean animated series on YouTube Originals in 2020. The first 13 episodes have been streamed in English and Korean since December 2020 with 73 million views as of October 2021.

YouTube Originals also launched the first 13 episodes of the series in four additional languages – Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian and Russian – in 2021.

Pinkfong Wonderstar follows two best friends, Pinkfong and Hogi, as they team up to solve their friends’ problems in Wonderville, using Pinkfong’s magical powers and Hogi’s great ideas. Exclusive to YouTube Originals are special clips at the beginning of every episode featuring Pinkfong and Hogi’s fun explanation of key learning takeaways from each episode’s story.

“We are delighted to introduce another fun-filled adventure of Pinkfong Wonderstar on YouTube Originals,” says Min Seok Kim, CEO of SmartStudy. “We hope the series continues to bring joy to children across the globe and help them to learn the important values of life with exciting stories and songs and lovable characters.”

“Building on our successful partnership with SmartStudy, we are thrilled to bring the global YouTube Kids audience new episodes of Pinkfong,” says Nadine Zylstra, Head of Family, Learning and Impact, YouTube Originals. “It is so exciting to see the impact of launching a global IP across the world and in multiple languages on the same day.”

Pinkfong Wonderstar is the latest addition to an expanding roster of YouTube Originals focused on kids and family, including the award-winning Lockdown, and recent hits such as Get Curious with Vice President Harris, BookTube Jr, The Workout Badges, Growing with Lottie Dottie and Break the Record.



Miraculous – Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir passes $1bn in retail sales ahead of new movie

ZAG’s Miraculous – Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir has surpassed $1bn in worldwide retail sales, a major new milestone for both the property and the team behind it who has this week detailed a new roster of US licensees for the brand.

The news arrives in the lead up to the release of the $100m theatrical feature film based on the Miraculous IP, and follows the roll out of Season Four of the animated series created by ZAG and co-produced with ON kids and family.

“Since launching the Miraculous™ – Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir brand at retail, Miraculous branded merchandise from over 300 licensing partners is currently available at major retailers and online in virtually every territory around the world across multiple categories,” commented Jeremy Zag, Founder and CEO, ZAG.

“We are grateful for the support of our content partners, licensees and retailers around the globe, and of course our millions of fans who have embraced the adventures of our heroes, Ladybug and Cat Noir. We have more exciting escapades yet to come and I can’t wait to share the news of an upcoming series that is sure to be embraced by our Miraculous fans.”

With continued demand for the Miraculous brand in the North American market, ZAG has signed over 50 new licensees in the past 12 months. Newly signed publishing agreements include Little Bee (Activity Formats) and Bendon (Color and Activity).  For fashion and accessories, new partners include HER (hair accessories and jewelry), Jacmel (jewelry), Accutime (watches and clocks), Jerry Leigh of California (girls’ apparel), SG Companies (seasonal footwear), and Heys International (luggage).

For activities, partners include TCG (puzzle and games), Horizon (craft & activity), Lil’ Anglers (fishing gear), What Kids Want (outdoor and seasonal), and Toy Factory (amusement plush). Food and beverage partners include Crunch Pak (healthy snacking), Good to Grow (beverages), Ferrara (fruit snacks), Zak! Designs (hydration, food storage, tabletop), and Kernels (popcorn, Canada).

Additional partners include ASO (wound care and first aid); and SmileMakers (stickers for medical field). In Canada, Danawares is on board for accessories. The new deals come on the heels of the recently signed global deals with Swatch’s Flik Flak and Epopia, who join long-standing partners Ferrero and PEZ.

In spring 2021, ZAG introduced a new Miraculous toy line from ZAG Lab and Playmates in the US on the e-commerce platforms of Walmart, Target and Kohls, selling-out within just a few hours. This autumn, brick and mortar stores will be carrying the toy line.

Other products hitting retail shelves in the U.S. this year include leveled readers and chapter books from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (LBYR), a division of the Hachette Book Group, costumes and accessories for wholesale retailers from InSpirit Designs, bedding from Jay Franco; underwear from Handcraft Manufacturing; and Bentex Apparel Group for sportswear, tees and sleepwear.

Miraculous – Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir is available in over 120 territories across the globe.

Mattel debuts new He-Man and The Masters of the Universe toys as first Netflix trailer lands

Mattel has lifted the lid on a new collection of toys and action figures inspired by the new animated Netflix series, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, a CGI reinvention of the cult classic series that has been developed for a new generation of fans.

Detailed in a post issued by Mattel’s vice president and global head of action figures, PJ Lewis, the new collection of toys features both classic and never before seen characters, enabling fans of all ages to ‘join the battle to save Eternia.’

The new range takes inspiration from a new CGI animated series, scheduled to land on Netflix this September 16th. Reinvented for today’s audiences, the series will deliver a reimagined storyline and a new stylised take on the world of Eternia.

The first trailer for the new series was dropped earlier this week. Check it out and take a first look below:

The series lands amid a run of recent activity for the Masters of the Universe franchise that most recently made its comeback in the form of the Netflix animated series – Masters of the Universe: Revelation – released this July.

As we continue to reintroduce Masters of the Universe to the world, I am excited to share that on September 16, the sword is being passed to the next generation of fans with the release of the new animated Netflix series He-Man and The Masters of the Universe, a show reinvented for kids today with a reimagined storyline and new stylized take on the world of Eternia,” said Lewis.

“But what’s most exciting to me is we are taking kids’ favourite heroes off the screen and into their hands with the introduction of a slew of amazing toys and action figures inspired by these new series.”

Each articulated figure in the new range comes with an attack feature or projectile, while He-Man and Skeletor can race into action with The Masters of the Universe Vehicle Pack, or engage in head to head battle using the Snake Mountain Throne play-set.

“The options are limitless for even our youngest fans to recreate their favourite Masters of the Universe scenes, and the fun starts October 1st when the new collection becomes available at Walmart,” said Lewis.

King Features gives its classic animated character Olive Oyl a modern rebrand with fearlessness at its centre

She’s one of the classic animation world’s most iconic females that has, for generations, been perceived as the archetypal damsel in distress and focus of Popeye and Bluto’s embittered love triangle, but for Olive Oyl, the course of history is about to be altered for good.

King Features Syndicate has this week unveiled a new look and vibe surrounding the heroic Olive Oyl, highlighting her attributes as a star in her own right, delivering laughs to readers long before Popeye ever entered the picture. And now, following decades of living with Popeye’s stardom, the world is finally about to meet the true Olive.

Created in 1919, Olive was groundbreaking for the era as one of the first, globally recognized female cartoon characters who did not conform to traditional female stereotypes. Tough and independent, Olive Oyl never required support from a partner, providing for herself first as an entertainer and later through other careers. And while she had many interested suitors over the years, she chose never to marry or start a family.

Her strong will and affable nature make her as relevant today as she was 100 years ago.

A description of her character, issued by King Features Syndicate, read: ‘From her physical appearance to her personality quirks, Olive embraces those things that make her unusual and truly loves herself. She is a huge romantic who is proud to be a lady but doesn’t feel bound to act lady-like.

‘A smart and empowered woman with high standards, she is also lighthearted and adaptable with a wry sense of humor. Olive is self-assured, strong and not afraid to stand up for herself or get her hands dirty but also knows when to lean on her friends.

‘Her dynamic personality shows that a woman can be many things – powerful, driven, vulnerable and sensitive – and that emotions are meant to be felt and expressed. Her confidence radiates and inspires others of all ages, gender identity and backgrounds ­to celebrate their unique selves.’

As part of her rebrand, King Features has launched a set of new Olive Oyl trend guides, depicting the character as the embodiment of a lifestyle filled with humor and love. Her design incorporates a modern twist on retro fashion while her unique physical depiction remains the same.

Flexibility is also a key identifier for Olive – both physically and emotionally – so several poses that showcase her elasticity are included. The character art is thoughtfully paired with entertaining yet insightful editorial anecdotes that are relatable to her audience.

“Timing couldn’t be more appropriate to reintroduce audiences to Olive Oyl,” said Carla Silva, vice president and general manager, global head of licensing, King Features.

“For too long this strong, confident and fearlessly female character has been viewed through a singular lens. With this rebrand we are not just introducing Olive to younger consumers for the first-time, we are also presenting more established fans with sides of her personality that they have likely never known before.

“Olive is not just a character, she represents an attitude and a lifestyle that appeals to a wide audience, one not limited by age, geography, gender or background. Olive is just Olive, and we’re ready to watch her take the world by storm.”

Over the decades, Olive Oyl has had a long, successful history in consumer products. Style makers around the world have been inspired by Olive’s confidence and glamorous self-perception, particularly those in the high-fashion space.

For over 20 years she has served as Moschino’s muse appearing in collections each year across product categories, most notably their CHEAPANDCHIC fragrance which is in its seventh iteration since launch in 1995. Other recent fashion collaborations of note include Iceberg, Joyrich, Monnalisa, Liu-Jo, Original Marines, United Colors of Benetton, DTRs with GAP, C&A, Zara and a 2021 Valentine’s Day retail program with C&A in Mexico.

Beginning in Spring 2022, fans will see Olive’s new style represented across a range of collaborations, with King Features seeking new partnerships for the character in categories including apparel, accessories, health & beauty, jewelry, handbags, wellness and more.

Nickelodeon and toy maker WowWee partner on new digital animated brand, The Squish

WowWee, the international toy maker and team behind Fingerlings and the Got2Glow Fairy Finder has struck up a new partnership with Nickelodeon Digital Studios to turn its My Squishy Little Dumplings characters into an animated brand.

The project will see the characters from the My Squishy Little Dumplings line come together as The Squish – a new, digital, K-pop inspired band devised to bring a new genre of music – called S-pop (aka Squish Pop) – to kids.

The partnership will see Nickelodeon Digital Studios produce a suite of digital content starring The Squish, kicking off the activity with a featured song and music video on the Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. YouTube Channels. Titled ‘Can You Resist the Squish?!,’ the song and video focus on the unique personalities of each of the characters: Doe, Dip, Dee and Dot.

The song will be available on all digital streaming platforms including Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, and more. Additional pieces of content will be released throughout the year on Nickelodeon’s YouTube Channels, including music videos, behind the scenes content, and House Party Tour.

“Kids and families from all over the world will adore ‘My Squishy Little Dumplings,’ the same way we do,” said Ashley Kaplan, senior vice president, Digital Studios, Nickelodeon.

“We are so excited to create an environment where these characters can evolve and thrive, and kids can fall in love with them in a whole new way.”

“When WowWee first showed us My Squishy Little Dumplings we immediately knew these fun, surprising and loveable characters were a natural fit for the Nickelodeon portfolio,” said Jamie Drew, Senior Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Americas Licensing, ViacomCBS. “We’re thrilled to work with such a creative and innovative partner to launch this digital-first execution.”

Sydney Wiseman, vice president of brand development and creative strategy at WowWee, added: “We know kids everywhere are going to love the My Squishy Little Dumplings digital content on Nickelodeon’s digital platforms just as much as we do.

“Nickelodeon is the perfect partner for us to bring the Dumplings into this next phase of fandom around the world.”