Genius Brands appoints Kerry Phelan to role of EVP and GM of global franchise management

Genius Brand International has appointed the 30 year consumer branding executive, Kerry Phelan to the newly created role of executive vice president and general manager of global franchise management.

In her new role, the former DreamWorks and Pixar executive will report to both Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO, and Harold Chizick, president of global content sales, marketing, and consumer products.

Phelan boasts an illustrious career in the entertainment space. After she successfully launched the Star Wars brand at LEGO Systems Inc, Phelan was recruited directly to Lucasfilm Ltd where she led the global consumer products and promotional licensing business for the multi-billion dollar Star Wars franchise in over 60 countries worldwide.

From there, she joined Pixar Animation Studios, reporting to Steve Jobs where she launched, in concert with Disney Consumer Products, the original Cars consumer products programme. Following Pixar, Phelan spent seven years at DreamWorks Animation as head of consumer products and licensing, driving the development of franchise management plans for the studio’s film and television properties, including Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, and more.

At DreamWorks, she managed the retail consumer products business and doubled the consumer products revenue in just three years. Most recently, she served as President of Global Franchise Management at Lionsgate Entertainment, where under her leadership, the studio created brand extensions spanning location-based and live entertainment venues, consumer products, licensed merchandise, brand partnerships and an array of promotional ventures for such blockbuster franchises as The Hunger Games and Twilight.

In her new role at Genius Brands, Phelan will be responsible for global management of the Company’s existing IP across licensing, merchandising, retail and promotions, including Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten, Shaq’s Garage, Stan Lee Universe, and Rainbow Rangers, as well as properties currently in development.

“Kerry’s pedigree and reputation in entertainment branding is unparalleled as she has driven the global revenue streams of some of the most lucrative franchises in history,” said Chizick.

“In the coming year, we have multiple properties launching into the global retail marketplace, including Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten, which just premiered on Kartoon Channel!, as well as Shaq’s Garage and Stan Lee Universe plus more categories coming to market around Rainbow Rangers.

“Kerry’s leadership and strategic guidance will be instrumental in driving the growth of our brands around the world.  She is a dream executive to have on board to help us achieve our long-term goals.”

Phelan said: “The majority of my career has been spent building properties into global franchises, specifically in the children’s space. Having had a peek at the coming pipeline, I am excited about the future at Genius Brands and the opportunity to build bigger brand ecosystems around their properties.”

Genius Brands taps Never Wrong Toys as global master toy partner for Rainbow Rangers

Genius Brands International has named Never Wrong Toys – a subsidiary of China’s leading toy manufacturer, Markan Industrial Group – as its global master toy partner for the animated series, Rainbow Rangers.

Under the partnership, Never Wrong Toys will develop a broad range of preschool products in the toy category, including dolls and figures, play-sets, plush, vehicles, technology and interactive toys, musical toys, role play and more. It is scheduled to hit the retail market in Q1 2022 to coincide with the premiere of season three on Kartoon Channel.

Rainbow Rangers currently streams on Kartoon Channel but will land on Netflix in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and the Middle East from July this year. It will also stream on Amazon Prime Direct in the US and the UK, and HBO Lat Am in due course, as well as key broadcasters around the world such as  CCTV (China), Televisa (Mexico), Treehouse(Canada), Cartoonito (Italy), Nine Network (Australia), TVNZ (New Zealand), and HOP (Israel), among others.

“As season three readies for launch on Kartoon Channel! in the fall, season one will begin roll out on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video Direct beginning this July,” said Harold Chizick, president global content sales, marketing and consumer products, Genius Brands.

“We are seeing increasing demand across social media for more ways to interact with the characters and stories of this highly engaging series about seven diverse girls with seven different powers who work together to protect the planet and its animals.”

“Season three is going to have a unique twist on the stories that we are excited to bring to consumer products as well. We are thrilled to partner with Never Wrong Toys to create a brand new comprehensive toy line for global retail distribution that truly reflects the core value of this unique preschool brand and in line with the demands of the market.”

Eva Wong, co-founder, Never Wrong Toys, said: “Rainbow Rangers is a unique original preschool brand that appeals to both girls and boys with its messages of empowerment, friendship, adventure and environmental consciousness, and we are excited to collaborate with Genius Brands to further engagement with the brand through an all-new action-based toy line that will resonate with young kids around the world.”

 Rainbow Rangers is a rescue-based series that follows the adventures of seven girls who are Earth’s first responders – protecting people, animals, resources, and the natural beauty of our world.

Genius Brands International promotes Michael Jaffa to COO

Genius Brands International has promoted Michael Jaffa to the role of chief operating officer from his previous role as general counsel and senior vice president of business affairs. In his new position, Jaffa will continue to report to GBI chairman and CEO, Andy Heyward.

As COO, Jaffa will be responsible for overseeing the business operations of production, consumer products, global distribution, as well as legal, human resources and the diversity divisions. Additionally, he will continue to oversee the business and legal operations of the Company’s digital channels, Kartoon Channel! and Kartoon Classroom!, while retaining his responsibilities as general counsel.

“Since joining Genius Brands in 2018, Mike has been a tireless leader in driving the business forward as we lay the foundations for the next great kids company,” said Heyward.

“Heading into 2021, we are poised to take a giant leap forward with the execution of business strategies for our new brands, Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten, Shaq’s Garage, and Stan Lee Universe, joining tentpoles Rainbow Rangers and Llama Llama, and the continued rapid expansion of our digital platform, Kartoon Channel! now in over 100 million U.S. TV households, and available in virtually the entire country.

“He will additionally oversee the integration of the recent acquisition of Chizcom Media, the largest buyer of children’s advertising in North America. Mike’s pedigree coming from Hasbro Productions, and DreamWorks TV Animation, is another example of building Genius Brands into a powerhouse entertainment company with proven leadership from the world’s most successful companies in the entertainment and broadcast industries.”

Jaffa said: “There are tremendous opportunities for growth in the years to come for Genius Brands. I am honored to take on this expanded role and look forward to working together with Andy, my management colleagues, our dedicated employees, and all of the departments across our business to continue our transformation to one of the foremost producers and distributor of enduring first-class content for kids and their families.”

Prior to joining Genius Brands as general counsel and SVP of business affairs, Jaffa served as head of business affairs at DreamWorks Animation Television and was responsible for all studio business and legal affairs matters, including the negotiation and drafting of hundreds of development, production, acquisition, talent, digital and music agreements.

Previously, he was the vice president of legal and business affairs for Hasbro Studios, working directly with Hasbro Studio’s president, CFO, and general manager to help create programs and launch strategy for a new studio and related network.

Genius Brands International rolls out its Kartoon Channel! app to iOS as it looks to take on Netflix and Disney+

Genius Brands International has extended the launch of its new, free digital Kartoon Channel to iOS with a new dedicated Kartoon Channel! app available on Apple iOS. It follows it initial launch across multiple AVOD and OTT platforms last month.

Kartoon Channel! was launched onto the scene as a rival to the Netflix and Disney+ streaming platforms, to offer kids a library of content, including Genius Brands originals and acquired content including the likes of Babar, Angry Birds, Stan Lee’s Mighty7, Baby Genius, Llama Llama, and more.

It’s according to GBI that the Kartoon Channel! has already seen a ‘groundswell of growth’ since its launch on June 15th 2020.

Margaret Loesch, executive chairman of Kartoon Channel!, said: “There are great platforms available today for kids, such as Netflix and Disney+, however, they are pay platforms.”

Andy Heyward, Genius Brands Chairman and CEO, added: “There are two attributes that distinguish Kartoon Channel! from them. First, our Kartoon Channel! is free. When we launched this platform, we were very clear that we would be ‘like a Netflix for kids, but free’.

“In today’s times where families are challenged to make budgets work, having a high-quality free on-demand content service for kids is a huge point of value. The second, and no less important, our channel offers Curated Content. At a time when kids are home from school and camps are largely closed, we are bringing children content that is value-driven and enriching, and not just “empty viewing calories.”

The Kartoon Channel! and the new complementary iOS app offer access to a wide variety of family-friendly content, with more added daily, featuring Genius Brands originals and acquired content, including Babar, Angry Birds, Stan Lee’s Mighty7, Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab, Baby Einstein, Baby Genius, Llama Llama shorts, Warren Buffett’s Secret Millionaires Club and more.

Additionally, Genius Brands is adding more family-friendly gaming content, including Minecraft’s Journey to the End and Fairy Horse Quest, Octodad, PixArk, and Big B Roblox Challenge, from Tankee. Genius Brands will also premiere on Kartoon Channel! the upcoming comedy-adventure series, Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten, currently in pre-production and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, on Kartoon Channel! in Q1 2021. Additionally, the Kartoon Channel! app features a camera mode with filter capabilities for hours of safe entertainment for young ones.  

Genius Brands delves into IP portfolio to deliver public messaging on hygiene amid COVID-19 pandemic

In an effort to provide information to parents and children in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Genius Brands International has produced a series of Public Service Announcements starring Warren Buffett and Jennifer Garner, to inform children about safe hygiene.

The series of announcements will feature brands from the company’s catalogue of properties, including Llama Llama,Warren Buffett’sSecret Millionaires Club, and Rainbow Rangers.

The seven PSAs focus on teaching children how to practice hand-washing and social distancing to help keep family, friends, and their community safe all presented in a manner that children can easily understand.

Warren Buffett, who co-created and stars in Warren Buffett’s Secret Millionaires Club, and Jennfer Garner, who stars in Netflix’s Llama Llama, have lent their voices and donated their time to participate in the production of the PSAs. The PSAs will be distributed to Genius Brands’ media partners around the world, as well as on Genius Brands’ network of channels.

“I am proud to participate in these PSAs with Genius Brands to deliver the overarching message to children everywhere that the best investment they can make, is an investment in themselves and today that means safe hygiene,” said Buffett.

“Given where we are today, we recognise we had an opportunity and obligation to utilise our well recognised brands we have to deliver an extremely important message to parents and children, particularly those in vulnerable situations,” added Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO, Genius Brands.

“I am extremely grateful to Warren and Jennifer, for their generosity in working with us to develop this PSA campaign, as well as the many talents behind the scenes donating their time and effort to bring these to the marketplace in record time.”