Kartoon Channel! Worldwide expands global reach

Leveraging its strategic investment in Germany’s Your Family Entertainment (YFE) to expand the Kartoon Channel! global footprint, Genius Brands International has announced the launch of the new Kartoon Channel! Worldwide programming block, “Kartoon Genius,” across Latin America and the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region, reaching 67 countries.

This week, the Kartoon Genius two-hour, Monday – Friday programming block premieres across the MENA region on the pan-regional linear Pay TV channel, fully dubbed in Arabic and English. On March 7, the programming block debuted throughout Central & South America on 24/7 linear, offering content in Spanish and English.

The Kartoon Genius programming blocks offer first-run original content on these platforms and aims to deliver positive entertainment for children and families, underscored by safety and enrichment. Series on the programming block line-up include Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten, Llama Llama, Rainbow Rangers, Warren Buffett’s Secret Millionaires Club, Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab, and more.

Managing Director of Kartoon Channel! Worldwide, Paul Robinson, says: “Positive and uplifting children’s entertainment is more in demand today than ever. Since announcing our commitment to launch the Kartoon Channel! internationally less than three months ago, we are off to a fantastic start with pan-regional launches within the next two weeks across The Middle East, North Africa, Central America and South America on the programme platforms through Genius Brands’ investment in YFE.

“The growth of the Kartoon Channel! over the past two years in the U.S., headed by Jon Ollwerther, has been tremendous.  Despite the global challenges, children’s entertainment is timeless and enduring. We are extremely excited about the many opportunities we have to bring the channel to the rest of the world and to build it into the preeminent entertainment destination for kids.”

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 launches Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten on Kartoon Channel

Genius Brands International has detailed the official launch of Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten, streaming exclusively on Kartoon Channel and premiering with a two-episode double feature later this month.

One of the last creations from the mind of the late Stan Lee, the series stars the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who also serves as executive producer on the series. The action-adventure comedy series is geared towards kids and families and focuses on six children who are learning to master their super skills.

“This is a deeply personal project for me and I am so pumped to introduce it to the world,” said Schwarzenegger. “Not only has it allowed me to bring to life the work of the fantastic Stan Lee, but the series also touches on subjects I’ve spent my whole life working on, from health and fitness tips and anti-bullying messages, to inclusivity and diversity.

“It brings me great joy to share that messaging with kids in a way that is vibrant, dynamic, and most important – fun. It’s an honour to have worked with Stan Lee and I know he would be proud of the message we’re delivering.”

 It all began five years ago when Arnold Armstrong faced off in a final fight against his nemesis, the evil Dr. Superior, that left him powerless. Little did anyone know that during the fight, super-energy particles rained down on a group of unsuspecting toddlers. Now, those toddlers are kindergarten students at Greenville Elementary School who, with the help of Arnold Armstrong, must learn to control their powers as they go on super adventures.

Arnold Armstrong’s mission is to train these kids to use their super-powers safely and without wrecking the school or revealing their identities.

The series includes 26 half-hour long episodes that begins with a two-episode double feature and will be rolled out on a weekly basis thereafter.

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.

Shaquille O’Neal to star in and executive produce Genius Brands animated series, Shaq’s Garage

NBA legend, Shaquille O’Neal has partnered with Genius Brands International to executive produce a new animated comedy series for kids called Shaq’s Garage. The series will star Shaq as it follows the secret adventures of hi extraordinary collection of cars, trucks and automobiles.

O’Neal joins a team of executive producers on the show, made up of Genius Brands, PRP and ABG Entertainment. Through the partnership, O’Neal also becomes a shareholder in Genius Brands.

Shaq’s Garage will depict the adventures of O’Neal’s collection of vehicles, all of which have unique attributes, intellects, and skills ranging from musical stylings, Shaq Fu, and their mastery of the ultra-secret language of Shaqanese and the Shaqtionary.

Whether in Sheijing on a secret mission or visiting an ancient shrine in the lost city of Shaqmandu, each story will be as special as the vehicles and Shaquille himself.

“We challenged ourselves to come up with the most exciting storylines and vehicle designs inspired by Toy Story, Tony Stark, and 007!, that could only be imagined by ‘Big Diesel,’ himself,” stated Genius Brands Chairman & CEO Andy Heyward. “The lead vehicle is named Big Diesel and will be voiced by Shaq.”

O’Neal said: “Ever since I was a kid I have been fascinated by cars. I’m so excited to bring this series to life with Genius Brands. We plan to showcase the most amazing, tricked out assortment of vehicles that can only be found in my garage.

“They will all have larger than life personalities, larger than life missions and of course, larger than life sound systems. One of our cars is a vehicle missing a wheel, but she is as strong, fast, and smart as any other vehicle. This will be a kid’s show which will highlight inclusivity for all.”

Heyward continued: “Through comedy and adventure, we will showcase strong and diverse characters as positive role models with purposeful storytelling. This is going to be a special show that touches every button–music, adventure, humor, and positive prideful messaging for kids.

“I have known and admired Shaq for many years and am thrilled that we can come together to make this important show for all kids around the world, and Shaq will become a part of the Genius Brands family.”

Shaq’s Garage is slated to premiere in early 2022 on the new free digital Kartoon Channel!, which launched on June 15, 2020, and is available in over 100 Million U.S. television households across multiple AVOD and OTT platforms. Kartoon Channel! is a COPPA-compliant free children’s programming service focused on positive entertainment.

Genius Brands International names Marc Rosenberg its president of global brands and chief marketing officer

Genius Brands International has named the former head of marketing at Hasbro, Marc Rosenberg, as its new president of global brands and chief marketing officer. Best known for his role in leading global marketing teams behind Furby and GigaPets, Rosenberg brings a wealth of experience to the role.

More recently, Rosenberg was the chief marketing officer at Zizzle, where he helped lead product launches for several successful licensed toy lines, including Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney’s High School Musical, and a number of others.

“I have known Marc for 20 years and have witnessed his extraordinary achievements and energy, firsthand. He is one of the most respected executives in the kid’s licensing industry and joins a team of proven achievers at Genius Brands now, who are known for their successes over and over again, across the entertainment food chain,” said Genius Brands’ chairman and CEO Andy Heyward.

“With Rainbow Rangers, Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten, Llama Llama, Stan Lee Universe, and new properties shortly to be announced, Marc’s pedigree and leadership will ensure that we maximize revenue generation from the powerful brands we will be bringing to market.

“His reputation is that of an innovator in the product and marketing arenas. In putting our marketing and global revenue under Marc’s remit, I know we will see all of these important properties flourish. He brings not only his marketing and sales expertise to the company, but also relationships across retail, entertainment, consumer products and more, all of which Genius Brands will showcase across the company’s growing portfolio of brands.”

Rosenberg added: “I have been fortunate to be a part of and lead teams with both tremendous products and incredible people.  The central theme of everything that I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of is directly related to the story for each brand and creating a dialogue with each audience in timely and relevant ways.

“That is particularly the case at Genius Brands where there is a cross-company commitment to bring positive enriching stories for children, and we have so many incredible tools to work with to reach kids today, including our own recently launched Kartoon Channel.”

Rosenberg will continue to own his current Edge Desk business, with the current management operating  the day-to-day business with his oversight.

Mondo TV to make new waves in the US with Genius Brands’ Kartoon Channel

The European animated content distributor, Mondo TV is preparing to make new waves in the US when it launches its children’s animated comedy series, Invention Story, to the AVOD/SVOD market via Genius Brands International’s own Kartoon Channel.

The series will land on the channel this autumn. Kartoon Channel is distributed across major cable and satellite providers, as well as OTT platforms across the US. The channel is available 24/7 on a variety of platforms in the region, including Apple TV devices, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire Stick, Roku Devices, and more with further platforms rolling out in the coming months.

Kartoon Channel prides itself on a roster of content that is ‘smart and safe’ for children. It boasts that all ‘programmes are carefully curates to not only be entertaining and enriching, but also to ensure there is no violence, negative stereotypes or inappropriate language.’ It also promises content that receives no ‘excessive commercialisation.’

Meanwhile, Invention Story follows the tale of Kit, an intelligent, thoughtful and creative fox who – in each episode – comes up with a new invention. The series has already launched in Italy, Russia, Hungary and China. It is also on Kidoodle.TV, a hybrid AVOD / SVOD channel, which has launched in all countries worldwide except China.

In the US, Hispanic pay TV leader Vme Media is distributing the show on English-language network Primo TV later this year. 

Luana Perrero, Mondo TV’s head of content sales, said: “The launch of Invention Story on an innovative new free digital service that can reach just about every family in the whole US, is a cause for celebration. The arrival of Invention Story on Kartoon Channel! is an important strategic step for one of Mondo TV’s fastest-growing properties and we’re delighted to be working with Genius Brands on bringing this funny, smart and highly original new show to the vast US audience.”

Genius Brands appoints Jessica Brinder as its new VP of international distribution

Genius Brands International has appointed former Corus Entertainment sales executive, Jessica Brinder, as its new vice president of international distribution. The move arrives as Genius Brands continues to grow all areas of its business, including with the launch of its Kartoon Channel, and plans for further content in the pipeline.

In her new role, Brinder will oversee global content sales from Genius Brands’ catalogue of children’s programming, including flagship properties, Rainbow Rangers and Llama Llama, along with the upcoming Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten, starring Arnold Schwarzengger, and new content produced under the Stan Lee Universe banner.

Lindsay Brown, who serves as director of international sales, will report to Brinder.

“This is an exciting time to be at Genius Brands as we continue to build our content portfolio, and I welcome Jessica to our team to help drive our content sales efforts around the world,” said Genius Brands’ chairman and CEO, Andy Heyward.

“We now have 100 per cent distribution of the Rainbow Rangers series in the Western Hemisphere and are expanding further internationally, as well as further product roll outs this year; our Llama Llama Netflix Original series is in season two with product on shelf; we have forged a new and important partnership with Alibaba group on our forthcoming Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; and we have created the Stan Lee Universe banner, which will be generating a lot of new content over the next few years.”

Brinder said: “I am thrilled to work with Andy and the team at Genius Brands as we continue producing ‘content with a purpose’ for global distribution.

“We have a diverse catalog of enriching and entertaining programming with new original content coming down the pipeline, and I look forward to working with our broadcast and platform partners worldwide to bring our unique offerings to young audiences around the world.” 

 Brinder joins Genius Brands from Kickstart Entertainment in Canada, where she served as vice president of business development. She previously worked for over five years for Corus Entertainment, most recently as a senior sales manager of global distribution at Nelvana, managing the distribution of content in key territories around the world and overseeing the strategic direction and team of the global VOD business.  Brinder will be based in Toronto.

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.