Aardman teams with Bandai Namco Entertainment to develop a new multi-media IP

Aardman, the multi-award winning animation studio behind the Wallace & Gromit franchise and Chicken Run, has partnered with Bandai Namco to develop a brand new IP.

As reported in Licensing.biz’s sister title, MCV, the partnership’s first major project will exist across multiple media, and the team will approach partners in early 2021 with the development materials. The collaboration will combine Aardman’s talent of creating characters and worlds with Bandai Namco’s expertise in  publishing and development to create games for “current and future platforms.”

“Interactive Entertainment is a huge growth area within the entertainment world,” said Sean Clarke, managing director of Aardman, “and with new emerging technology blurring the lines of watching and playing, we are keen to develop strategic partnerships with partners such as BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe that share our vision of creating new IP that embraces this new world and cement our studio’s reputation as a multi-disciplinary creative hub.”

“This new partnership with Aardman is a dream come true, as it opens up a world of possibilities,” said Hervé Hoerdt, SVP of digital, marketing & content at Bandai Namco Entertainment Europe, “The teams at Aardman and BNEE are a perfect cultural and creative fit to build a successful long term partnership, and I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together.”

Further details about the collaboration will be available at a later date.

OPINION – Hurrah for the madding crowd: How crowdfunding is fueling the flames of fandom

It’s like the old Funko strapline says: Everybody’s a fan of something. It’s no secret that adult fandom has become an increasingly important market to the toy industry and pop culture scene in general, but – with limited shelf space among retailers – just how can brands and manufacturers cater to it all? Here, Start Licensing’s Ian Downes tells us why he’s such a big fan of the crowdfunding scene

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Whether its football, film or TV, we are all fans of something. Fandom is a bond that ties people together. Fans are at the heart of licensing. Fans are the consumers who buy into licensed products or have licensed products bought for them.

Traditionally, it was difficult to have a direct relationship with fans. In the age of social media it has become easier to communicate with fans and build a rapport with them. Rights owners have got better at dialoguing with fans and have recognised that having a direct relationship with them is a valuable asset.

That said it is still quite challenging to know what fans want. Sometimes as an industry, we haven’t always tried that hard to find out. Licensing can be an industry that lives in the moment. Often reacting to ‘what’s hot’ and delivering a standard range of products.

Moving forward it would be good to see more products developed that reflect IP more distinctively and reflect fan interest.

“It’s a good time to talk to fans more frequently and with a higher level of engagement. Crowdfunding campaigns are a great way of doing this.”

In licensing, you traditionally need a licensee and a retailer to support your brand and back your idea. Retailers have finite space and manufacturers are not able to invest in all new ideas they see. Of course online selling and opportunities like print on demand have changed this up, but there are still gatekeepers to get past to get products to fans.

But there is an increasingly viable alternative, and it’s crowdfunding.

This is, of course, not a new thing and is a path that has been trod by IP owners and licensees already. Aardman Animations used Kickstarter to help finance a new Morph animation series back in 2013, while many a boardgame has been launched following on crowdfunding campaigns. Meanwhile, Unbound offers a route to market for authors with a highly engaging crowdfunding platform for new books. It’s true that a number of their books wouldn’t have been published otherwise, but have been commercially successful as they found their audience.

It’s a good time to talk to fans more frequently and with a higher level of engagement. Crowdfunding campaigns are a great way of doing this. Crucially they are also a proven way of bringing good creative ideas alive. So often these ideas would have stayed on the drawing board.

The Vine Lab has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign around Wallace & Gromit’s A Close Shave. The team is crowdfunding a high spec Collector’s Model that is being launched to help celebrate the film’s 25th Anniversary. In the real world it would have been difficult to find a retail home for it. Fans would have missed out on a super product.

As more and more, consumers are looking for original products and experiences, crowdfunding is becoming an increasingly  viable way of tapping into their passion and getting closer to fans. Used carefully and responsibly crowdfunding should be a feature in a contemporary licensing programme. It’s also a fabulous way of supporting the creative community.

We are all fans of something, and I’m a fan of crowdfunding.

Wallace and Gromit take lead role in DFS’ Christmas ad A Comfy Carol

Aardman’s Wallace and Gromit are placing themselves in the heart of UK homes this Christmas, thanks to the pair’s leading role in the furniture specialist DFS’ latest festive advert.

The new heavyweight campaign kicked off last week and has gone on to take primetime slots in TV scheduling, including centre breaks during Coronation Street on ITV.

Called A Comfy Carol, the campaign is the result of a collaborative effort between Aardman Animation and DFS and brings the beloved duo – as well as sleigh load of carol singing sheep – back onto the TV screen in the lead up to the festive season as Wallace and Gromit do the rounds with a bit of sheep-infused-carol singing.

The ad spot has been directed by Aardman’s Will Becher, and features Wallace’s newest invention, the Ewe-phonia – a prodding device that prompts the choir of sheep to bleet out their own rendition of Deck the Halls.

Check out the latest TV spot below:

Myne Cards joins retailer Squizzas!’s growing line up of licensed gifts and accessories

Myne Cards has taken its place alongside staples of the licensed gift space such as Funko and licensed Monopoly, having found a new home with the gift retailer Squizzas. The online and brick and mortar retailer has seen ‘exponential sales’ throughout lockdown, and has now bolstered its licensed catalogue with the complete Myne Cards range.

The Myne Cards licensed range currently includes the likes of Wallace and Gromit, Skinnydip London, The National Gallery, Beryl Cook, To Home From London, Howard Robinson’s Selfies, and Dominique Vari.

“This is an exciting time for Myne Cards. As travel restrictions slowly start to ease, we are seeing more customers take their bank card protection seriously,” said Keith Milburn of Myne Cards. “Working with Squizzas! who has a wide presence online, is a great match as their customers love eye-catching licensed designs.”

Luke Bedden of Squizzas!, added: “Our customers enjoy buying and collecting fun, interesting products with their favourite brands, from Funkoverse to Monopoly, so adding the Myne Cards licensed range provides more choice to our customers, just as they start travelling again.”

The full range of Myne Cards is available now at Squizzas.co.uk

Aardman promotes Rob Goodchild and Alison Taylor to new director roles

The independent animation studio, Aardman, has promoted Alison Taylor and Rob Goodchild to the positions of director of distribution and business development and commercial director, respectively.

These newly created roles in the sales and marketing arm of the business form part of a departmental restructuring to consolidate all the studio’s sales, marketing, and brand management expertise. Both Taylor and Goodchild will be central to providing market insight, financing, distribution and licensing for Aardman’s portfolio of brands.

In her new role, Taylor will be responsible for driving the financing, distribution and long-term content exploitation strategy for each brand. She joined the firm’s broadcast and development department in 2004, where she advanced through the sales team before being promoted to head of sales and acquisitions in 2016.

Since then, Taylor has led the international distribution team and is responsible for global distribution of Aardman’s own award-winning series such as Shaun the Sheep and Timmy Time, along with third party distribution for children’s properties such as Digby Dragon(Blue Zoo Animation) and Brave Bunnies(Glowberry / Anima Kitchent) across all content platforms.

Taylor also played an integral part in securing Aardman’s first Original with Netflix, Robin Robin, with financing content for new and existing brands being a key part to her new role.

Meanwhile, Goodchild joined Aardman as UK licensing manager in 2008 before progressing to head of licensing. In that time he secured major partnerships for all of Aardman’s key brands supporting global business growth, particularly in Japan and Chinaas well as working to deliver innovation-led projects such as The Big Fix Upa new Wallace & Gromit immersive story told through AR (augmented reality) in collaboration with Fictioneers.

In his new position as commercial director, Goodchild will assume strategic responsibility for the selling and marketing of the studio’s services including third party commercials and short films, the rights exploitation for all Aardman brands, and defining new business opportunities such as the development of IP and animated content for third party brands, theme parks and attractions.

He will be tasked with delivering revenue across different categories and markets, influencing growth in key territories across Europe and Asia. Goodchild also directs the development of Aardman’s branded interactive business, working to increase its presence in the gaming space and with pioneering companies to grow the studio’s output in new technologies including AR and Blockchain.

Both will report to Sean Clarke, managing director at Aardman.

Clarke said: “Behind each of our beloved brands is a wealth of knowledge across rights, distribution, sales and marketing that, over recent years, has allowed us to start very successfully representing third party brands in addition to our own IP.

“The restructuring of our sales and marketing arm is the natural next step in maximising this industry-leading expertise, to continue to realise the full potential of Aardman’s IP alongside developing our studio service work for third party brands. Alison and Rob will make a formidable partnership, working alongside Lucy Wendover who will continue to lead the Marketing and Brand team.”

Upcoming Aardman projects include the recently announced Robin Robin, a half-hour, festive, musical tale coming to Netflix in 2021, and a Shaun the Sheep half hour special also for Christmas 2021.

In autumn of this year, the studio will launch Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up, a brand-new AR immersive experience created in collaboration with Fictioneers backed by funding from UK Research & Innovation (UKRI). Rendered in CG using the latest technology, fans will be able to interact in a host of new ways and get closer than ever to the iconic duo.