Exclusive: Both sides now – HTI’s Richard Hollis

Toy World spoke to Richard about his new role at HTI and how the company’s licensing strategy continues to evolve with him at the helm.

In March, HTI announced that licensing stalwart Richard Hollis would be taking over the role of licensing manager from Michelle Dalziel, shifting his extensive experience as a licensor, with companies including the BBC and DreamWorks, to the other side of the fence – that of a licensee.

Before joining HTI, Richard had spent the entirety of his career as a licensor. His move to HTI now sees him on the other side of the table. “You certainly view contractual terms from a different perspective,” he said, when asked if he now sees things in a different light. “It’s often the same old clauses that get haggled over in licensing agreements. Having spent years arguing one side of the case, I’m now starting to see – and sympathise with – the other side.”

Richard’s experience as a licensor means he’s perfectly placed to guide conversations between parties, while lending his knowledge to his new team means they, too, can benefit from a different perspective.

HTI’s approach – trimming back its selection of properties and brands while at the same time pushing each one out into new categories – has resulted in a streamlined but exciting portfolio that offers retailers and licensors a clearer choice of product.

Richard told us more about the bespoke product ranges on which HTI prides itself, enjoying particular success in the pre-school, role play and licensed vehicles categories, and explained what he looks for in a licensed property, and how the team can act quickly on emerging trends.

As the company continues to explore new opportunities in licensing, to ensure its licensing portfolio is kept contemporary and on-trend, HTI’s sights are set on building out its ranges, expanding into new areas, and strengthening its international growth.

“We’d argue that we’re the perfect licensing partner within our core categories,” he finishes. “Licensors should definitely be talking to us, if they’re not already.”

To read more of Richard’s words of wisdom in the full article, which appeared in the October edition of Toy World, click here.

Rubies becomes official dress-up licensee for Numberblocks

Rubies says its costumes will embrace the ethos of Numberblocks by incorporating design components to encourage play through education.

Rubies welcome another impressive licence to its portfolio with the announcement that it has become the official dress-up licensee for Numberblocks. The company says it is delighted to partner with the influential children’s TV show and supply its costumes across EMEA and Australia.

Mike O’Connell, managing director, Rubies UK, commented: “Numberblocks has provided a solid learning foundation for children for years now and is a driving force in the industry for educational fun. The bright colours, quirky animation and catchy songs all encourage young children to explore and find the joy of learning, something Rubies also prides itself in doing with its costumes.”

Numberblocks has a huge fanbase with over 3.76m subscribers to the YouTube channel and over 2.9b lifetime views in just under three and a half years. The show has a global reach of 52 countries and growing. In the UK, Numberblocks is consistently a top ten performer for CBeebies iPlayer, and other territories broadcast on Netflix, Noggin, Kidoodle and Kabillion.

The show was a prominent feature in BBC Lockdown Learning and Sky Kids Learning from Home Collection, as well as creating its own #stayathome activities on social media. Loved by children from ages 2-6, Numberblocks is also valued by parents for the way it makes learning numbers and maths fun and engaging, providing life-long skills.

The innovative costumes will embrace the ethos of Numberblocks by incorporating design components to encourage play through education. The costumes will be available in children’s sizes, making them an ideal costume inspiration for World Book Day, as the Numberblocks feature in their own educational book series, published by Sweet Cherry.

Mike O’Connell added: “We are really pleased to announce this licence as it means our costumes will help encourage this love of learning that we want to see in children. Not only does this show help children explore learning with their own imagination, it also provides a stable base for their future, and we are proud to collaborate with it.”

Joe Elliot, director of Alphablocks Ltd and creator of Numberblocks, said: “We receive many social media posts of fans in homemade costumes of their favourite Numberblock characters so we are delighted to have Rubies on board as our partner for this category that will bring more number magic fun to the fans.”

The costumes are in early development and will be available across EMEA and Australia in 2022.


Crayola enters into new Bluey partnership

The deal covers the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as well as the UK where the Bluey range will be available in January 2022.

Crayola has signed a multi-territory licensing deal for stationery, arts, crafts and colouring packs, further expanding the global licensing portfolio for multi-award-winning property, Bluey.

The first products to hit the shelves will be Giant Colouring Pages which will be available at Walmart in the US in time for the holiday season.

In addition to the US, the licensing deal covers Canada, Australia and New Zealand as well as the UK, where the range will be launched in January 2022.

Warren Schorr, vice president, Business Development and Global Licensing, Crayola said: “Crayola has inspired artistic creativity in children for more than 100 years. We know that parents value creative and imaginative play, which we can enable and enhance by offering the best products with the best partners. Our partnership with BBC Studios for Bluey colouring and activity products will showcase our mission.”

Suzy Raia, senior vice president, Consumer Products and Business Development, BBC Studios Americas, added: “Crayola is a natural fit and extension of Bluey’s brand, promoting creativity and imaginative play for pre-school children. I know children and their parents will be delighted to see these brands come together.”

Crayola joins a growing roster of top tier Bluey licensees which includes Moose Toys, Penguin Random House, VTech and Stor.

The series follows Bluey, a six-year-old Blue Heeler dog who loves to play and turn everyday family life into extraordinary adventures that unfold in unpredictable and hilarious ways, bringing her family, friends and community into her world of fun.

Bluey is produced by multi-Emmy award-winning Ludo Studio for ABC Kids Australia, co-commissioned by ABC Children’s and BBC Studios, and distributed internationally by BBC Studios outside of Australia.

ViacomCBS Consumer Products executives to deliver BLE keynote

The presentation, taking place on day two of this year’s BLE, will focus on Diversity & Inclusion efforts and new toy research.

ViacomCBS will share insights from its corporate Diversity & Inclusion efforts, with a specific focus on its recently conducted toy research, during Brand Licensing Europe’s second-day keynote.

Mark Kingston, senior vice president, International, ViacomCBS Consumer Products, will lead the keynote and review the impact on culture, community and industry from a strong commitment to diversity, inclusion and belonging. The keynote will also feature Ameeta Held, vice president, Insights and Business Strategy, referencing ViacomCBS’ original toy research, which details the importance of authentic representation in dolls and the impact on choice.

The keynote, which takes place in-person at BLE from 13:00-14:00 on Thursday 18th November, will also set the background as to why the consumer products and licensing community play such a pivotal role in diversity and inclusion.

Mark Kingston commented: “As an organisation we are dedicated to creating content that reflects the global audiences we serve, and within consumer products we are especially committed to ensuring our products are inclusive and representative. Our latest research shines a light on the important role our industry plays in our continued conversation around Diversity & Inclusion and I look forward to presenting our thoughts and findings alongside my colleagues at BLE.”

Ahead of ViacomCBS’ keynote, representatives from Black Lives Matter Licensing UK will take to the stage to talk about the group’s purpose, goals and activity in the sector to date.

Speaking about the keynote, Informa Markets’ VP of Licensing, Anna Knight, said: “It’s not possible to underestimate the importance of this keynote to our industry and I implore everyone who is attending BLE to pre-register now and secure a spot. Consumer products has a huge responsibility – and opportunity – to represent, embrace and empower diversity if we are to build a more inclusive and equal future for consumers across the world.”

ViacomCBS is one of over 150 exhibitors currently confirmed for BLE, which takes place in-person at ExCeL London from 17th-19th November, followed by an online event from 30th November – 1st December.

For more information on the event, visit the website here.


Stars announced for new Super Mario Bros movie

Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Jack Black and Seth Rogen are among the names heading up the voice cast of the new Super Mario movie.

Chris Pratt will take on the role of Mario

Chris Pratt has been cast as title character Mario, with Charlie Day as his brother Luigi, while The Queen’s Gambit’s Anya Taylor-Joy will play Princess Peach. Supervillain Bowser will be voiced by Jack Black, and Seth Rogen is set to lend his talents to the role of Donkey Kong.

The animated film, which has been in development since 2017, is scheduled to be released in December 2022, as Nintendo partners with Illumination Entertainment.

Although the video game that the Super Mario movie is based on features minimal dialogue, the producers said that each actor has been cast for their ability to capture the unique spirit of each of their iconic characters.

“Mario and Luigi are two of the most beloved heroes in all of popular culture,” said producer Chris Meledandri, adding the team wanted to bring these characters to life unlike any film they’ve made before. A previous 1993 live-action film loosely based on the gaming series received mixed reviews from critics.

Super Mario Bros:The Movie will be directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic.

Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto hailed the new animation as “a new piece of entertainment which brings Super Mario Bros to life on the screen and allows everyone to enjoy it – whether or not they know about the game”.

Speaking of his casting, Chris Pratt said on Instagram that “dreams come true”, revealing that he enjoyed playing the original game as a child.

Other characters that have been cast include Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong, Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek and Sebastian Maniscalco as Spike. The producers have also revealed that Charles Martinet, the video game voice of Mario, will have an unspecified cameo role.

More than 150 exhibitors now confirmed for BLE 2021

Brand Licensing Europe returns in-person from 17th-19th November at Excel, London.

152 companies are already confirmed to exhibit at Brand Licensing Europe 2021 and more are expected to sign shortly, with seven weeks still to go till the event starts. The announcement coincides with the launch of the event’s online platform. From today, anyone who is registered for BLE can drop off a virtual business card, search the exhibitor list or IP directory, and start booking meetings for both the in person and online events through the Matchmaking function, sponsored by Flowhaven.

BLE runs in person from 17th-19th November at ExCel London with a follow up event taking place online from 30th November – 1st December. As the first in-person licensing event to take place in over two years, BLE boasts a wide range of exhibitors from across the globe with strong representation of Europeans and internationals as well as the UK, covering the full spectrum of categories from sports to animation and heritage to gaming.

They include ViacomCBS, Hasbro, Perfetti Van Melle Group, Panini, Rainbow, Sega, Vivendi, Coolabi, Warhammer, The Smurfs, Penguin Ventures, Banijay Brands, Crunchyroll, Manchester City, Aardman, Asterix, FC Internazionale Milano, ETS Studios, Kate Mawdsley, Withit Studios, Olympique de Marseille, WWE, MGA Entertainment, Natural History Museum, V&A Imperial War Museum, Sinigaglia, Scribos Asmodee, ZSL (London Zoo), Federation Française de Football, FC Barcelona, Planeta Junior, Sophie La Girafe, England Football, Dorna Sports, Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol, IMG and many more.

Cécile Chevalier, marketing manager, TF1 Licences, commented: “TF1 Licences’ whole team is really excited to attend this year’s BLE. We missed meeting our partners in person and we missed seeing all the great projects in 3D rather than via a screen. BLE is the biggest European event for the licensing business and we’re looking forward to the new experience of this hybrid event.”

Waell Oueslati, director of Acquisitions and Licensing EMEA, Crunchyroll, added: “We are really excited to be able to go to BLE again and meet all our partners during the event, and at the after events, too.”

BLE Virtual

As well as facilitating introductions, IP discovery and meeting bookings (on and offline), the online platform will host on demand educational content and exhibitor trailers. This content will go live after the in-person event ends on Monday 20th November, and follow-up meetings will be available during BLE Virtual on 30th November and 1st December.

The online meetings function, sponsored by Flowhaven, was launched at BLE (and sister show Licensing Expo) five years ago. In its first year, over 1,200 business meetings were arranged and 13,783 online profiles created. In 2019, when BLE last took place in person, these stats had soared to 3,129 meetings.

Anna Knight, VP of Licensing, Informa Markets, said: “We’re just seven weeks away from meeting up in person again at BLE and to know we will have over 150 companies from across the world exhibiting in London and/or online is fantastic news for the industry and for our visitors. I think it’s fair to say we have all missed that face-to-face time, and it will be wonderful to kick start connections and provide inspiration and food for thought for the European licensing industry once more. And for those attending online, I promise you will not miss out. We will be streaming sessions, vox pop and exhibitor interviews filmed at BLE in London, as well as exclusive, never-before-seen content created for the virtual platform.”

Playmobil welcomes James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5

Screen icon James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 launches in October, tying in nicely with the release of the latest film, No Time to Die. 

Playmobil has announced the imminent arrival of the James Bond Aston Martin DB5 – Goldfinger Edition, which arrives on shelf soon after the release of No Time to Die, the latest (and somewhat delayed) instalment in the multi-billion dollar franchise. The film had its premiere last night at London’s Royal Albert Hall, and was enthusiastically received.

In Goldfinger, the third James Bond film ever released back in 1964, Agent 007 encounters the eccentric Auric Goldfinger, aided by his loyal henchman Oddjob and numerous acolytes. Assisted by his Aston Martin DB5, designed by Q Branch, Bond manages to triumph over his adversaries, kicking off a relationship between man and machine that has since spanned a total of eight Bond films and 60 years of cinema.

Probably the most famous Bond car of them all, the DB5 is regarded as an iconic element of the franchise. Fans will instantly recognise the distinctive round headlights, eye-catching radiator grille, shapely bodywork in radiant silver and special equipment used by Bond on his top secret missions.

The James Bond Aston Martin DB5 – Goldfinger Edition from Playmobil is a worthy reproduction of its real-world vehicle, and – just like the original sports coupé – is also a picture of elegance and sophistication. In keeping with the film, the car is of course upgraded with impressive special features designed by Q Branch to aid Bond in dangerous situations. Individual parts in a chrome-effect finish, such as the bumpers and side mirrors, faithfully reproduce the look of this film icon.

One of the highlights of the model, among many other authentic details, is the functional ejector seat triggered by pushing down the exhaust pipes. When triggered, the seat catapults Bond’s adversary upwards through the two-piece roof. Also included are triple rotating number plates, the retractable bulletproof screen behind the rear window and the extendable ramming bumpers. Four figures are also included to enhance the play potential offered by the new licensed set: 007 himself, Goldfinger, Oddjob and a henchman.

Ahead of the October release date, readers can find out more on the Playmobil social media channels. An animated trailer for the James Bond Aston Martin DB5 – Goldfinger Edition has also launched on YouTube.

Exclusive – Carrot and Toast’s Drew Bristow on life since his License This! win

Illustrator Drew Bristow won the Character and Animation category of the 2019 BLE competition License This! competition with his brand Carrot and Toast.

In this exclusive piece, we caught up with Drew to see what he has been up to since his win and find out what exciting things are in the pipeline for his characters.

How has the past 12 months been for you and your brand, Carrot and Toast?

It’s been a busy time since the Festival of Licensing, which was really fun and interesting. I got to make a lot of great connections and had meetings with a few of the big publishers, who were all very keen to find out more about Carrot and Toast. Since then, I’ve been busy working on the second comic (a prequel to the first, called ‘Carrot and Toast Begin’, which I self-published in March 2021), the Carrot and Toast chapter book ‘Carrot and Toast Get Lost’, and a few other childrens’ book ideas.

Following your win at License This! in 2019, you said you hoped to see Carrot and Toast ‘growing in a lot of directions’. Has this been the case?

The potential for Carrot and Toast to grow is still there and very much part of the plan. My first mission is to get a publisher on board, and to develop the content from there into everything from picture books for pre-school children to chapter books and long form comics or graphic novels. Beyond that, I’ll be looking to move into toys and the merch side of things. As it’s just me behind the wheel, and I have a day job as well as a new baby, it’s a bit of a long journey; I’m taking it a step at a time. I’m hoping to find a literary agent so it will be a little easier getting Carrot and Toast in front of the right people at the right publishing house – and if ever the opportunity comes along to ditch the day job, I’ll be able to crack on with conquering the world with these two little friends of mine.

What’s next for Carrot and Toast?

More adventures, big and small. Product wise, I would like to get the chapter book out next, and then the third of the initial three comics that establish who Carrot and Toast are and the world they live in. Then I’d like to get into meatier stories (perhaps chunkier is the right word) where I can tackle subjects like diversity and inclusion, climate change, and maybe even something Covid related.

Will you be attending BLE in October this year? If so, what are you looking forward to the most?

I will hopefully be attending, if it’s safe to do so. I love meeting new people at this event, there are so many amazing people in the industry, and it’s really fun learning about licensing and potential opportunities for both Carrot and Toast and other things I’ve created.

Why should people enter License This?

Because even if you don’t win, at the very least you’ll meet some lovely people, make some great connections and maybe overcome any fears you have about showing your stuff to a big room of people. If you do win, the sky is the limit in terms of where you can potentially take your creation, and it the competition can open doors, eyes and ears. Good luck.

There’s still time to enter the 2021 License This! competition, which this year has been renamed the Kelvyn Gardner License This! competition in tribute to licensing stalwart Kelvyn Gardner, who passed away at the start of 2021. Entries close 11th October, and the competition final will take place in-person at BLE on Friday 19th November.

BLE has now added a third award category, in partnership with Mojo Nation, to provide a valuable springboard for inventors and designers keen to break into the sector. Applicants for the product design category will be asked to submit a design for a desktop product, such as a mouse, coffee mug, desk tidy or USB stick, drawing inspiration from Aardman’s award-winning IP, Morph.

Further details on how to apply for this category can be found at www.brandlicensing.eu or by emailing ella.haynes@informa.com.

Numberblocks and Learning Resources collaborate on MathLink Cubes video shorts

MathLink Cubes star in their own Numberblocks adventures, which viewers can recreate at home with the MathLink Cubes set.

Award-winning children’s TV series Numberblocks, and leading educational toys company Learning Resources have collaborated to release five short Numberblocks videos featuring the special edition Numberblocks MathLink Cubes.

Created to celebrate the partnership between Alphablocks Ltd (creators of Numberblocks) and Learning Resources, the short videos are a unique blend of CGI and stop frame animation featuring MathLink Cubes. It’s the first time a licensed product has featured in official Numberblocks animated content.

The close creative collaboration aims to bring together the two brands’ loyal fan bases and boost fan engagement through fun, innovative content that blends modern media with traditional hands-on play.

“These entertaining short videos demonstrate that if you have our MathLink Cubes set, then you can recreate your favourite Numberblocks episodes,” explained Dennis Blackmore, MD of Learning Resources. “They bring all the magic and the learning from the screen into children’s hands.”

Numberblocks are friendly characters from the BAFTA award-winning animated series that helps young children see how numbers really work. MathLink Cubes are the connecting cubes that are widely used in homes and schools for play-based early years maths learning.

“Given the tremendous quantity of user-generated content on social media from fans around the world who use MathLink Cubes to build Numberblocks, we know there’s an appetite for this kind of blended edutainment content,” added Simon Tomlinson, Learning Resources head of marketing EMEA.

Audiences can watch the animated shorts on the official Numberblocks YouTube channel and Learning Resources’ official social media channels. The stop frame animations were created by UK animation company Second Home Studios and directed and collated by award-winning Blue Zoo Animation Studio.

Last year Learning Resources launched the top-selling MathLink Cubes Numberblocks 1-10 Activity Set. The follow-up MathLink Cubes Numberblocks 11-20 Activity Set launches in Q4 this year.

For more information on the Learning Resources range, visit the website here and for more information about Numberblocks visit www.learningblocks.tv.
The videos can be viewed on the official Numberblocks YouTube channel.

Overseas BLE attendees to benefit from simplified travel rules

England has announced simplified rules for international travel, making attending the leading European licensing event much simpler. 

From 4th October 2021, England will introduce a significantly more straightforward system for international visitors. In an announcement welcomed by the events industry, the UK government has outlined the following updates:

  • The red, amber, green ‘traffic light’ system has been scrapped – all countries will now be categorised as either ‘red list’ or ‘rest of world’. The vast majority of typical BLE attendees are not currently on the red list
  • There will be simplified rules for the ‘rest of world’ group, including US and EU residents
  • Fully vaccinated travellers will be required to follow these three steps:
  1. Book and pay for a day 2 Covid-19 test – to be taken after arrival in England
  2. Complete your passenger locator form – any time in the 48 hours before you arrive in England
  3. Take the Covid-19 test on or before day 2 after you arrive in England
  • Required test will be lateral flow test (as opposed to PCR test)
  • Eight destinations removed from red list including Turkey and Pakistan
  • Recognition of fully vaccinated status from a further 17 countries and territories including Japan and Singapore

The full announcement from the Gov.UK website can be accessed here.

BLE and Licensing International will be hosting a webinar next week to further discuss these changes. The webinar will take place on Wednesday 29th September at 3pm BST (UK time). Readers who wish to attend can register via this link.

Informa, the organiser of BLE, says: “This positive news will help to make the international licensing community’s travel to BLE much more straightforward.”

Peter Hollo, Licensing International Germany, commented: “Come to BLE, that’s the best thing I can say. We’ve had so many great virtual shows and meetings, but now it is time to meet in person again; make BLE your big licensing industry family reunion. For those, who are still anxious: I fully understand your thoughts, because we all had to face so many changes and have learned to separate and to distance from other people. Now it’s time to re-programme with a strong community, human interaction, and people who are exactly like you. It’s about time to leave your work-from-home spaces and meet the people you have missed.”

Laurent Taieb, Licensing International France, added: “The Licensing International France team will attend this new edition of Brand Licensing Europe. We are looking forward to meeting our French members and international colleagues. Our licensing industry will be well represented this year with 22 French companies exhibiting, and with the travel restrictions easing between the UK and France, and also Europe, events are starting again. This is the ideal time to meet different partners at BLE.”

Register for BLE 2021, which takes place 17th-19th November at London Excel, at www.brandlicensing.eu.