The Licensing Expo is in full swing. People started arriving in a viciously sweltering Las Vegas towards the tail end of last week, with the majority of Brits landing over the weekend. Perhaps, like me, many worked on the plane on the way over. Well, I say worked – I watched Kung Fu Panda 3 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The great thing is that, for many of us, that does indeed constitute proper work (something we should all be eternally grateful for). Indeed, I’m sure that licensees and retailers wish they had the luxury of seeing the finished movies / TV programmes before having to sign on the dotted line, but unfortunately that isn’t the nature of the beast – that commitment is made long before they know what they’ve paid their advance or placed their orders for. I guess it would also help the product development process: having finally seen the full Star Wars movie, I can only assume that the people who so vociferously opposed the inclusion of a Rey action figure in the toy range had no idea what a great character she was, nor how pivotal a role she played in the film. Because if they knew that and were still against the idea, I would venture to suggest it says something about them.
Although the main show floor is not actually open on the Monday, the giants of the licensing world put on presentations which take up much of the day, in some cases overlapping with each other – which is fine if there is more than one of you in the visiting party, as you can divide and conquer. In other cases, choices have to be made: I opted for the Cartoon Network event, which included the announcement that Adventure Time will become part of the Minecraft universe in 2017, when Lego will also be introducing a new range of Adventure Time toys. These are two significant developments, which may well see the brand start to cross over from cult icon to more of a mass market property. Attendees were also introduced to the 10 new aliens which Ben 10 transforms into in the new series, with the presentation being given by the lady who voices Ben in the series. Let’s just say that she doesn’t look much like a 10-year-old boy in the flesh.
I also bumped into Copyrights’ Linda Durbridge, shortly after receiving the official press release announcing that Copyrights has been sold to Studiocanal, who produced the first Paddington movie and have recently announced that a second movie will be going into production later this year. Studiocanal has also acquired ownership of Paddington and Company Limited, which owns the rights to Paddington Bear. The great thing for retailers and licensees is that it’s very much a case of business as usual; the existing Copyrights team stays in place, operating from the London office. Nicholas Durbridge will continue as Chairman and Linda will also continue to be very much involved, so it sounds like a perfect arrangement for all parties.
While the show itself starts this morning, the presentations continue throughout the day (a subject I may return to in future Blog posts): notable events on today’s schedule include DreamWorks and Nickelodeon summits. I met up with DreamWorks yesterday and I’m excited to see the presentation later, which I gather is going to be pretty spectacular, as you might expect. It’s great to hear that Trolls is set to make a big impact in the toy aisles this autumn. The ‘big 4’ toy retailers are all backing it extensively, and while the main licensing push will start in September, toys will take the lead a little earlier with the launch of a certain retailer’s autumn winter catalogue. There is a strong selection of toy licensees on board and there’s the sense that Trolls could turn out to be the big hit that DreamWorks has been aiming for. With Dino Trux and Noddy both starting to make waves too, it’s good to see the consumer products division coming along nicely.
Before the show opens for business this morning, there will be a keynote address looking at – and I quote – “the burgeoning role that content creation is now playing within the toy industry and its implications for the toy, entertainment and licensing business.” I found it interesting that, of the three keynote speakers, one comes from a toy company which hasn’t actually created any content of its own (not yet at any rate). Meanwhile, other companies which have enjoyed notable success in this area – such as Spin Master – seem to have been overlooked. I’m sure the fact that the company in question has a booth at the show and others don’t had nothing at all to do with that particular decision….
That’s all for today, the Vegas Blog will return with more news from the show over the coming days.