‘Overwatch’ Young Adult Novel Released

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The Hero of Numbani, a new “Overwatch”-themed young adult novel from Scholastic’s AFK imprint and author Nicky Drayden, has launched.

Fans can get a copy of The Hero of Numbani via Scholastic now. The novel is available in paperback for $9.99 and eBook for $5.99. Fans can also get a sneak peek of the adventure via a book excerpt here.

Fun with Spot Gains Master Plush Licensee

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Commonwealth Toy & Novelty has been awarded the North American master plush license for the Fun with Spot brand. The deal was brokered by Licensing Works!

“We are very excited for this new partnership and look forward to bringing Spot toys into the arms of fans everywhere,” says Alec Kessler, executive vice president, Commonwealth. “Fun with Spot is a timeless brand that many of us here at Commonwealth have enjoyed with our own families.”

The new line will launch beginning fall 2020.

Janet Hsu Exits Mattel, Accepts CEO Role at Horizon Group USA

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Horizon Group USA has announced the hiring of Janet Hsu as chief executive officer. The appointment marks Hsu’s second role as chief executive officer.  

“I’ve had the privilege of knowing Janet both professionally and personally for the last 10 years,” says Roshan Wijerama, owner and chairman, Horizon Group USA. “Her reputation, integrity and experience in the industry are second to none. Janet is a seasoned chief executive whose vision for Horizon’s future aligns with ours and puts us in the best position to build upon our last 15 years of rapid and organic growth. Horizon’s forward mission is bringing people together through creativity, and we are beyond excited that Janet will be spearheading this effort to ensure that our mission becomes a reality.”

Hsu’s career spans senior management roles at companies including Saban Brands, where she served as chief executive officer during the divestiture of Power Rangers to Hasbro. Hsu also served as the president and chief operating officer at Sanrio, home of the Hello Kitty brand.

Hsu last served as chief franchise management officer at Mattel, where she oversaw studio and strategic partnerships, global consumer products, franchise management, location-based entertainment, digital gaming, content distribution and business development.

“I am excited to join the incredible team at Horizon Group USA,” says Hsu. “Their leadership position in D.I.Y. and S.T.E.M. and over 100 years of legacy, creates a strong foundation to expand into today’s new world. As we embark on this journey together, our mission is not only to continue to introduce relevant products, but also help children develop and nurture creativity through imagination and play. Our industry has a role and obligation in providing lifelong learning skills that will help our children transform the future. At Horizon Group USA, we are committed to their journey to create a better tomorrow.”

In her role as chief executive officer, Hsu will leverage her experience in global strategic partnerships, mergers and acquisitions, commerce expansion, licensing and digital integration to chart new category opportunities.

Head Moves into Branded Real Estate Deal

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Sports and apparel craftsman Head is expanding into branded real estate by offering licensed developments and co-branding opportunities targeting the tennis, diving, skiing, swimming and golf clientele. For this undertaking, Head has selected The DealFactory in London and Brands Lab International, a Miami-, London-, Munich- and Lisbon-based branded real estate company.

“Including Head in our portfolio allows our company to offer a 360-degree experience from car manufacturers to luxury lifestyle brands, from art to iconic personalities and now sport brands,” says Florian Haffa, chief executive officer and founder, Brands Lab International. “We see Head as a strong brand representing sportsmanship, well-being, leadership, performance and athleticism. We foresee the brand applied onto alpine projects, winter and diving destinations, in both residential and hospitality developments, that will include the quality that the brand stands for, technology features applied to living/residential formats and cobranding within luxury resorts that will offer to guests unique sports experiences in skiing, diving, tennis and in the near future also golf.”

Currently Brands Lab International and The DealFactory are in advanced steps for a Head-branded real estate project in Austria and the announcement should be made public soon. Further concepts include hospitality projects, sports and recreation centers as well as educational opportunities.

“Working with an iconic brand like Head and expanding it into the world of actual experiences is a fantastic opportunity and working with leading global partner BLI on this project is opening a new chapter for branded lifestyle environments,” says Bettina Koeckler, chief executive officer, The DealFactory.

BLI will become the enabler of further expansions for Head with its sports schools, diving certification centers, gear and apparel.

Read the June 2020 Issue of License Global Now!

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Read the June 2020 Issue Now!

In the latest issue of License Global magazine, we look at the companies, countries and industries coping through a global pandemic and spotlight what the future might bring in the second half of 2020, in a special section that looks at the effects of COVID-19 across multiple aspects of business.

Find out how the WWE was able to keep business going while fans were unable to attend matches.

Also, find details on programming, matchmaking, education and more for the upcoming Licensing Week Virtual event; the vital role of inclusivity in the merchandising space; and how ITV built its licensing program for "Schitts Creek."

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Kidscreen Announces Next Wave Mentoring Program

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Kidscreen has announced the launch of its Next Wave Mentoring Program, a three-month initiative designed to connect post-secondary animation students preparing to graduate with experienced mentors who can help guide their successful entry into the kids’ entertainment industry. 

A select group of third- and fourth-year students from world-leading animation programs will be paired up with industry mentors based on the type of work each student is interested in focusing on after graduating. Each matched pair will have three video calls over the next six weeks to discuss entry-level career planning, identify and develop leads for employment opportunities and review the student’s portfolio of work. A second six-week phase of mentoring with another group of students and mentors is planned to begin July 20 and run until the end of August.

Schools participating in phase one are: California Institute of Arts (U.S.), Sheridan College (Canada), Gobélins—L’École de L’Image (France), Ballyfermot College and the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (Ireland) and The Animation Workshop (Denmark). Phase two will include students from NYU Tisch School of Arts (U.S.), Centennial College (Canada), Griffith University and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (Australia) and Image Campus (Argentina). 

Next Wave mentors for phase one include Billy Wee (senior vice president, original animation, HBO Max), Eryk Casemiro (senior vice president, preschool, Nickelodeon), David Levine (vice president kids programming, Europe & Africa/U.K. & Ireland, Disney EMEA), Janine Weigold (manager, original animation, international, Netflix), Tara Sorensen (creative development head, children, Apple), Stephanie Betts (executive vice president content and current series, WildBrain), Chris Keenan (senior vice president and executive producer, content development and production, Mattel), Alex Woo (former story lead, Pixar) and Colin Williams (creative director, Sixteen South). 

“With internships, festivals and student-inclusive events like Annecy cancelled or running in a drastically different way this year because of COVID-19, graduating students are going to have a harder time getting started in the workforce right now,” says Jocelyn Christie, vice president and publisher, Kidscreen. “We are hoping this program will fill that gap and keep our industry well supplied with fresh new talent, and we could not be more grateful to our mentors for generously sharing their time and wisdom to help us meet that goal.”   

More information about Kidscreen’s Next Wave Mentoring Program can be found online at Kidscreen.com/nextwave.

AMGI Studios: Moving Quickly to Bring New Properties to the Licensing World

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Things move quickly at AMGI Studios. The animation "IP factory" prides itself on moving swiftly and meeting consumer demand as it happens in real time. From its use of the Unreal Engine to produce cartoon-styled animations to its ability to quickly ramp-up production at home, the studio has made a name for itself because of the speed it can churn out content for a media-hungry world. Today, AMGI's ability to quickly create IP is a trait that is more important than ever before.

As the COVID-19 pandemic brought people home to flatten the curve, it also potentially expedited digital ecosystems in content and retail. The pandemic led movies like Universal's "Trolls World Tour" to be released simultaneously on VOD and in theaters. On the retail front, many businesses also leveraged e-commerce to navigate shop closures during the pandemic shutdown for non-essential services. AMGI believes it is well-suited to navigate the world as these digital and at-home initiatives are leading to new strategies across industries.

"We're in a new era of entertainment, and we're definitely positioned in the right place for it," says Luke Paglia, chief operating officer, AMGI.

To leverage its ability to work quickly, the animation studio has launched a slate of initiatives to uncover new partnerships. AMGI plans to move to a new larger space in the fall that it believes will help the studio grow while meeting proper social distancing protocols that will keep staff safe. Moving from Pasadena, Calif. to Burbank, Calif., the new studio will be much larger than AMGI's old workspace.

The studio has also recently inked a deal with talent management, production advisory and investment company Fourward. AMGI's new partnership follows growing discussions with major streamers and distributors in the entertainment space. Fourward's team-up with the animation house leverages AMGI's fast-paced working style with the talent and resources available at the agency.  

"It's really hit the gas pedal in a big way," adds Paglia. "Getting us building our momentum with them and with their resources, it's really exciting to have Fourward as our partner. They really believe in what we're doing."

Along with the partnership and discussions with streamers and distributors, AMGI is also looking at the high-level impact that popular social media platforms such as TikTok can provide for its IP. The short-form videos on the platform may be a good fit for its properties, such as Hamsta. Colin Brady, co-founder, AMGI, imagines the colorful animated hamster characters from the IP making an excellent fit for the short music-centered clips popular on the platform.

"We're well suited [for TikTok] because our studio is so fast, and we can pivot quickly," reports Brady. "We can make these 15-to-30-second little clips that kind of make up Tik Tok. So, if something really hits on there, you can follow it up quickly with more content."

On the licensing side, AMGI is looking to ramp-up its status as a licensor in the coming months. The company recently became a Matchmaking Premier sponsor for the upcoming Licensing Week Virtual, taking place June 15-19, and plans to leverage the digital licensing event to meet with potential new partners. 

AMGI will be showcasing seven of its properties to those who meet with the studio at the event. IP including Hamsta, Zeppelin Reign and Little Kaiju will be showcased on the Amgistudios.com screening room that will accompany the company's attendance at Licensing Week Virtual.

"We're really going to jump in and use Licensing Week Virtual to launch our licensing program," says Brad Bushell, brand manager, AMGI. "We'll be setting up meetings, and we'll have clips that people can screen. It’s quite a task with all of these properties to launch them at once, but this event really gives us a perfect opportunity to do that."

AMGI thinks its agile production abilities are well-suited for the licensing world and sees the potential to work with partners to develop marketing campaigns that align with new product drops. Tony Diioia, co-founder, AMGI, says the studio is optimistic that it can leverage media platforms such as TikTok and YouTube to bring licensed products to digital content platforms in near real-time.

"We're in a very shifting marketplace," adds Diioia. "Our expectation with some of our licensing partners is that we could quickly work in tandem with them – and maybe even work together collaboratively. That would make good sense in terms of getting product out the door and putting clips up on YouTube and TikTok very quickly, and rapidly into the market so that it hits for back-to-school or Christmas. Especially since many of us are still going to be working from home and social distancing."

To learn more about AMGI and its animated properties, be sure to register for Licensing Week Virtual and schedule a meeting through the Matchmaking Service.

1-800-Flowers, Jason Wu Smell the Roses Together

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1-800-Flowers.com has announced it has collaborated with Jason Wu to release an exclusive assortment of bouquets. The Jason Wu for Wild Beauty collection, which is now available nationwide, offers arrangements that embody the designer’s signature aesthetic of femininity and sophistication.

“Jason Wu is one of the world’s most renowned fashion designers, and we are thrilled to collaborate with him on this truly original collection, which reflects his unique point of view in floral design and bouquet presentation,” says Valerie Ghitelman, vice president, product development and design, 1-800-Flowers.com. “We are excited to not only share these beautifully crafted arrangements with our customers, but to engage them with distinctive content that provides insights into Jason’s design influences and more.”

Behind-the-scenes content, specially designed “thank you” notes and the ability to preview select bouquets in 3D will allow customers to have an immersive digital experience as they are introduced to the new collection. This marks Wu’s first collaboration with a floral and gifting brand.

“Playing a role in the intimate decision of what one chooses to wear each day is such an important part of what I do,” says Wu. “To extend this concept to the graceful details people bring into their homes is an honor. This collection with 1-800-Flowers.com is especially meaningful to me because of my lifelong love of flowers. Floral elements continuously inspire me and have been a consistent theme throughout my entire career. I’m thrilled to celebrate the beauty of flowers in this new and special way.”  

As new offerings are introduced to the collection, customers can stay up-to-date by connecting with 1-800-Flowers.com on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and Wu on FacebookTwitter and Instagram using the hashtag #JasonWuWildBeauty.

Tetris Joins PowerStation Studios in NHS Charity Bid

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A charity mission, led by PowerStation Studios, has now welcomed Tetris into its ranks, with Tetris garments available to purchase from web retailer WeLoveThis.store, sold royalty-free in order to maximize donations to the NHS. 

“We are thrilled to have Tetris on board with this project,” says Dave Collins, founder, PowerStation Studios. “Having worked with The Tetris Company on numerous style guides, brand collaborations and even designing the new Tetris logo, it made perfect sense to have them join us on such a worthy initiative.” 

With three designs to choose from – each featuring bold typography, stay-at-home messaging and Tetris-inspired graphics – fans of the retro gaming icon can buy apparel, with 25 percent of each sale going to charity. 

The royalty-free charity mission also works with brands such as SYBO Games – creators of “Subway Surfers” – and character-led lifestyle brand Phat Kandi. 

How Super 7 Built a Retail Environment for the Fans

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Designer, retailer and licensee of retro collectibles and apparel, Super7 was built by fans, for fans. Founded in 2001 by designer Brian Flynn, whose defining mantra is “we grew up with giant monsters, comic books, punk, science fiction, skateboarding, robots and rebellion. No one made what we wanted, so we made it ourselves,” Super7 is forming the foundations of one of the world’s leading collectibles, nostalgia, apparel and accessories licensees in the U.S. 

From retro-inspired toys, play sets and apparel from a wealth of brands and licenses including “Aliens,” “Red Dawn,” “Masters of the Universe,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” Iron Maiden, Garbage Pail Kids and Major League Baseball, to name a few, Flynn explains how to create a retail offering with a difference.

License Global: What makes Super7 unique in terms of retail, licensing and manufacturing? 
Flynn: As lifelong fans and collectors, we set out to create the things that we wanted to have that did not already exist. This can lead us to some pretty unusual and fun products – nobody else is going to license Red Dawn or make Paulie's Robot from the fourth film of the Rocky franchise, for example, or absurdly impractical yet amazing items like the humongous Snake Mountain Playset. Conventional wisdom would tell us to stay away from these kinds of things and play it safe, but if we want people to believe in and be excited about what we make, we have to start by making things that we believe in and are excited about ourselves. We hold ourselves to this standard in everything we do, not just in creating the products but in manufacturing, to make certain the product and packaging are perfect when they reach the hands of our customers, and in creating the types of retail environment and experience we would want. 

How is this a market unique to Super7 right now, and how do you see the nostalgia market changing? 
Super7 stands out as unique because we make the things that nobody else is going to make and we push ourselves to go the extra mile necessary to make them perfect. We started making products centered around properties from the 1970s and 1980s, because that's when we grew up. There are now new opportunities to explore both properties from the 1990s and later as well as some of the deeper cuts from our own generation. 

Specializing in retro collectibles, how is your licensing model allowing you to reach more people through more properties? 
There are a lot of people out there who grew up with different things than we did. Expanding the range of properties we license means we can share the nostalgic experience we have with “Star Wars” or “Masters of the Universe” with more people with different interests. 
 
How is your relationship with your consumer changing in these difficult times? What are people looking for? 
Right now, things are pretty weird for everyone, and what people seem to want is to relate directly about it. We are still talking to our customers about specific products we are making, but we are also talking directly via social media with people about how we make the products we make and how we are managing the difficult present scenario ourselves, through our Ask Super7 and Get Weird with Super7 campaigns… Mostly we are seeing people looking for ways to find some entertainment and normalcy in all of this, which has translated into a healthy online retail business for us.