Aussies wiggle onto American TV

Singing group for tots to air on Fox Family

SYDNEY — The Wiggles, a singing quartet for tots, is following rival Aussie moppet franchise Bananas in Pyjamas onto American television as part of a concerted global leveraging of the hugely successful Oz brand.

Daily Variety was told a deal was inked Tuesday for the Wiggles’ 80 music clips to air twice daily on the Fox Family Channel starting Aug. 15.

Also, the group has just awarded North American licensing and merchandising rights to Toronto-based Nelvana in a three-year deal negotiated by Nelvana’s Sid Kaufman and Wiggles exec producer Wayne Covell. The group plans live performances in the U.S., including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.

Meantime, Beyond Films on Wednesday acquired international sales rights to “The Wiggles Movie” outside Oz-New Zealand, where last year it took nearly A$3 million ($2 million) at the box office for Fox. On Thursday, Fox is releasing 300,000 units of the movie for the video sell-through market, while a second feature will be shot next April for a Christmas 1999 theatrical release.

Formed in 1991, the Wiggles is composed of four members — Jeff Fatt, Anthony Field, Greg Page and Murray Cook — who sing and caper for preschoolers along with the Barneyesque Dorothy the Dinosaur, Wags the Dog, Henry the Octopus and Captain Feathersword. Often referred to as the fab four for the under-5s, the band plays an average of 500 concerts a year and has pressed nine CDs.

The deals are the latest in a series of moves to globalize and leverage the Wiggles brand (Daily Variety, May 6). Last month, the group awarded Buena Vista Home Entertainment U.K. rights to all Wiggles nonfeature videos for five years, including the U.K. release of the group’s six videos, which sold 1.4 million units Down Under for pubcaster ABC-TV and Roadshow Entertainment.

The group also inked deals with Disney Channel U.K. and Middle East to air their clips, while a 13-part half-hour series is being made for foreign markets, with the U.K.’s GM-TV as the first licensee from 1999. A separate 13-part half-hour series will air on Kerry Stokes’ Seven Network Australia and cable services later this year.