Blasts from past power int’l kids sales

Variety Junior 2011

What century is it again?

“Power Rangers,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “ThunderCats,” “Looney Tunes” and “Beavis and Butthead” are among the big youth-oriented brands that program distributors are bringing to this year’s Mipcom in Cannes.

Yes, this year’s Mipcom, even though all of the above brands are more readily identified with decades past.

“There’s a buzz factor with classic brands,” says Turner animation, young adults and kids media prexy/COO Stuart Snyder. “Once that gets going among the core fans, kids pick up on it and become very curious about it. And classic brands have the opportunity to attract multigenerational audiences.

“With a show like ‘Looney Tunes,’ people who were fans of these characters (and) are now parents can share these brands with their kids. ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars’ is a great example of this. So many kids tell us they were fans of the movies, and that comes from their parents.

Still, it’s a tricky thing,” Snyder adds. “It’s not a slam-dunk that it’s going to work.”

Because of that, Cartoon Network took an aggressive marketing approach when it premiered “The Looney Tunes Show” in March. “The Looney Tunes Show” takes the classic characters — Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner — and spruces them up with modern animation.

We needed to make sure that the audience knew that this was new,” says Snyder. “I believe you still have to go ahead and market the brand to this new audience to make sure they get what they expect, especially when the new version is not a copycat of what the original was.”

Cartoon Network has several other big brands on its Mipcom slate, including an updated version of “ThunderCats,” which premiered Stateside on July 29, a new take on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” coming next year and a TV version of “Green Lantern,” which will air in Cartoon’s new DC Nation block.

In 2012, Cartoon Network also is rolling out an animated TV series based on DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon,” which is not a classic brand but a very well-known one.

“These are brands that are tried and true and tested,” says Sam Register, president of Warner Bros. Animation, which focuses its efforts on keeping its vast library of brands in the marketplace. “At Warner Bros., we are very careful about preserving what was successful for a brand the first time around.”

Reinvigorating classic brands — or just expanding already well-known brands, such as “How to Train Your Dragon” or Nickelodeon’s “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness” or “Penguins of Madagascar” — also offers an economic advantage: If a company has already developed a brand, a set of characters and storylines, it can exploit the continual licensing of that intellectual property and generate a consistent stream of revenue.

“In the current economic climate, risktaking has been so reduced that any money you place behind a brand has to be very well-justified,” says Maria Doolan, managing director of brand and business development at Spain’s Zinkia Entertainment, which has created a global entertainment brand with its international kids’ hit, “Pocoyo.” “One of the largest barriers to creating a brand is creating awareness for it and getting into the public psyche with it. I think in the current economic climate, it’s extremely difficult to start a brand from scratch.”

Hasbro has based its entire business model on resurrecting brands, from the worldwide success of its “Transformers” movies, which now air as TV series “Transformers Prime” on recently launched kids’ channel the Hub, to new TV shows centered on “My Little Pony,” “Pound Puppies” and “The Game of Life.” Since the October 2010 launch of the Hub, a joint venture between Hasbro and Discovery, Hasbro Studios has produced 335 original half-hours of kids’ programming, much of which are based on brands that Hasbro made famous years ago.

Bringing back brands is even happening in the adult space, with this fall’s return of MTV’s “Beavis and Butthead.” The show’s original creator, Mike Judge, has produced 12 episodes to add to the series’ original 100.

“It’s the same format, but today it’s not just a question of commenting on musicvideos, but on everything out there. There’s a lot of comedy to be mined by everything that we get on TV today,” says Steve Greider, exec veep of Nickelodeon and program sales at Viacom Intl. Media Networks. “We obviously have built up quite a large library by working very closely and in a liberated fashion with a lot of creators. As I understand it, there’s a lot more for ‘Beavis and Butthead’ to say.”

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