MGA Entertainment Leans Into Content and Fandom With ‘Shadow High’ Video Release

Toy maker releases a long-awaited animated short tied to hit Rainbow High doll franchise to build 2023 momentum.

Shadow High MGA Entertainment
MGA Entertainment

Toy maker MGA Entertainment keeps a close watch on the superfans for its many franchises through its YouTube channels and social media platforms.

The Rainbow High doll line has been a hit since its debut in mid-2020. MGA has delivered a steady stream of short-form content via YouTube and a Netflix-licensed series to burnish the brand that revolves around female characters who attend a performing arts high school. It’s a prime example of how content is becoming commerce in new ways beyond product placement in a Saturday morning cartoon show. For Rainbow High, the storytelling executed through digital content is woven into their execution and expansion of the doll line.

“We had to create the story behind the dolls to make them characters,” Anne Parducci, chief content officer for Chatsworth-based MGA Entertainment, told Variety. “We had to create a high school and what this world would look like. Music and content was important for Rainbow High because this brand is all about creativity and self-expression.”

For sure, MGA also leans into releasing music tied to its brands. The Rainbow High storyline has recently focused on the introduction of a friendly rival high school known as Shadow High. A song released in September in connection with the “Rainbow High” series Season 3 finale is full of sassy call outs from the Shadow High gang to the “bougie high across the street” where “everyone’s so perfect and so neat.” “The School Across the Street” performed well, which sparked MGA to stoke anticipation for an animated music video, which dropped on Dec. 26.

MGA uses a mix of traditional TV, digital and social to drive sales for brands that include LOL Surprise, Little Tikes, Bratz and Mermaze Mermaidz. But nothing stokes interest and engagement like fresh content. The “Shadow High” video is packed with winks to the most ardent Rainbow High fans.

Parducci notes that children play with dolls to act out their own imaginations, so it stands to reason that solid professional storytelling enhances the brand. The music and music video production reflect a broad collaboration among MGA insiders and hired tunesmiths and producers. The animation was produced by Australian animation studio Pixel Zoo, which MGA acquired earlier this year to help further expand its content operations.

“Our goal is to have kids engage with content as much as possible. That helps to get as many eyeballs on our brands as possible,” Parducci said. “We have 360-degree view of this brand that can engage them through content and music and play at home.”

The Rainbow High dolls are aimed at the 6-10 kid demographic. The content inevitably skews on the older side, toward the 8-10 demographic and has proven to have broader appeal with boys than the toy franchise itself. MGA takes the pulse of its fans through its dedicated Rainbow High channel on YouTube (about 676,000 followers) and it makes a point of maintaining local-language YouTube channels for the franchise, which also helps stretch its content budget.

“We’re in a very unique position here. We can build awareness pretty quickly with a strategy that aligns our toys, licensing, media, music and social strategy all hitting at the same time,” she said.

The focus on content extensions has been crucial to the success of the Rainbow High brand. MGA has more to come, with IP-driven strategies in the works for the LOL Surprise brand. The company has also committed to its most ambitious original series production to date, a remake of South Korean dinosaur series “Armored Saurus,” a mix of live-action and CG. The project is on track for a 2024 release.