Licences are big business, but should inventors consider brands during the development process? Billy Langsworthy looks for an answer.

EDITOR’S COMMENT: Brand of gold

After working in the toy industry for a while, you can’t help but find cynicism creeping into your movie-watching.

As a massive movie fan, I’ve been hit by this hard. When Elsa’s dress turned green in the recent Frozen Fever short film, I couldn’t help but think, ‘well, there’ll be a few costumes sold off the back of that.’

But with licenced toys proving a massive part of the industry, and a safer bet for toy companies than an entirely new product, is it worth bearing brands in mind when creating a new toy?

It’s a tricky one. On paper, a creator should pride themselves on creating something pure, a concept, that could perhaps be embraced by licensing at a later stage. But when looking at it from the licence-owner’s point of view, product ranges are often already in mind when making creative decisions for TV shows and movies.

This quote from an interview I did with Russell Dever, 1461 Ltd executive director and creator of the pre-school series Boy and the Dinosaur, proves the point:

"You don’t just make a TV show. These days it’s far more sophisticated than that. It’s more about ensuring that the creative work will ultimately support a licensing programme and being able to identify what those things are. Take for instance, there’s a sequence where Boy gets an idea that Dinosaur would make a great slide. So the dinosaur ends up becoming the garden slide. It’s a really charming piece. The whole point of that is ultimately that there is a piece of merchandise there that is a garden slide shaped like dinosaur. I know that some people would maybe find that inappropriate but it’s not really. Ultimately, it’s about being able to extend that emotional relationship between your viewer and your property. It supports your merchandising, it supports the toy companies and everybody is happy. But that has to be done now. It has to be build into the script and all of those items have to be found in the storyboard."

As Dever himself states, it’s an approach that some people will find inappropiate and, at worst, cynical. But looking at it from an inventor’s point of view, it’s absolutely worth bearing in mind.

If you find your creation suits a particular brand, don’t feel guilty about just coming out and stating it in a pitching environment.

You’re not selling your soul and who knows, it might give your idea an the edge over the competition when it comes to firms making decisions about what to snap up.

However grim it may sound, a new play-set is all well and good, but a new play-set that’s also a great fit for an Avengers: Age of Ultron set piece (to some companies) is better.

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