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Chuggington: “With Alpha Group we’re bringing the series to life like never before”

Chuggington is making its comeback in 2020 as the brand and children’s TV series celebrates its tenth anniversary and its returning sixth series with an all guns blazing licensed product programme, kicking off with master toy partner, Alpha Group.

Having acquired the Chuggington brand from Ludorum in December last year, and following an investment on ‘multi-millions,’ into the brand, Herschend Entertainment Studios and the Chuggington IP will be pulling into Brand Licensing Europe next week to underline its commitment to children’s entertainment and the consumer product space.

The focus of the global master toy line is, according to Natalie Setton, vice president, commercial, content distribution and licensing, to ‘bring the world of Chuggington to life like never before.’

“Alpha Toys will provide a visually exciting play proposition which allows fans to re-enact their own adventures inspired from the show through interaction, innovation and modern train play relevant to today’s preschoolers,” she told ToyNews.

“Train play is a classic, perennial play pattern which encourages fine-motor skills and imagination in children. The line celebrates everything train play whilst bringing new and innovative fun to capture the magic of the Chuggington series and world.

“Alpha Toys has a  reputation for great product at strong price points and they have certainly delivered on this again with Chuggington! With their experience in strong execution at retail, we are excited to be bringing this to market from fall 2020.”

With this in mind, ToyNews sat down to chat with both Setton and Julie Phillips, vice president, development and production.

What is Herschend Entertainment Studios bringing to BLE in both your debut year at the show and your debut year in licensing?

Phillips: Our focus for BLE is our full-scale global relaunch of Chuggington in 2020. Our new season of content is being coordinated hand-in-hand with an exciting new toy programme from Alpha Group, and supported with refreshed and all new creative assets, a special mini-hub website, broadcaster support, direct-to-consumer campaigns, promotional events, and global brand partnerships.

Can you tell us about the new episodes?

Phillips: We are currently in production on season six of the series to premiere in spring 2020—this is the first new content available since 2014.  The new season is all about discovery as we go deep into the world, getting to know the unique characters and the inner workings of the locations that make Chuggington so special. It’s a fresh celebration of the diversity, fun, friendships, and adventures that have delighted audiences for the past ten years. 

To top it off, kids globally will be able journey into the animated world of Chuggington through an all-new hybrid live action / animated short format.

What inspired the company’s move into the licensing space? What are you setting out to achieve in the space?

Setton: Hrschend Entertainment is a family of companies focused on family entertainment and the largest family-held themed entertainment business in the US. Over the last decade, we have expanded our franchise capabilities in numerous ways.

Herschend Family Entertainment, which owns and operates theme parks, attractions, and other entertainment experiences, expanded into aquariums, animal adventure parks, resorts, and more. 

In 2018, we launched Herschend Live, which manages and owns innovative touring live event properties, including the Harlem Globetrotters,  and Halo: Outpost Discovery, a live fan experience for the Xbox franchise in partnership with Microsoft 343 Industries.

Most recently, HE added Adventure Travel to its portfolio with the acquisition of Pink Adventure Tours. 

Then, HES is the IP development centre for the company as a whole and Julie and I work closely with our partners throughout the company to develop true 360 IP franchises. This is evidenced by the strategic direction of the Chuggington relaunch, which includes new content, themed entertainment, live touring, consumer products, licensing and more.

What drew you to the Chuggington property? What will you be bringing to the property?

Phillips: Creatively, we are positioning Chuggington to connect with new audiences and compete in a changing global kids’ landscape, while still maintaining the DNA that has been beloved for the past ten years. Season six will celebrate the diverse world of Chuggington and journey deeper into the lands and emotions that drive our characters’ adventures, underscored by a new toe-tapping soundtrack.

We partnered with award-winning and Emmy Award-nominated Michael G. Stern (Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Jake and the Neverland Pirates) who serves as our  co-executive producer and head writer, as well as key creative and production personnel from earlier seasons. 

The series is also being developed in partnership with Alpha Group and leadership from the broader HE family of businesses to ensure an organic 360 franchise for the relaunch.

Obviously, Chuggington itself is no stranger to BLE or to the licensing space – but what will the strategy in the licensing space look like under Herschend?

Setton: Herschend has committed millions of dollars to the relaunch of Chuggington. Firstly, the company invested heavily in the new season of content. The connection with audiences starts there.

We partnered with Alpha Group as our global master toy licensee who have also invested heavily in the development of an exciting new toy line that will bring new innovation to well-loved train play patterns, giving fans the opportunity to re-enact the series’ adventures like never before with universal track sets, scenic location-based play sets and trains from the Chuggington world.

We are also able to leverage Herschend’s capital intensive infrastructure reaching the 14+ million guests to our parks and attractions, a worldwide audience for our live-touring shows, and millions more through our media and digital channels. With the company’s 360 IP franchise capability, we can build a franchise from the get-go.

Our priority is to support our licensed partners across all major categories through driving consumer demand for our brand extensions through unique engagement opportunities, exposure and interactive-based marketing.

On the whole, Chuggington fans new and old will experience a truly integrated franchise relaunch that connects with kids and families globally.

What activity have you got going on in the toy space?

Setton: Our focus for the new global toy line from Alpha Toys is to really bring the world of Chuggington to life like never before, providing a visually exciting play proposition which allows fans to re-enact their own adventures inspired from the show through interaction, innovation and modern train play relevant to today’s preschoolers.

Train play is a classic, perennial play pattern which encourages fine-motor skills and imagination in children. The line celebrates everything train play whilst bringing new and innovative fun to capture the magic of the Chuggington series and world.

Alpha Toys has a  reputation for great product at strong price points and they have certainly delivered on this again with Chuggington. With their experience in strong execution at retail, we are excited to be bringing this to market from fall 2020.

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