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BLE 2019: Race for the Finnish – Caroline Mickler and the global growth of Moomin

The UK licensing agency Caroline Mickler has a portfolio of prestigious character and entertainment brands, from Horrid Henry to Paul McCartney’s new children’s book Hey Grandude! They also represent Finland’s greatest export in Moomin. ToyNews takes a look.

The first Moomin story, The Moomins and the Great Flood, was first published in 1945, written and illustrated by Tove Jansson, a celebrated artist, political cartoonist and author.  The eight novels and three picture books were originally written in Swedish and are now available in 50 languages.

The original Moomin comic strip was created for the UK newspaper, The Evening News, in 1954 and ran for 20 years.  The stories have been adapted for television, film, opera and radio.  Moomin.com has sold in 90 countries.

The Moomins and the Great Flood – goes on a search carried out for Moominpappa, feared drowned. Moomin has never been one to shy away from some pretty hard-hitting topics. It’s most likely why it’s become such a culturally revered brand today – it’s certainly never pandered to an audience.

In its 2019 Moomin new animated TV series “Moominvalley” from Gutsy Animations, there’s little by way of deviation from some of the bigger conversations, tackling topics like anxiety and mental health, environmental issues, and conservation, albeit with the majestic lens of Moomin fully applied.

And, as one of Finland’s biggest and most successful exports, there’s little wonder as to why the country invests so heavily in the Moomin lore. Moominvalley currently holds the title of Finland’s most expensive TV show, with a €20 million budget.

Moomin is now preparing for a second season launch early 2020, with home entertainment for the first season out in shops now, and following a solid performance on Sky and growing audiences overseas it continues to serve Moomin Characters, Bulls Licensing and the UK licensing agent, Caroline Mickler as a staple across not only character and entertainment, but increasingly the lifestyle, and the art and design licensing sectors.

As Moomin and Moominvalley TV continue to grow on the world stage, Mickler is using the momentum to build on what can now be considered an evergreen brand here in the UK through new partnerships as well as extending long standing ones.

Tove Jansson’s Moomin has always been synonymous with caring for the environment and respecting nature. Licensees aim to reflect this within their ranges such as Half Moon Bay’s bamboo lunch box and reusable husk coffee cup, House of Disaster’s reusable stainless steel flasks and water bottles. `Adding to these, 2019 sees the launch of a women’s clothing range with the fair trade, sustainable fashion brand, People Tree.

On a broader environmental level, Moomin Characters is leading a ‘#OurSea’ campaign (the spiritual and literal home of Moomin) raising money to clean up the polluted waters of the Baltic Sea and restoring it back to its natural health.

Moomin is but part of the Caroline Mickler picture,  armed as it is with other powerhouses of entertainment, too, including Horrid Henry, The Beatles, Yellow Submarine, and Paul McCartney’s own launch into the kids’ entertainment space with his fiction title, Hey Grandude!

“This is very exciting,” Mickler tells ToyNews. “It’s a lovely story that explores the relationships between grandparents and their grandkids, while encouraging the adventurous side.”

Hey Grandude! was launched in September at an exclusive Waterstones event, where Paul McCartney himself was on hand to sign copies of the books for fans from across the world. Like Moomin, Hey Grandude! starts life in the licensing space as a published title, keeping high calibre company in a portfolio to envy.

Mickler is initially looking at apparel, as well as games and puzzle partners for this property.  Adventure backpacks and travel accessories will add to the adventurous spirit of the book too” Mickler went on to say. “It’s important for us and the brand that partners have a keen focus on sustainability and solid eco credentials”.

Available in 27 languages and counting, Hey Grandude! is already off to a strong start. It just hit the number four spot in the pre-school book chart, and number two in the hardback picture book chart here in the UK, while in the US it’s number four on the New York Times bestseller list.

Added to the portfolio is Feisty Pets, an IP that started out life in the toy space as a YouTube sensation where it continues to grow and is now building out a roster of licensing partnerships, including Jazwares as its master toy brand, Scholastic as its publishing partner and Rubie’s for dress up.

“Beyond toy Feisty Pets lends itself to apparel, however, there is also good potential for the brand in games – I’d like to see a Top Trumps style of game for the brand,” says Mickler. “It’s a brand that is all about being mischievous and allowing kids to explore the Feisty and non-Feisty side. It’s empowering in a way, allowing kids to embrace that cheekiness, without it going too far into being naughty.

“We have more characters and more facial expressions amid the line-up this year, and the brand is so open to consumer engagement on a larger level, thanks to the YouTube content we see uploaded by fans every single day. This is a brand that encourages creativity and humour.”

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