The next big thing - ToyNews

The next big thing

The hype and interest surrounding RDF's flagship pre-school series, Waybuloo has been building for a long time. For master toy partner Fisher-Price it represents a significant investment and the chance to show the business how it continues to tread new ground when it comes to product development.
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In such a crowded sector as pre-school, it’s a very rare property that breaks through and truly captures the imagination of its audience. Sure, over the last ten years, there have been a handful which have become (or are on their way to becoming) evergreens: Teletubbies, Bob the Builder and, most recently, In The Night Garden to name three.

Now RDF is aiming to add another name to that list: Waybuloo. The company’s first foray into pre-school programming, it has been developed in conjunction with The Foundation, one of the UK’s leading children’s television production groups. And it was causing a stir in the industry even before any images had been released, or much was known about it; usually the sign of a sure-fire winner.

For Fisher-Price – the master toy licensee – Waybuloo is a significant investment and, Phil Hooper, senior marketing manager, explains to ToyNews “an incredible opportunity”.

“We recognised early on that RDF had established a very strong kids division, built around a team of experienced people – such as Nigel Pickard, who has an unrivalled track record in the field of kids programming, along with respected figures Stephen Gould and Angeles Blanco, who carry with them a combined experience of over 20 years in youth licensing,” Hooper says. “Waybuloo provides an incredible opportunity for us as a toy manufacturer to develop an exciting toy range. The show has a cast of instantly engaging characters, a rich and impactful environment and unique themes that we can weave into our range development.

“With 100 episodes already commissioned, we firmly believe that Waybuloo will become a long-term evergreen property, which would be in keeping with its status as a Cbeebies landmark property.”

The first products from Fisher-Price will be available from October and will deliver against a range of price points across plush, collector packs, play-sets and puzzles. The launch will be backed by a significant marketing programme including TV advertising and PR. Work on the 2010 collection is also underway, with Fisher-Price aiming to move into new categories.

“Fisher-Price was the clear choice for us,” offers Maria Sze, brand director at RDF. “As a market leader in pre-school, they are a trusted brand with proven success in this area.”

Other early supporters for Waybuloo include Egmont, 2entertain and BBC Magazines, while a raft of other licensees have recently been revealed including Martin Yaffe in the toy sector, plus Zap, Kinnerton, Spearmark, Gemma International and Portico among others (see separate box out).

“Given the state of the market and the fact that we haven’t officially launched, we have had unprecedented interest in the property,” Sze continues.

“The main challenges have been to say no when we don’t think the association or opportunity is right. Our goal is to become an evergreen property. The editorial subject matter and unique nature of Waybuloo lends itself to becoming an evergreen programme – the timeless themes and engaging characters will sustain over time.”

Meanwhile, for Fisher-Price’s Hooper, the addition of Waybuloo can only enhance the firm’s existing portfolio. “Fisher-Price is an established leader in the pre-school category and as a brand we seek to innovate and tread new ground through both product development and an association with exciting and innovative kids programming. RDF are clearly demonstrating a groundbreaking approach in Waybuloo,” he concludes.

What is Waybuloo?

Waybuloo is RDF’s flagship pre-school programme and represents a significant investment for the firm. Major support is coming from Cbeebies, with an initial run of 100 episodes planned.

According to RDF, Waybuloo is not just a series, it’s a philosophy for a happy life. It transports children into the land of Nara, which is inhabited by animated characters called Piplings.

The unique thing about Waybuloo, however, is that it focuses on children’s feelings, with the Piplings embodying a range of emotions including love, wisdom, happiness and harmony.

When a Pipling is truly happy, does something good or makes someone feel better, they achieve ‘buloo’, which is a warm feeling of emotional harmony that is experienced by the characters as floating.

There are four Piplings: Yojojo, who has the characteristics of a monkey and represents happiness, kitten-like De Li who represents love, the bear-like Nok Tok (wisdom) and rabbit-like Lau Lau (imagination).

In each episode, six children visit Nara (the set of which is truly impressive and the largest of its kind) to play with the Piplings to show real-life interacting with the animated world. Children will be able to play with the Piplings, learn yoga with their parents and experience Waybuloo moments for themselves, both through the show and the Cbeebies website.

Second tier of licensees revealed

ith Fisher-Price, Egmont, 2entertain and BBC Magazines already signed up, RDF Rights has been working towards broadening the licensing programme for Waybuloo, adding a further nine partners.

The company has secured deals with Samuel Eden & Son (socks), C&M Licensing (nightwear/underwear), Zap (soft furnishings), Kinnerton (confectionery), The Creative Cake Company (celebration cakes), Spearmark International (melamine and lighting) and Martin Yaffe (wheeled toys, furniture and balls).

Also on board are Portico Designs and Gemma International (greetings cards and gift wrap) and Trademark Collections (bags, umbrellas and aprons).
With the show beginning on Cbeebies from May, the first product to market will be the Waybuloo Magazine from BBC.

Fisher-Price, Egmont and 2entertain lines will follow in autumn/winter, while the new signings will be rolling out their collections from spring/summer 2010.

“There has been a tremendous buzz surrounding Waybuloo and we have been overwhelmed and thrilled by the response from the industry,” comments RDF’s senior UK licensing manager, Jane Kennedy. “Waybuloo is a uniquely exciting pre-school property and we are delighted to be working with this enormously creative group of licensees.

“Waybuloo offers them a visually stunning platform from which to develop and deliver some exceptional product ranges. With Waybuloo toys, magazines, books and DVDs rolling out from autumn this year, we are now looking forward to seeing our new licensees joining them on shelves with their ranges from spring 2010.”

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