Entertainment One's Hannah Mungo on the gigantic plans for The BFG

Robert Hutchins

By Robert Hutchins

October 5th 2015 at 9:15AM
UPDATED October 6th 2015 at 1:01PM
Entertainment One's Hannah Mungo on the gigantic plans for The BFG

Roald Dahl's The BFG is making his return to the big screen next year in Steven Spielberg's latest adaptation. eOne's head of UK licensing, Hannah Mungo details the enormous plans for the brand.

How are expectations for Spielberg’s BFG and how do you assess the film’s licensing potential?

Expectations for The BFG are massive, both in the sense of it being a box office hit and from a licensing and retail perspective.

The film brings together two of the greatest storytellers – Roald Dahl and Steven Spielberg. One of the world’s most celebrated children’s authors, Dahl has sold nearly 200 million books worldwide and 2016 marks 100 years since his birth; making it the year of Roald Dahl. Out of all his books, The BFG was reported to be a personal favourite of Dahl’s.

Spielberg’s career box office totals a staggering $10 billion and a whole host of awards. We believe that The BFG is Steven Spielberg at his best. He has brought his ‘Dream Team’ back together including Melissa Mathison (who wrote E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) who will be adapting The BFG for the big screen, and John Williams who is composing the score (famous for Star Wars and Jaws). Along with WETA bringing the beautiful CGI elements to life, we are extremely confident that The BFG will be one of the biggest releases in 2016.

The BFG film will target all generations – children who are currently reading the Dahl books, adults who’ve grown up with them and anyone in between who wants to see the next Spielberg blockbuster.

Licensees and retailers are also aware of the merchandising potential that a film of this size can generate. The merchandise will be targeting boys and girls - you have the gruesome and disgusting giants that boys will love, and then you have the relationship between The BFG and Sophie and the dream aspect that girls will be drawn to. Although the licensing programme will be targeted at children aged 5-12 years old, there is also an element of adult appeal for those that grew up with The BFG.

What categories will the property prove to be a great fit for?

Two licensees have already been appointed; Ravensburger for puzzles and games and Gemma for greetings, gift wrap and bags. We have also received countless proposals for other categories so expect to hear announcements covering apparel and accessories, gifting, trading cards, home wares, stationary and FMCG soon.

We’re encouraging partners to be as creative as possible so think giant sizes slippers, giant floor puzzles, snozzcumber flavoured drinks and whizzpopping candy!

We’re also engaging all major retailers and we’re hoping to put event level campaigns in place to coincide with the product launch. As Entertainment One (eOne) also has the UK film distribution rights, we are working closely with the film team on brand promotions covering a range of categories and amplifying noise around the film with ATL and BTL activity. We expect to see product in stores six weeks prior to film release – so around mid-June 2016.

How wide is the appeal of the property, considering the vast popularity of the book?

The appeal of The BFG is multi-generational and because of that benefits from strong parental endorsement. As mentioned before, there’s an older generation that grew up with the story and a newer generation that have just been introduced to The BFG and Roald Dahl in general. The book is still widely read in schools over 30 years on in the UK and in some other international territories. Adults have a feeling of nostalgia towards the story having read it when younger, and often then reading it to their children.

The tale is simply magical, the friendship between the small but courageous heroine Sophie and a giant who you would think is scary, but is big and very friendly. The story encourages people to “Dream Big” and to stick up for what’s right.

There is also a distinctly ‘British’ feel to the book and movie. The Queen plays a very prominent part in the storyline, and Sophie and The BFG pass through many famous London landmarks. This goes down well both in the UK and exports well to other territories. The literary heritage of the property also helps it reach consumers who might not ordinarily buy licensed merchandise for their children.

Why should potential partners be excited to team up with eOne for The BFG?

The BFG is expected to be one of the biggest box office successes of 2016. We have a huge slate of marketing activity planned in the run up to the release – new ideas and plans are constantly evolving. 2016 has many key cultural moments that we can capitalise on.

It’s also a very special year for Roald Dahl as there will be centenary celebrations marking 100 years since his birth. There will be a lot of activity celebrating all of Roald Dahl’s iconic characters, including an official Roald Dahl day on September 13th which will have a focus on The BFG. Entertainment One is distributing the film and the DVD in the UK, as well as handling licensing and merchandising – you should therefore expect a very cohesive commercial execution.

The BFG film also brings together two of the world’s greatest storytellers – Roald Dahl and Steven Spielberg. Both have a great back catalogue of work; Dahl has obviously written many children’s classics such as Charlie and the Chocolate factory, Matilda and Fantastic Mr. Fox. Spielberg has been involved in a lot of the highest grossing films in history in some capacity – including Jurassic World, Indiana Jones and E.T. To date, Spielberg has grossed over $10 billion at the box office. The combination of these two towering forces in popular culture is a licensing opportunity not to be missed!

How big a move is The BFG for eOne in terms of branching out from the pre-school space?

We have a wide range of properties in our portfolio across children’s, lifestyle and film. In terms of film licensing, The BFG will be the largest movie property we’ve ever managed. It’s great to be working so closely with the wider eOne teams and we’re confident the synergy will have a positive impact on the licensing programme.

It’s a great opportunity for us because it means we can combine our knowledge of film distribution and the expertise we’ve got on licensing, and put those two together to create a very coordinated campaign. The opportunities for film licensing are fairly few and far between, but we’ve got the infrastructure in order to be able capitalise on that.

Is there toy potential for the brand? Is this a sector you’ll be looking to with The BFG?

The BFG is such a big brand with vast potential across many categories. We’ll be focusing on categories that best explore the themes in the story, especially apparel, greetings, puzzles and FMCG.

Is there longevity with the brand? Could it become a franchise?

Although film licensing is often viewed as having a limited shelf life, this is beginning to change and success stories like Frozen and Despicable Me have certainly shown retailers that demand for merchandise can continue beyond the promotional window.

We’re hoping that The BFG will offer the chance to build something different that really stands out and has a longer life. With the attachment of Steven Spielberg and the book’s tremendous heritage this certainly could be such an opportunity.