ITV's Trudi Hayward on the global success of Thunderbirds, Oddbods and Super 4

Robert Hutchins

By Robert Hutchins

October 10th 2016 at 10:40AM
ITV's Trudi Hayward on the global success of Thunderbirds, Oddbods and Super 4

ITVS GE is gearing up for a big BLE and an even bigger year ahead. Licensing.biz talks to SVP global head of merchandise, Trudi Hayward about what the studio has in store.

What can we expect to see from ITVS GE at this year’s BLE?

We’re excited to be heading to BLE 2016 with our extensive and diverse property portfolio. Our boys’ action adventure brand Thunderbirds Are Go will be front and centre, and we will also have opportunities for the Classic Thunderbirds series too. The reboot with Thunderbirds Are Go has rejuvenated interest in the original series so there’s a lot of licensing potential there.

Alongside these, we’ve got our fantastic line-up of third party brands that we act as a full service licensing agent for including Oddbods, Playmobil, Super 4 and Village People.  

One Animation’s animated kids’ comedy series Oddbods is a huge hit on CITV and has just topped 250 million views on YouTube. We’ve just announced our first licensing partners for Oddbods, that will support the toy range from Golden Bear including activity and sticker books from Bonnier, nightwear, underwear and socks from Cooneen and Misirli, outdoor playballs and hoppers from Kids@Play, arcade machine plush from Whitehouse Leisure, and customisable greeting cards from Moonpig.

There’s also a second series of the Playmobil inspired Super 4 hitting CITV next spring and we will have new licensed products from our master toy partner, which is of course Playmobil, to support that.

Whay else? Village People. Iconic 70s disco kitsch, great songs that everybody knows - Y.M.C.A, In the Navy, Go West -  and certainly one of the most unmistakable looking groups ever. Come and see at the B.L.E…

We’ll also be unveiling our two latest portfolio additions for the first time, Robozunaand Watership Down. Robozuna is a fantastic new animated kids’ series from ITV Studios that will be debuting on Netflix in early 2018.

The show follows the story of Ariston, an orphaned boy, and Mangle, his homemade robot friend, as they attempt to free their oppressed nation from an evil empire and its legion of robot centurions. While Watership Down is a Netflix production for the BBC; the 4-episode mini-series will launch late 2017 and includes James McAvoy and Gemma Arterton in the voice cast.

What global response have you seen to Thunderbirds Are Go and what have you got in place to strengthen its international presence?

When you take a series as iconic and as loved as Thunderbirds and you rework elements of it, there’s a great deal of anticipation as to how people are going to react but, as it has continued to do over the years, Thunderbirds Are Go has found a brand new audience who are just as excited about it as the original fans were.

Commercially, the reaction has been just as positive. We have over 40 international broadcast partners and over 90 world class licensees signed up. The show has been launched in Australia (Go! and ABC), New Zealand (TVNZ), US (Amazon Prime), Japan (NHK), Canada (Tele-Quebec and CHRGD), France (Gulli), Middle East (MBC3), the Netherlands on Zapp, Belgium on Ketnet in Norway (NRK Super), Sweden (Barnkanalen SVT), Finland (Juniori), Denmark (Ramasjang and Ultra), Brazil (Gloob), to name a few.

We’ve just launched merchandise in France, the Nordic region and Benelux with the toy range from Vivid Imaginations leading the way, and alongside that we’re collaborating with licensing agents to grow local consumer product programmes including Nelvana in France, License Connect in Benelux and Alicom in the Nordics. Further afield, products are now available in Japan, the US, Australia, Middle East and launching in Canada before this Christmas, and then Brazil in 2017.

When can we expect to see season two hitting screens and what has demand been like for its launch?

You will see season two, which is another 26 episodes of 22 minutes, on ITV and CITV in late October and next year it will start to hit international markets. Anticipation has been great and season two will bring more villainy, more jeopardy and threat, lots of rescues and action.

We’ve been building the excitement ahead of broadcast with some social media activity announcing the arrival of a new villain called The Mechanic, that will be voiced by Chris Jarman who has starred in Johnny English Reborn and is on stagein Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

The core cast is also joined by a host of guests including Jenna Coleman, Adam Hills, Jack Whitehall, Vas Blackwood, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Rich Hall, Rhys Darby, Tom Rosenthal and Omid Djalili.

What plans have you got in place for the launch of season two?

We’ve got a fantastic line-up of activity to celebrate the return of Thunderbirds Are Go in style. Firstly, we’re working with one of the UK’s leading department stores, Harrods, who have created a dedicated Thunderbirds Are Go installation in its iconic ‘Toy Kingdom’ that is now open until 23rd October. Alongside that, they are showcasing toy ranges from Vivid Imaginations and Spin Master, and the fabulous new vehicle cushions from High Resolution Design.

Rainbow Productions has also just come on board with its first Thunderbirds Are Go costume character and will be opening three new Smyths Toys Superstores in October with the presence of Virgil Tracy. The same week that the new series launches, The Entertainer will also be hosting meet and greets with Virgil at six key stores across the UK.

And of course we also recently held a world premiere screening for the new series at BAFTA, London. It was a fantastic event and included a Q&A session with some of the show’s voice cast, activities for children and the first ever appearance of Virgil Tracy.

Can you tell us more about the new products that will be launching for the show’s next instalment?

The arrival of the second series means there will a lot of new merchandise launching this autumn. Vivid is growing its toy range, including a new supersize Thunderbirds 3, new combo packs and jigsaw puzzles. The Spin Master range will also be added to with the Air Hogs RC Thunderbird 2.

As part of the next phase of our merchandise roll-out, we’re significantly expanding the food category. A new baking kit from Symingtons reached ASDA stores in September and we’ve also just announced that classic British food company Bernard Matthews is taking Thunderbirds Are Go into new supermarket aisles and launching our first frozen goods product this autumn. Beacon Confectionery is adding Thunderbirds Are Go products to its confectionery range in 2017 too.

One of the most interesting new launches is a digital collaboration with Play With Games which is producing a driving game - Thunderbirds Are Go: Parker’s Driving Challenge - in which Parker has to tackle a series of increasingly difficult driving tasks set by Lady Penelope.

What’s in store for Thunderbirds Are Go for the rest of this year and into 2017? 

The debut of the second series will delight Thunderbirds Are Go fans anew and give us, and our licensees, a huge spike in interest. Off the back of that momentum, we will be ensuring that we continue broadening distribution of the content right across the board on TV, video on demand, online, digital, social media and games.

For 2017, we are very excited about the lift that the new content will bring to our licensing programme and then later in the year, we will see new episodes launching in the UK.

There is huge potential for the property across the world and we will be working hard to extend its reach in new territories. A big part of that will be increasing our use of different online and digital media so that we are reaching all the potential new Thunderbirds Are Go fans.

 We have a lot of fantastic things happening in the Kids team at ITV, with new properties being added to the portfolio, new promotional collaborations being announced shortly and new markets opening up for Thunderbirds Are Go; it is exciting times!