The Roald Dahl Literary Estate's Stephanie Griggs on centenary activity, new lines and causing mischief

Billy Langsworthy

By Billy Langsworthy

January 11th 2016 at 10:15AM
The Roald Dahl Literary Estate's Stephanie Griggs on centenary activity, new lines and causing mischief

As the firm kicks off its Roald Dahl 100 celebrations, licensing manager Stephanie Griggs tells Licensing.biz about the "spectacular" 12 months ahead, including a season of BBC programming, an exhibition at the Southbank and even a city takeover.

What is Roald Dahl’s history in the licensing space and how is this developing this year with the centenary? 

We’ve had an active licensing programme for over a decade now. Throughout that time, we’ve seen success in various categories, historically with licensees developing product across Roald Dahl’s entire portfolio of stories and characters.

The recent rebranding of the Roald Dahl identity has paved the way to develop a refreshed and more streamlined licensing programme - created with consumers, licensees and retailers in mind, and focusing on three of our hero titles.

The Centenary celebrations going on this year provide a complementary backdrop to the licensing programme, one example of this being Southbank Centre’s The Wondercrump World of Roald Dahl immersive exhibition, running from February to July. New product will support this through the Southbank’s independent shops, and standalone pop-up shop.

What sort of categories will the brand be launching product into this year? 

2016 will see a raft of categories launched into retail, including gifting, stationery, bedding, plush, games and puzzles, apparel, greetings cards and dress-up, right up to a range of Rococo chocolate bars with surprising flavours, and high-end Steiff collectable teddy bears, all using our re-invigorated look.

As an important tent pole, World Book Day in March will see the release of a number of these products, as well as a new £1 Roald Dahl title The Great Mouse Plot published by Puffin.

What are the key titles within the Roald Dahl portfolio for the licensing push?

Three of Roald Dahl’s most well loved stories have been translated into comprehensive and exciting style guides by Together Design, to create the tent poles of our licensing programme.

These are The BFG, Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Each of these three iconic properties appeal to a trans-generational audience and market research consistently backs up the relevance of these stories in the mind of the nation.

With well over 90 per cent brand recognition in the UK and each of the titles embedded in school curriculum, they remain front of mind and continue to capture the imagination of children and adults alike.

Meanwhile, the stage shows for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda continue to entice countless theatre-goers of all ages through their doors each year.

What do you look for in a licensing partner and what deals are already in place for this year?

We have a portfolio of excellent licensees, and something that each has in common is a real passion for Roald Dahl’s stories and imagination. With this, our assets can be translated into product that is relevant and on point in today’s retail landscape.

Licensees already signed include Ashley Wilde bedding, Smiffy’s dress up, Star Editions gifting, Rainbow plush, Lagoon games and puzzles, and Fabric Flavours, Truffle Shuffle and Aykroyd’s in apparel, to name but a few.

We relish partnering with like-minded licensees and creative partners who can add a little mischief into their ranges -  as Willy Wonka himself said, ‘A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men!’

Dahl has a remarkably passionate fanbase and his work is loved by millions. How careful do you have to be that the licensing programme doesn’t devalue this in any way?

The licensing programme has been developed to embody Roald Dahl’s incredible imagination and iconic characters. The Roald Dahl Literary Estate and Together Design worked closely with Quentin Blake on the look and feel of the new style guides to ensure complete faithfulness to both Quentin’s illustrations, and Roald Dahl’s stories.

Our new rebranding has also been carried across into Puffin’s re-jacketed paperback books, which will be available at retail from mid-February. With this in mind, we’re confident that the feedback on these from the millions of Roald Dahl fans, readers and consumers will be positive!

What will the balance be between product inspired by the look of Quentin Blake’s iconic illustrations, and product inspired by the stories themselves?

Our assets are designed specifically so that product inspired by the stories and Quentin’s illustrations can stand side by side and give our licensees creative scope to experiment with all angles, be it through quotes, lock ups, repeat patterns or icons.

Promotionally, the balance between the two was demonstrated with recent nationwide partnerships: July 2015 seeing a story led digital adventure given away on over three million bottles of Persil, and in September of the same year, over 15m collectable Roald Dahl books given away in McDonald’s Happy Meals during a six week period.

The BFG movie lands in July. How big a deal is this for the wider Roald Dahl brand? 

July’s BFG film release is a going to be a hugely exciting moment in this year’s activities and will be a great opportunity to place The BFG at front of mind.

The teaser trailer launch in December showed us a glimpse of the huge global buzz associated with the film, and with eOne’s comprehensive licensing programme in the UK covering a range of categories- it’s set to be a truly stand out moment, not just for the Roald Dahl brand but within the film and merchandise landscape too.

What else is lined up to celebrate the centenary this year?

Where to start!

The Centenary year – called Roald Dahl 100 - is shaping up to be a spectacular one. Kicking off with the Southbank exhibition and Imagine Festival in February, Puffin’s re-jacketed books, special World Book Day title, plus a new collection of letters and a new book from Oxford University Press (The Roald Dahl Dictionary) are set to expand the publishing programme.

Roald Dahl Day on September 13th will be one of the biggest parties ever seen as schools, libraries, book shops and community groups around the world are invited to host their own party for Roald Dahl 100 using a free downloadable party kit.

In the same month, Cardiff (the storyteller’s birthplace) will become the City of the Unexpected for one weekend only. The world of Roald Dahl will be brought to life in wonderful and surprising ways, beautifully transforming everyday spaces in the city.

Meanwhile the BBC will be a key partner throughout 2016- featuring Roald Dahl within standalone documentaries, radio programmes and kids TV moments, culminating in December with an incredible new animation of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes from award-winning producers Magic Light Productions, airing over Christmas.

Stay tuned as all of these events and many more begin to unfurl!

For licensing enquiries: alicia@drilicensing.com