Ragdoll is working its pre-school magic once again with the charming Abney & Teal. We find out the impact the characters are making on the licensing sector.
The Adventures of Abney & Teal combines a unique hand-drawn style with contemporary animation techniques. Plus, of course, that ‘certain something’ that the industry has come to expect from Ragdoll. The ‘x factor’ for pre-school shows, if you like.
The first series of the programme – which was commissioned by Cbeebies - launched on September 26th 2011, airing weekdays in the 5.45pm slot. It achieved an impressive average of 223,000 viewers per episode (HWC 0-3 and Kids 4-6, BARB October 2011), putting it in the top five of children’s digital programmes each month. Series two continued to build on this success, launching on October 22nd 2012 and airing daily at 6pm in the popular Cbeebies Bedtime Hour.
Abney & Teal encourages the development of children’s imaginations through fun adventures and games, as well as encourage good relationships and social development through friendship and play. It also aims to stimulate curiosity and motivate discovery and exploration in a safe and creative setting. The programmes are all about adventure and storytelling, and are warm, light-hearted, silly and timeless.
The narrator, and the voice of Abney, is Olivier award-winning actor Adrian Scarborough, while The Noisettes’ singer Shingai Shoniwa is the voice of Teal.
So, after a solid start on Cbeebies, what are Ragdoll’s plans within the licensing space?
The aim, explains Mark Hollingsworth, CEO of Ragdoll Worldwide, is to launch high-end branded product beginning with the key master toy and publishing categories. Abney & Teal will be expanded slowly during its first year, growing to cover sectors such as clothing, apps, magazines and more over the coming year.
The highly regarded Rainbow Designs launched its master toy range in the summer, with products including traditional soft toys, puzzles and games for children up to six years old reflecting the nostalgic charm of the show. Walker Books, meanwhile, was granted the global master publishing licence, with a picture and novelty book line released in October.
“The response to these first key category launches has been very encouraging,” Hollingsworth says. “We are delighted to note that the toys are doing particularly well in Waitrose, and both books and toys are proving a success on Amazon.
“Retailers want to see a proven success before getting behind a brand, so being on air with impressive ratings is not enough nowadays and retail support is essential to build success. The intention has been to build The Adventures of Abney & Teal brand slowly and the listings by retailers in the lead up to Christmas are a good indication that the initial Rainbow and Walker toy and book ranges bring something fresh, fun and new, with a traditional feel and so boost brand success.”
Of course, not all companies are lucky enough to have the same kind of heritage within the pre-school sector as Ragdoll. The firm has also been responsible for smash hits In The Night Garden and Teletubbies, as well as enjoying early success with Brum, Tots TV and Rosie & Jim.
“Both the trade and consumers respect the production values and buy into the philosophy that Ragdoll brings to their programming,” Hollingsworth continues. “By observing the natural responses of children themselves throughout the process of making programmes, Ragdoll can understand how their work should proceed and so carefully creates spaces for children to discover things for themselves. Children, their dreams and feelings, their ready enthusiasm, their vulnerability, their essential humanity and their sense of fun, is the inspiration behind Ragdoll.”
After the strong start for the Rainbow and Walker lines, Hollingsworth promises more to come for Abney & Teal in 2013, and he is hopeful Ragdoll’s target will be met over the Christmas period. “We have a lot of exciting new toys and books in the pipeline for 2013 and onwards, so we will be watching the consumer reaction over the next few months, but so far it is very encouraging,” he concludes.