Josh Selig and his production company Little Airplane were already riding on a wave of success with The Wonder Pets when 3rd & Bird debuted on Cbeebies in July 2008.
It certainly isn’t your average pre-school show – 3rd & Bird is animated in the original photo-puppetry style created specially by the firm. It was also written and researched in both the UK and the US under the guidance of early childhood expert, Dr Laura G Brown.
The community of birds – with the main characters of brother and sister Samuel and Muffin Lovebird – has been a hit with viewers and the licensing programme, being handled by BBC Worldwide, is also about to take off (excuse the pun).
“We’re very fortunate to have a really strong list of partners signed to the brand, with big names like Fisher-Price as our master toy licensee,” says Stephanie McLernon-Davies, brand manager for 3rd & Bird at BBCW. “In total we’re working with over 20 licensees across categories from socks to space hoppers. The first few lines of product are in the market for Christmas – including BBC Children’s Books, DVD, some jigsaw products and magazine in the form of Cbeebies Special which was branded 3rd & Bird for its launch in late October.”
The major product roll out – including the toy line, with Muffin being the initial focus – comes in early 2010.
“We’ll be expanding into numerous areas after the first wave of product has hit the market,” McLernon-Davies continues. “Demand from licensees has been incredible so we expect to start unveiling outdoor toys and confectionary for the second phase, as well as extending our apparel lines.”
McLernon-Davies believes that there’s much to 3rd & Bird which sets it apart from its pre-school peers. “On one level, it’s the characters appeal to the audience. Muffin especially has really shone as the star so far, and her connection with the young audience is just fantastic. There’s a real sense of community in the show too, which is a really important educational element to portray.
“You’ve also got the wonderful environment, which is so vividly colourful and exciting that it helps distinguish the show. Team this with the balance the show has got between song, dance and, of course, whistling, and you begin to scratch the surface of what sets 3rd & Bird apart from everything else.”
And, asserts McLernon-Davies, all of these qualities have been translated into the licensed product. “We’re using a vibrant and fun style guide to make sure that these values are delivered throughout our product. Also music, whistling and song are rooted throughout every element of the brand – we recently ran a fantastic campaign with the whistling star of the show (and world champion whistler) Michael Barimo, for example. It’s helpful to have such focused roots when trying to translate them into product.”
In terms of the programme itself, 3rd & Bird has been sold to 14 territories worldwide – including a major deal that BBCW is on the verge of announcing. The licensing drive will be developed on the back of the TV show across a range of markets including Canada, Norway and Greece to name just a few.
“We’re consistently challenging our licensing partners to think of creative applications that extend the playing experience children have. We are bringing the themes of song and music to unconventional licensing categories – another factor that will really drive in setting 3rd & Bird apart from other brands in the future.”
And, as for the future, where does McLernon-Davies see the brand in five years time? “Flying high” of course.