“I saw a JCB digging up the road in Wimbledon and stood there and sketched it on my way to work,” explains Keith Chapman, the creator of Bob the Builder. “I sketched other machines, a dump truck, a crane, a cement mixer and a steam roller. I felt they needed a father figure and came up with Bob. But it was a toss up between Bill the Builder or Bob the Builder. And Bob won.”
That was ten years ago, and since then Bob the Builder has gone on to become one of the biggest pre-school hits of recent times. The show made its worldwide television debut on the BBC in 1999 and is now broadcast in over 250 territories, has been translated into more than 45 languages and is currently ranked as the number two boy’s pre-school property in the UK (Source: NPD).
The licensing programme, meanwhile, now includes 64 licensees in the UK across soft and hard goods, food and FMCG categories.
With 2009 being the tenth anniversary, Hit and its partners are planning to pull out all the stops when it comes to new products and accompanying promotions.
So far this year we’ve already seen the second year launch of Bob’s grassroots campaign, Project: Renovate, which aims to educate children at nursery level about the environment and energy efficiency practices. March will see the release of Bob On Site: Skyscrapers on DVD, plus the opening of the Bob 4D movie at Legoland Windsor, Bob the Builder in 4D: Bob the Builder and the Rollercoaster.
Moving on to April, and this marks Bob’s official tenth birthday, with anniversary celebrations taking place throughout the month including a special ‘Bob week’ in Hamleys on Regent Street in London. June will also see a full month of Bob activity at Butlins parks. In addition to this, retail partners will be hosting special promotions over Easter, summer school break and throughout the autumn.
The character’s three-year partnership with the Manchester Children’s Hospital culminates later this year, with the opening of the new £20m hospital, while the CGI animated DVD special – Legend of the Golden Hammer – will be released in September (a theatrical release is also planned for the UK). Finally, live theatre show, Spud’s Big Mess, returns in late 2009 and will be touring across the UK.
Meanwhile, on the product side, things are set to be no less hectic. To start with, the licensing programme will be moving into two new areas – Vending and Musical Instruments. In the soft goods category, Bob will also be following the lead of Thomas & Friends and moving into the electrical category, with a range expected in 2010.
Elsewhere, four new lines will launch from Lego; an all-new Dancing Bob will arrive from Martin Yaffe in late spring, as well as fresh play-sets, role play, inflatable and outdoor toys; the Headstart Learning System will launch a Plush Bob and book set from Impact; Toybrokers will add to its Bob games range; Ravensburger has a new line of educational card games and new introductions in its puzzle collection; RC2’s Take Along range will be expanded, with a special tenth anniversary set being created; and MV Sports has redeveloped its bikes, trikes and scooters collection, with a new wooden wheeled range launching.
“Young children connect with Bob the Builder and his can-do attitude; over the years he has become part of the pre-school culture,” explains a spokesperson for Hit. “His universal appeal and positive play patterns resonate with children all over the world, while Bob the Builder is also a brand that parents trust.
“His timeless appeal to young audiences around the world and his proven longevity as a brand will underpin further success for Bob in fives years and beyond. With a fresh, new look in CGU and exciting and innovative consumer product lines continuously in development, we predict that Bob will grow from strength to strength in many years to come.”