Conceived by DC Thomson’s editorial team (in the pub, on the back of a cigarette packet, obviously), the character was created in response to the increasing number of American comic strips which were beginning to reach the UK at that time. Dennis first appeared without his trademark red and black striped jersey – which was added two months after his debut – while his dog, Gnasher, was introduced in August 1968.
The retro theme is still big news in licensing and now is possibly the perfect time for Ludorum - which represents global broadcast, home entertainment, consumer product and new media rights - to kick off its programme for the new-look Dennis & Gnasher, which launched on CBBC on September 7th. Airing every weekday at 3.45pm, the programme has also been sold to Nine Network in Australia, while Ludorum is also in negotiations with broadcasters in key territories throughout the world.
A marketing campaign has been running to build awareness for the new show, resulting in PR coverage in national media such as The Mail on Sunday, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Sun, The Daily Express and The Daily Mirror.
The programme is also part of the CBBC website (as well as having its own dedicated site) and available through the BBC iPlayer. A radio show on Fun Radio is also running on Saturday mornings.
In terms of licensing, it’s still early days, but there are already some plans in place. “The look and feel of the new series and style guide has moved on some way from the Dennis & Gnasher many would have been used to,” explains Julian Day, VP UK Licensing at Ludorum. “We’re allowing all of the existing product to clear the market for 12 months prior to launching new product lines.
“All initial product sectors are spoken for and product will launch in spring 2010. They include publishing and home entertainment.”
The new style guide aims to deliver on all of the core brand values which consumers have come to expect from Dennis and Gnasher. “DC Thomson have worked very closely with Red Central in delivering one of the best style guides I’ve seen of its type,” Day continues. “It’s a very versatile guide and will work well across all categories.
“We are looking to sign licensees who cover categories which embrace Dennis’ brand values. Dennis is an unstoppable force and does what every kid can relate to and secretly wishes they could get up to. Friendship and, in particular the friendship between Dennis and Gnasher, is a central theme, as well as imagination and humour.
“Dennis is adaptable – he customises and reinvents toys and gadgetry to suit his own particular requirements. His catchphrases – such as ‘playing by the rules is overrated’ – reflect his spirit and we’ll be looking for products in categories which emulate this attitude, such as creative play, make and do/invention, as well as gadgets, jokes, apparel and games. Music is also an important element; the theme tune and musical score, majoring on guitar, bass and drums, positions the series apart from the more classic cartoon genre, tuning into the indie and grunge pop influences popular with the target audience and, again, we’ll be looking to reflect this in product.”
So why does Day think the characters have been so popular for so long? “Dennis does not do compromise and is never deterred by seemingly overwhelming odds, never loses his cool and yet isn’t too proud to laugh at himself,” he says. “Retro has become a permanent trend as all age groups enjoy a bit of nostalgia.”