“If all goes to plan, The Imp’s scheme to take over the world will all pay off,” says Ken Anderson, managing director of Red Kite Animation. It’s a slightly ominous start to the interview, but I relax significantly when Anderson goes on to explain that The Imp is, in fact, a comic strip character which the firm is looking to expand into the licensing arena.
Red Kite was established in 1997 and develops, finances and produces animated-based properties. Its previous productions include Wilf the Witch’s Dog, The Secret World of Benjamin Bar, Pablo the Little Red Fox, Dennis & Gnasher and Marvo the Wonder Chicken.
The Imp, as explained above, began life as a comic strip, created by graphic designer Andy Fielding. Red Kite worked with Fielding and co-producers BRB to develop an animated version of the property, which became a series of 65 x 90-second shorts shown by broadcasters in 109 territories, including on Cartoon Network in the US.
The property is a winner of the Mipcom Junior Licensing Challenge Award and BRB has already begun a licensing roll out in Spain and Portugal. Next up, says Anderson, is a longer format series, with the first seven-minute pilot episode due to be finished in December.
“We aim to have key broadcast partners tied up early in 2010 and complete the series for airing by winter 2011,” he says. “At the same time, all the work on the new series provides us with the chance to develop a whole load of new images and things to offer online and to licensees. We think ultimately what we do with The Imp on the web is going to hit the target demo just as effectively as what happens on TV, and we’ve built that into our strategy for the property in 2010-11.”
Following next will be the launch of the licensing programme. Taking the lead from BRB – which has so far signed up nine partners in Spain and Portugal for apparel, footwear, bags, lamps, figurines and comics – Anderson says he would like to focus on products that appeal to the core demographic. In the first instance this means apparel, including fashion, bags, accessories and watches; print and paper products, figurines and “anything that provides an opportunity for people to use The Imp iconography and humour to communicate with something about themselves”.
Anderson continues: “People are immediately curious about The Imp, they want to touch and feel the Imp world and they want a bit of the Imp in their lives. We see consumer products as fulfilling that desire. This emotional response is an excellent basis for merchandise. The Imp iconography is extremely strong and very eye-catching, and combined with a cheeky, sassy humour and characters that are great for personal social expression, The Imp is extremely appealing.”
Red Kite is looking for partners who understand teens and young adults. Anderson says: “They should be as inspired by the looks and humour of The Imp’s world as we and the target demo are. We’ve developed a brilliant set of characters and great brand personality, which works well on TV and online, and we’d like to offer that world to consumers.”
Which brings us nicely back to taking over the world: “In five years time you will never be more than an arm’s reach away from The Imp’s evil.”