Launching a brand new pre-school property into the marketplace is never easy. For every success story – such as In the Night Garden or Fifi and the Flowertots – there are many more which never even make it to broadcast stage, let alone have a consumer products programme.
It’s early days for The WotWots, but the signs – such as Hasbro as toy partner - are positive.
The show first launched in New Zealand on TVNZ in 2009 and in Australia the same year on ABC1 and ABC2 – with the series placing in the top seven per cent of programming for the 0-4 demographic for the year.
This was followed up by a launch in Canada in February 2010 on Treehouse, with The WotWots immediately placing in the channel’s top ten programmes in the first eight weeks on air. It has also recently been picked up by The Hub in the US, and is also on air in Korea, the Middle East, Poland and the UK (where it’s shown on Five’s Milkshake block and is consistently rated as one of the top three shows in its timeslot) with further deals in the pipeline.
“The pre-school market is extremely competitive and the key to having longevity is offering unique, kid-friendly and relatable content,” Andrew Smith, CEO of brand owner Pukeko Pictures tells Licensing.biz. “The WotWots stand out for a number of reasons – the characters are distinctive, the characters and storylines engage children through the joy of discovery and the diversity of global animal life through colourful animation and strong storytelling. The WotWots prides itself on high quality production values through the use of 3D and superior animation, not to mention having the invaluable input and expertise from the team at Weta Workshop.”
In terms of consumer products, the programme is also growing. In Australia and New Zealand, there are DVDs, live events and music through ABC Commercial, plus books through Ice Water Press and toys and apparel with Hasbro. “The entire range has proven to be popular and successful with young kids,” Smith continues. “We have a great assortment of toys including mini plush, mix and make figures, as well as a range of books such as read along, sticker and colouring in books. All the product lines stay true to the core fundamentals of the brand – the joy of discovery and the exploration of the animal kingdom.”
The next phase of expansion for The WotWots is likely to come from a move further into Europe, such as France, Germany and Spain. In addition, Pukeko is looking to launch the toys and books into the Canadian and US markets this year.
“The main issues that face the brand are the same for other pre-school brands – tough retail environments, with the larger retailers sticking to tried and tested established brands, and consumers being much more budget conscious and looking for bargains. Our key to overcome them is to continue working with our broadcast and licensee partners to ensure we have strong communication and activity in place to reach and connect with our audiences.”
Pukeko is currently working on another 26 episodes for the second series which should be completed by June. The firm is also looking to launch a ticketed stage show in Australia and New Zealand, which will include a merchandise programme.
Longer term, Smith has ambitious plans, too: “Ideally we would like to see the show playing in excess of 100 territories [we are currently in 32] with a successful licensing programme. Children never get tired of animals so hopefully the show remains popular.”