Zing stars

We find out more about BBC Worldwide's new pre-school show, ZingZillas.
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The first in-house production from Cbeebies for a number of years, ZingZillas has been making waves for months and, with the show now on air and 12 licensees on board, it is shaping up to be the pre-school success of 2010. Samantha Loveday reports.

It was November 2009 when I first given a sneaky look at new BBC pre-school show ZingZillas at Pinewood Studios where it was being filmed.

Described as a ‘landmark’ show for the BBC, the music-based programme finally hit our screens on Easter Monday following the best part of three years in the making.

The show follows the primate characters of Zak, Tang, Panzee and Drum, which form a band called ZingZillas.

“The show is based around teaching pre-schoolers the basic elements of music in an entertaining and fun way,” explains Neil Ross Russell, MD of Children’s & Licensing at BBC Worldwide. “Each show has a narrative story that takes in the adventures that the members of the band get up to on ZingZillas Island. During these adventures, they will meet a human who embodies a certain type of music or musical instrument. That star is woven into the story as they develop an individual track which they perform at the end of the show called The Big Zing.”

The musical genres are taken from all over the world and include scatting (with an appearance from Dame Cleo Laine), cello (Julian Lloyd Webber), drums, didgeridoo, bhangra, ukulele, salsa and Theremin to name just a few.

“The show has tested really well with kids,” Ross Russell continues. “They’re absolutely loving the characters and really getting the storylines. It’s gone down equally well with licensees and retailers, who have been hugely supportive of all these efforts and very optimistic about the programme.”

Vivid Imaginations is the master toy partner, with product due to hit retail in time for autumn/winter 2010 and including musically-themed plush, plastics, play-sets, role play, selected outdoor products and games. A listing has already been secured in the next Argos catalogue.

In addition, Martin Yaffe will be producing a range of wheeled toys, while, outside of the toy sector, Character World, DNC, Samuel Eden, Trademark Collections, Bon Bon Buddies, Aykroyds and TDP, Smith & Brooks, Christy’s, H&A and Pyramid are all on board.

“I think what has really appealed to all of our partners – and particularly retailers – is that ZingZillas is so new and fresh and it really is just fitting into a niche that is not currently occupied on shelves,” explains Ross Russell. “You can see from the look of the show that it’s going to stand out wherever it goes. It’s an in-house production from Cbeebies, so it comes with that level of trust that parents are always looking for. I think that, plus the musical developmental side of it, is a winning combination.

“I think what Vivid has done with the toy range absolutely reflects the level of quality, passion and creativity that’s gone into the brand from our side of the fence so far.”

Richard Hollis, head of UK licensing at BBC Worldwide, concurs: “Because it’s been accepted as being on such a big scale, Vivid have really thrown themselves into product development. It means they’ve tooled up and produced plastics, a full play-set, musical instruments, all in the first year. They’re making a really big statement with a wide range from the start.”

Hollis readily admits that there is a lot of potential within ZingZillas for things BBCW can merchandise: “When you see the set, they’ve got the house, the furniture, the musical instruments, a banana-shaped car, a banana phone, there’s lots of things that have potential. There are not that many musical shows out there, and also there’s a bit of a gap at the top end of pre-school, so this would hit the cross over audience into CBBC. It is a real opportunity for us.”

The success of JHS’ line of Spongebob Squarepants real musical instruments for children has also given BBW inspiration, and Hollis and his team are currently talking to a number companies to develop this option further down the line.

“We are in a very privileged position to have the relationship with the BBC that we do,” continues Ross Russell. “The level of trust that the Cbeebies brand has – and therefore the shows that are carried on Cbeebies – is enormously important among parents. Particularly in the UK, parents understand what the BBC is all about and that it will only commission a show if it’s a great TV show and meets the BBC’s objectives.

“You really hit a sweet spot when you get a programme which is just a great TV show, but also lends itself very nicely to merchandising. ZingZillas is a fantastic addition to what’s already a stellar portfolio; it’s absolutely standout.”

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