Sony Pictures’ Jamie Stevens on why the licensing interest in EmojiMovie: Express Yourself is “off the charts”

What is your role within the business and what are you hoping to achieve in the next 18 months?

I head up Worldwide Consumer Products for Sony Pictures Entertainment. Since I am new to Sony, I am placing an emphasis on building the overall CP business with a focus on driving revenue globally.

We have a strong line-up of new animated films including EmojiMovie: Express Yourself, Peter Rabbit; a new live-action/CG motion picture based on the internationally beloved series of books and franchises like Smurfs and Hotel Transylvania. Additionally we have an exciting slate of live-action titles, including Jumanji and The Dark Tower.

Our business approach to accomplishing our revenue goals over the next 18 months will be to raise the bar in sales, marketing, creative and client service. These type of changes permeate the cultural DNA of a company and attract the best-in class partners. We are committed to driving innovation, being a partner companies like to work with, and creating exciting products across key categories. We will accomplish our revenue goals and much more by working with and having the support of our agents, licensees and retailers around the world. 

What are your priorities for BLE, are you looking to achieve growth in any particular territories?

Our priority is to build our international business across the board. For BLE, our objective is to make significant gains in our top key territories. Given our upcoming slate and the strong properties we have to offer, I am confident we will achieve our growth targets for these territories.

Tell us about EmojiMovie: Express Yourself. What can we expect from the movie?

Emojis are the fastest growing language in history with six billion sent out every day. This movie finally takes you inside the secret world of your smart phone, where all your favorite emojis live and work inside the text app, hoping to get picked by their user. Each one only has one facial expression except for the hero of our film Gene, who can express every feeling and has no filter for his emotions. He teams up with his best friend Hi-5 and a computer genius called JailBreak to find the code that will help make him like everyone else. Their journey takes them through different Apps, each with its own unique and fun world.

The big thematic question we explore in this movie is: “Do I have to change who I am for the world to accept me, or can I change the world for the better?” We are creating a really exciting, funny and relatable App-venture for kids and families of all ages around the world. 

Who is the target consumer for EmojiMovie: Express Yourself merchandise?

Everyone loves emojis. Audiences and consumers will fall in love with the characters and the world the filmmakers and Sony Pictures Animation are creating. While the core consumer products focus is kids aged six to 12, we are developing a broad licensing program with something for everyone.

What are the key categories for EmojiMovie: Express Yourself? Does the fun and quirky nature of the brand lend itself to any inventive or unique licensing opportunities?

We are focused on toy collectibles, soft lines, interactive, accessories and stationery. Theatrically we are launching in most territories during Back to School, which is also an opportunity to leverage a key seasonal time period. Since the movie provides a big environment and exciting narrative for the emoji characters to express themselves, this does provide an inventive opportunity with unique aspects to incorporate licensing opportunities within the world of emojis, but you’ll have to wait and see what we are developing.

How do you aim to keep the movie license distinct from the other Emoji licensed products on the market?

We are looking to tell a story with all of our merchandise and bring our characters to life. Whether it be toys, apparel, interactive or any category, it is important that our characters and their environments come to life like they do on the screen.

We have had fantastic responses from licensees and retailers globally. Because our world is made up of hundreds of unique emoji characters from our film it offers us a great collectability play, especially in toys. Our characters have unique personalities and that will come through in our elevated product designs.

What are you looking to achieve with EmojiMovie: Express Yourself in the toy space and what sort of reaction have you had from partners? 

The interest in EmojiMovie: Express Yourself has been off the charts. With 92 per cent of the online population using emojis, which is close to a universal number, the interest we have from both a product and retail perspective is outstanding. Since emojis are like a global language – the interest has no boundaries – we are talking to the global village and in those conversations there have been many innovative ideas from our partners who are very enthusiastic about this property.

With the 2017 Smurfs movie on the horizon, what new products can we expect to see at retail and how are you managing the long-term growth of the property? 

We again look forward to collaborating with our partner Lafig on this brand new, fully animated take on the Smurfs. We are returning to the classic look and feel but updated for today’s audience. We think this new style will put us on a better path with audiences and consumers alike.

This is a key aspect of the long-term strategy as the look certainly elevates the product. This is evident with our master toy partner Jakks as they have brought the wonderful world of the Smurfs to life in unique and fun ways. 

Tell us about your plans for the Hotel Transylvania franchise – what’s in store for the consumer products programme?

Hotel Transylvania has been a tremendous success. It’s to this day the biggest September opening of all time at the box office and the highest grossing animated film in September. It’s an endearing franchise with fun characters that appeal to the whole family.

Our focus is to grow this franchise at retail as a 365-days-a-year business, which will perfectly coincide with our content strategy. We are launching a TV series in 2017 on Disney Channel worldwide and the next film will release in September 2018. Monsters are no longer just relevant for Halloween. We have exciting plans to ignite this franchise throughout the year and keep up the monster momentum.

What new properties do you have coming through that we should be aware of?

Besides the third film in the Hotel Transylvania franchise coming out in 2018, we are very excited about Peter Rabbit which is the first live action CG adaptation of the internationally beloved series of books. The same animation team behind the LEGO film will be working on the film, which is set for worldwide release in April 2018. Sony Pictures Animation is already developing a very exciting slate of consumer products friendly movies beyond 2018. 

How are you planning to launch these globally and what categories will you license first? 

Each film is unique and requires a different licensing strategy based on the property and its brand DNA. Furthermore, our approach changes when we are dealing with a new title versus a franchise.

Our team does a critical review of the marketplace and one of the key aspects of our strategy is to be able to pivot when necessary to make the most out of marketplace feedback and opportunities that lead to growth in both revenue and long-term collaborative partnerships.

We are committed to building franchises with more output than ever and a commitment to service and working with our partners to innovate so that our products and properties come to life in the most enterprising and exciting ways.

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