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The Latest Deals, Developments and Dancing From Licensing Expo

By Gary Symons

TLL Editor in Chief

And we’re back.

Licensing Expo returned in style on May 24, with thousands of licensing professionals flooding the show floor at the Mandalay Bay Convention Centre.

Attendees were hot on the trail of deals and colleagues separated by the pandemic for two years shared drinks and laughs well into the night, as the Expo after party rocked the neighborhood well into the night.

Stephen Heller and the team at Brand Liaison are working with hip hop stars on a 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop licensing program, and launched it in style as the Sugarhill Gang took the stage at the pool party, to huge cheers from partiers.

The Sugarhill Gang, the first rap group with a Top 40 hit, showed concert goers why rap and hip hop came to dominate popular music.

The Sugarhill Gang are true hip hop royalty, as their 1979 hit “Rapper’s Delight” was the first rap single to become a top 40 hit on the Billboard Top 100 reaching a peak position of number 36 on Jan. 12, 1980.

Also on the first day of Expo, several companies announced major deals or licensing programs, while others created a splash with their innovative booths and activities.

Hanna Anderson: Childrenswear brand Hanna Andersson has announced its latest launch of adult and kids fashion dedicated to the world of  Pokémon.

Featuring mainstay characters Pikachu and design motifs such as the Poké Ball in Hanna Andersson styles, the summer kids and adult fashion collection; includes short john and long john pajama sets, kids’ graphic tees, hoodies and sweatpants, as well as matching family pajamas.

“We’re so excited to collaborate with Pokémon to bring the fan-favorite Pikachu, a multigenerational entertainment icon, together with our signature pajamas and apparel pieces,” says Kara Carter, chief product officer, Hanna Andersson. “We are thrilled to offer our customers a little piece of nostalgia that will continue to connect parents and kids through generations of love for Pokémon.”

“Hanna Andersson is widely known for their premium childrenswear, making them the ideal partner for delivering ‘Pokémon’ apparel for young trainers,” added Amy Sachtleben, director of licensing at The Pokémon Company International. “We look forward to seeing families bond over a shared passion for Pokémon while enjoying these high-quality pieces.”

Hasbro:

The global toy and entertainment company kept attendees entertained with interactive Nerf Blaster experiences during all three Expo days, and you could hear players cheering across the hall.

While at the show, Hasbro also told reporters it has created a restaurant called Tophat, which is reminiscent of the Monopoly board game. Hasbro also announced it is investing in the world of audio entertainment, such as the new app Calm, designed to relax kids before bedtime.

Brandgenuity:

We sat down for a chat with Brandgenuity, a Top 10 licensing agency that is working with a huge range of projects:

  • Brandgenuity is currently working with Christina Hall (HGTV star of Christina on the Coast and Flip or Flop) and Mike Kurtz, who created Mike’s Hot Honey.
  • One huge client they are working with is Pnina Tornai with Azazie. Pnina Tornai is one of the most recognizable names in the wedding dress industry, and now she is working with Azazie with an exclusive line of bridesmaids, flower girl and mother-of-the-bride dresses.
  • The organization also has shifted its focus toward health and wellness and currently is working with Dr. Scholls, Schick and other wellness brands to expand.
  • Brandgenuity has four new partners for the lifestyle brand Mr. Kate, which caters to homeownership/lifestyles of Millennials and Gen Z.
  • They are working with Fireball to make it more of a lifestyle drink that anyone can enjoy.
  • Brandgenuity is very involved in further popularizing the NFL in Europe through the NFLPA and they are matching brands such as BMW and Puma to further fuel the rise of motorsports.
  • One COVID-19 trend that they are expanding is video games—they have partnered with BMW to have their brand licensed on video game accessories, like chairs and controllers.
  • Brandgenuity has big upcoming announcements involving White Castle, Fireball and Kahlua.

Jazwares: 

Celebrating 25 years, toy company Jazwares made its first appearance at Licensing Expo Las Vegas with its Squishmallows plush brand.

The growth of Squishmallows, the No. 2 toy property and No. 1 Plush according to The NPD Group’s report in April, has fueled new cross-category collaborations across beauty, games, apparel, home decor and more, adding to the brand’s portfolio of licensing partners.

Squishmallows took the Toy Association’s overall Toy of the Year award, while also hitting a 125 million plush sold milestone. On social media, Squishmallows content has generated nearly 6.5 billion video views on TikTok, and @squishmallows (and related hashtags) has been tagged in more than one million Instagram posts. Additionally, the Squishmallows social media channels have increased to more than 827,000 followers, and nearly 100 global and local Facebook groups have been created by fans. In the Metaverse, the recently launched Squishmallows on Roblox game has a 1.5M monthly active user base.

“As Squishmallows continues its evolution as a preeminent global lifestyle brand, we’re opening the door for big sky opportunities setting the stage for meaningful fan first product extensions,” says Judd Karofsky, executive vice president, Jazwares. “Demand for Squishmallows is skyrocketing so we’re more than ready for millions of people around the world to enjoy their favorite Squishmallows characters via a wide array of growing product categories and experiences.”

In the United States, Taste Beauty will make a line of lip, nail, cosmetic and bath & body products inspired by the world of Squishmallows. Additionally, The Op I USAopoly, a developer and manufacturer of board games and puzzles, has been tapped to create a custom Squishmallows Monopoly game with an exclusive 4-inch character. Kurt Adler will develop a line of Squishmallows ornaments and stockings for the holiday season. In Europe, a consumer products licensing program will also be supporting Squishmallows with an array of cross-category support. Soon to be announced licensees are expected to include bath and beauty, swimwear and apparel and bedding, as well as multiple products from lifestyle brands.

BBC Studios: The Beebs booth was dominated by Bluey, the loveable blue heeler from the kid’s show that has become a mammoth hit globally in just two years.

Suzy Raia, the SVP of consumer products and business development for the US, Canada and Latin America, says she believes the storytelling and the beautiful, sweet nature of the characters will allow Bluey to become a long-lasting, evergreen property.

“I think we are only at the very beginning of the Bluey story,” said Raia, who is looking for partners in the Western Hemisphere.

Shell Brands stood out among the entertainment-oriented brands as the only energy company at the show.

The company is highlighting both its shift to renewable energy and support for electric vehicles. Shell told reporters it ultimately wants to expand beyond oil and gas and is already broadening its licensing horizons with sustainable products like e-scooters, which were displayed prominently at Shell’s booth, as well as power tools, and portable devices that can charge anything.

Shell has opened its own Amazon shop that showcases different, multipurpose items. One example is a car battery jumper that also includes USB ports for charging electronics. They also have power tools that use electricity and gas.

Falcon’s Beyond:

The immersive, location-based entertainment company has a prominent booth at the show, and announced some major new programs on Day One.

First, Falcon’s Beyond Global, a global entertainment company that specializes in intellectual property (IP) creation and expansion, has announced a partnership with global entertainment company Moonbug Entertainment to bring to life many of its children’s digital brands, starting with “CoComelon” and “Blippi.”

Moonbug also has a large display at the show, highlighting their two top global hits. Leveraging its 360-degree IP Expander model, Falcon’s is expanding the IPs, initially, through new immersive edutainment experiences.

“Cocomelon and Blippi will be activated at Curiosity Playground, a new children’s-focused experiential edutainment destination that brings to life IPs in interactive environments and integrates interactive media with hands-on exploration. Guests entering the brick-and-mortar edutainment venue created by Falcon’s Beyond encounter four portals offering immersive experiences and attractions based on Falcon’s Curiosity Spectrum – science, technology, arts and nature. Beyond each portal, guests begin a self-guided journey of exploration, interaction and learning with beloved characters and enriching environments.

Also in development is exclusive co-branded merchandise featuring “CoComelon” and “Blippi,” and the Curiosity Playground brand. Additional popular Moonbug brands and characters will also be featured at Curiosity Playground Kids Camps, currently under development and set to launch in collaboration with Melia Hotels International in resort locations across the globe.

“Our partnership with Falcon’s Beyond is not only another step towards our commitment to bringing the best quality content both online and offline to parents and preschoolers across the globe, but also provides a fantastic opportunity for families to experience Moonbug in real life, together,” says Susan Vargo, head, live events, Moonbug Entertainment. “Falcon’s Beyond is a leader in their field and we are excited to be working with them to bring the magic of our digital IPs to our existing and new audiences.”

“CoComelon” and “Blippi” join other previously announced children’s brands to be featured at Curiosity Playground, including several shows that air on PBS KIDS. These include “Dinosaur Train,” “Odd Squad,” “Wild Kratts” and “Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum.”

The first Curiosity Playground will open in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic as part of an all-new signature retail, dining and entertainment complex called Falcon’s Central. Here, Curiosity Playground will be one of four brick-and-mortar, location-based entertainment (LBE) venues featuring outside IPs as well as original IPs from Falcon’s Beyond. Currently under development, the first Falcon’s Central will open in phase two of Falcon’s forthcoming entertainment destination that will also include its new Katmandu Park Punta Cana, opening in phase one this fall. Following its Punta Cana debut, Falcon’s Central will be rolling out globally to more than a dozen destination resorts operated by Falcon’s Beyond.

Mattel and EPIC Resort Destinations: The toy and entertainment conglomerate announced a major initiative to build a Mattel Adventure Park in Glendale, Arizona,, with EPIC Resort Destinations.

The park will feature additional brand activations from Barbie, “Masters of the Universe” and Mattel Games when it opens in Q1 of 2023.

These Mattel brands join the previously announced Hot Wheels roller coaster and go-karting experiences and “Thomas & Friends” indoor theme park.

“Mattel Adventure Park will be even more engaging and entertaining at launch, with the addition of these iconic Mattel brand experiences,” says Julie Freeland, senior director, global location-based entertainment, Mattel. “The expansion of this flagship attraction brings together the largest representation of Mattel’s beloved brands in a live space as never before.”

The additional brand experiences planned for Mattel Adventure Park will be highlighted by the Barbie Beach House.  The Beach House features the Barbie flying theater, taking riders on a journey from underwater to outer space; the Dream Closet Experience, where Barbie, through hologram technology, is brought to life to help curate a wardrobe; and the Barbie Rooftop where guests can enjoy a selection of signature pink beverages paired with snacks while enjoying views of the property.

UNO will be represented as a climbing structure where guests can jump on oversized UNO cards and race to the top.

“Master of the Universe’s” Castle Grayskull has been transformed into a 4,500+ sq. ft. laser tag arena where fans can fight for Eternia.

“We are extremely excited to add Barbie, ‘Masters of the Universe’ and Mattel Games themed attractions and rides to an already outstanding offering in development at the first-ever Mattel Adventure Park,” says Mark Cornell, president, Epic Resort Destinations. “We have spared no expense to bring these iconic brands to life in ways that will delight visitors of all ages for years to come.”

Paramount: The storied film studio also announced a portfolio of new productions and licensing partnerships. Among them:

  • Paramount created “Darryl’s House” with Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run DMC. He’s been turned into a Nickelodeon cartoon which inspires kids to be their authentic selves.
  • The organization already has partnered with huge brands to create licensed products, such as a “Yellowstone” cologne, Funko-style Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures, and Top Gun: Maverick products.
  • Paramount has theatricals and new launches that will occur this year. It’s invested in multi-property statements to further its branding.
  • A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie is coming out with Seth Rogan—Paramount is doing what it can to license and produce any Ninja Turtle items ahead of the movie for promotion.
  • “Spongebob Squarepants” will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year, so Paramount is promoting newly licensed Spongebob products to commemorate that milestone.
  • “Star Trek: Prodigy” just launched as a kid-friendly introduction to the Star Trek franchise. Paramount plans to extend the show through licensing and attract both younger and older fans to the show.

MGA Entertainment has announced the launch of an all-new, first-of-its-kind co-branded collectible line of L.O.L. Surprise! dolls in collaboration with internationally known confectionary partners including Hershey’s Kisses, Mike & Ike’s, PEZ and more.

The new collection will feature L.O.L. Surprise! characters decked out in candy and sweets-inspired fashions and looks. The colorful, collectible new collection, set to hit shelves mid-June in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany and the U.K., with additional markets planned in the future, seeks to combine the global sensation that is L.O.L. Surprise! with the sentimental charm of brands that are sure to spark sweet memories for parents and collectors alike.

“With L.O.L. Surprise! Loves Mini Sweets, we set out to create something truly one-of-a-kind that would spark a touch of nostalgia for parents, collectors and ‘kidults,’ what we call adults who are still kids at heart,” says Isaac Larian, founder, chief executive officer, MGA Entertainment. “This collaboration, the largest we’ve done to date, is the latest example of MGA Entertainment’s innovative and creative approach to providing new and exciting products for our loyal and enthusiastic collector community. These hot new collectibles will be too sweet to resist.”

Among the brands featured are Hershey’s, Hershey’s Kisses, Whoppers, Jolly Rancher, Smarties, Chupa Chups, Dum Dums, Mike & Ike’s, Peeps, PEZ, Milk Duds, Twizzlers, Reese’s, Bazooka, Sweethearts and Otter Pops.

 

 


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