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Licensing International 1997 Review: A Grand Success

Those plush toys, toothbrushes and lunch boxes are continuing to gain importance. Deborah Reber reports on the most successful Licensing International Show to date.

The showroom floor at the `97 Licensing Show in New York.

Keychains, bumper stickers, pins, ice cream, Polaroid shots, Chippendale Dancers, and even superheros. Some strange new variety store? No, just the 17th annual International Licensing Show. From June 10-12, more than 14,500 members of the international licensing and merchandising community braved the brutal humidity of Manhattan to promote, negotiate, buy and sell nearly 3,000 properties, including characters, trademarks, original designs, entertainment, sports, animation and personalities. Exhibitor attendance marked a 70% increase over last year, while general attendance recorded a 12% increase from 1996.

To accommodate the number of new and diverse companies exhibiting this year, Licensing International premiered four new speciality pavilions, including the Interactive Entertainment Pavilion, a Sports Pavilion, Fashion Alley, and an Animation Pavilion. Cinar Films, DIC Entertainment, Gaumont Multimedia, InToons Entertainment Group, Jim Henson Productions, Matinee Entertainment and Nelvana, Ltd. were among the animation studios on site.

Big Animation News

Making animation news was Los Angeles-based DIC Entertainment, which promoted three new animated series, "Wacky World of Tex Avery," "Extreme Dinosaurs," and the eagerly awaited "Mummies Alive!," a collaboration between DIC and "Ghostbusters" producer Ivan Reitman. Golden Books Family Entertainment and Goodtimes Entertainment announced they have joined forces to produce an animated feature based on the classic television special "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer." The feature is set for a Christmas 1998 release.

Gaumont's animated series Tune of the Moon.

On the international front, French animation studio Gaumont Multimedia took the opportunity to debut three new children's animated television properties, including "The Magician" and "Tune of the Moon." The third series, "Home to Rent," marks the first European-produced, non-commissioned animated series to be sold to a U.S. network. Fox Kids Network will premiere "Home to Rent" in the fall. But perhaps the most unique animation news found at Licensing International was the introduction of "Ticker," an animated spokes-character for the American Heart Association (AHA). Created by award-winning animation producers David and Mary Corbett of Evening Sky Productions, Inc., Ticker is designed to promote good health to people of all ages, and will be the focus of HeartPower!, a new children's educational campaign. Ticker will reach millions of children from kindergarten through 8th grade by a number of platforms, including animation, toys, publishing, apparel, promotional tie-ins and other major avenues of character licensing.

Discussions and Awards

For those weary of exploring the convention center's endless aisles of exhibitors, attendees could find some resbit, as well as valuable information, at one of the show's many concurrent sessions. Among the sessions available were: An Introduction to Licensing Basics, The Legal Side of Licensing, Retail: The Toughest Nut to Crack, Strategic Branding, Licensing and the Children's Market, The Burgeoning Market in Art/Design Licensing and Licensing in Today's Global Markets.

Ticker, the new animated spokes-character for the American Heart Association.

The highlight of the week's activities was the 1997 LIMA Beanie Awards for Excellence, which were held on June 11 at the Marriott Marquis in the heart of Times Square. Scholastic Productions' live-action kids program "Goosebumps" beat out "Dilbert" and "Toy Story" to win the License of the Year award, while Warner Bros. Looney Tunes topped Snoopy, Paddington Bear, Barney and Action Man to take home the International License of the Year award. Other winners included: Scholastic Agency - Licensing Agency of the Year; Tyco Preschool, creator of the popular Tickle Me Elmo doll - Licensee of the Year (Hard Goods); Crown Crafts and Winnie the Pooh bedding - Licensee of the Year (Soft Goods); Hamilton Projects - Licensed Brand Extension of the Year; Hasbro's Monopoly/McDonald's promotion - Promotion of the Year; and Target Stores for their involvement with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Looney Tunes - Retailer of the Year. For the 5th consecutive year, a portion of the ticket sales for the gala event went to The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, created by Paul Newman. More than $24,000 was raised for the Camp which hosts children with cancer and serious blood disorders. Licensing International `97 was hosted by LIMA, the Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association, which aims to serve the licensing needs of its more than 600 company members.

Exhibition at the annual Licensing Show is expected to continue to increase in coming years.

The Future is Big

Looking ahead, Expocon, the company who directs the show, is expecting the number of exhibitors to continue to increase. Expocon was more aggressive in their promotion of the show this year, with more advertising in trade publications, especially internationally. In fact, there was a 74% increase in international exhibitor participation over last year. According to Murray Altchuler, executive director of LIMA, the overall increase in attendance is a direct tribute to the increasingly important role the Licensing Show plays within the industry. He also points out that retailers were much more involved this year (their attendance increased by 14%) because of their growing role in the process of licensing merchandise. A representative of Expocon, Elizabeth Farvata, confirmed that their companies are already signing up for next year, and upgrading their space to larger booths. Deborah Reber has been an Animation Development Consultant with UNICEF for the past three years, and currently oversees the Cartoons for Children's Rights campaign, as well as other animation advocacy activities.

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