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Gorilla Warfare
80 • The Licensing Book Summer 2015
Y
ou can’t keep a gorilla down, especially one that’s
as big as King K...
The Story Is the Big Story
According to Arad, the property is getting a strong
reaction among retailers. He attributes the...
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Licensing Book, Kong King of the Apes

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Licensing Book, Kong King of the Apes

  1. 1. Gorilla Warfare 80 • The Licensing Book Summer 2015 Y ou can’t keep a gorilla down, especially one that’s as big as King Kong. Arad Animation and 41 Enter- tainment are resurrecting the titular primate, who debuted in the 1933 classic, King Kong, in a new animated series, Kong: King of the Apes. A feature-length movie, as well as 12 half-hour episodes, will launch on Netflix next year. The Kong: King of the Apes licensing program includes master toy partner MGA Entertainment Inc. (MGAE), which will provide action figures, plush, play sets, and more. The new series is the brainchild of Allen Bohbot, who produced the King Kong TV series that aired from 2000 to 2001, and veteran animator Avi Arad. The latter, who has more than 50 animated TV shows to his name, came up with the idea of setting the new series in a futuristic land- scape, one in which Kong is among the last living species. “Once I thought we had the story we wanted to tell, we went into it,” says Arad. “We started develop- ing it, and like they say, the rest is production.” Along with Kong himself, the series will revolve around twin brothers—one who is a nat- uralist, and one who is obsessed with emulat- ing the world of the past through technology. The siblings’ rivalry intensi- fies with the capture of Kong, who is brought to a museum located outside of San Francisco and put on display alongside artifi- cially intelligent dinosaurs and other replicated creatures. Due to the rivalry between the brothers—and some basic misunderstandings about Kong’s nature—the giant gorilla is set up as a villain. After he escapes from the museum, Kong finds himself on the run and squar- ing off against a number of different threats—including the aforementioned robot dinosaurs—to not only avoid re-capture, but to stay alive. “It’s a little bit like The Fugitive, because even if Kong does good, someone is bound to say, ‘We have to destroy this creature,’” explains Arad. “But you will see through- out the show that some people are starting to recognize that he really cares, and that he is very gentle, heroic, and funny.” Netflix, or, the 800-Ton Gorilla Kong: King of the Apes represents the first series pro- duced by Arad Animation an an exclusive for Netflix, though the companies had a prior relationship for another Arad-produced series, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adven- tures, which became available on the streaming video on demand (SVOD) platform after a run on Disney XD. According to Arad, producing Kong: King of the Apes for Netflix was not all that different from a broadcast network. He and his team would supply Netflix with storylines, outlines, and scripts for episodes, which the creative executives would have to approve. “Obviously, they have approval rights and consulta- tion [rights], but our relationship with them creatively is very good and secure,” says Arad. “They actually have the same process as far as censorship, what’s right for kids, and what’s not right for kids [as the networks]. They give us notes, but obviously, we’ve been in the kids business most of our lives.” While the creative process may have been comfortable, Arad admitted the chance to partner with Netflix is very exciting, given the rise of SVOD platforms and the oppor- tunity to reach a wide viewership. That excitement, he said, stretches to licensees and retailers. Arad Animation, 41 Entertainment, and MGAE all performed their own due diligence to determine the licensing value of Netflix original programs. The resulting data led to widespread optimism. “There is great willingness and excitement today for licensing properties that are shown on Netflix, because of the number of households that are involved,” says Arad. “It’s very difficult to get this level of concentration.” by Phil Guie King Kong Returns in Kong: King of the Apes, a Big New Property with a Big Licensing Program Property Profile Gorilla Warfare
  2. 2. The Story Is the Big Story According to Arad, the property is getting a strong reaction among retailers. He attributes the positive response to the brand recognition King Kong holds, but says the show’s creative direction makes it unique. Isaac Larian, president and CEO of MGAE, concurs. “The story, it’s all about the story,” he says. “The way Avi is a master storyteller is incredible, and that’s where it all starts. He has a unique ability that I don’t think anyone else in Hollywood has, and it’s because he was in the toy business before, and so he thinks with the toys in mind.” MGAE’s toy line will include both traditional and digital products, with Kong and the dinosaurs at the center. According to Larian, his company has tended toward a conservative approach when it comes to licens- ing, but in the case of Kong: King of the Apes, he expects similar success to when MGAE was the master toy licensee for DreamWorks’ Shrek. With regard to which age demographics should find Kong: King of the Apes particularly appealing, Arad points to young children, who will be drawn to the char- acter’s monkey-like sense of humor. In addition, one of the main characters communicates with Kong in the manner of Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan, so young viewers may come to recognize the language between the two characters, which they can emulate. Currently, Arad Entertainment and 41 Entertainment are exploring opportunities in flying toys, mobile games, and other play categories. In the realm of back-to-school, they see the potential to feature Kong and the dinosaurs on different offerings. “I think we have a very good program,” says Arad. “Today, you cannot run with just 60 SKUs. Those days are over, and in many ways they should be. By picking a character that’s so central and so well-known—and obviously, dinosaurs are beloved as well—and a number of other animals that become cyber-ized, [the program] is concentrated on the kind of things that would have sold anyhow.” There is the issue of competing against other licensed items featuring King Kong, given the property’s some- what convoluted back history. Larian, however, views the involvement of Arad as a huge difference-maker. “At the end of the day, you need to have a good story, and that's what you get with Avi,” he says. “And I think we do product innovation better than anyone else.” The initial wave of licensed Kong: King of the Apes products is scheduled for release during the fall of next year. Prior to North American International Toy Fair, they will be shown during confidential appointments at Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair and Spielwaren- messe in Nuremberg. Summer 2015 The Licensing Book • 81 ••••

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