80 • The Licensing Book Summer 2015
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,
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
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
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