Beano Studios’ Allison Watkins and Angeles Blanco on their global ambitions for the company’s brands.
The Beano and its characters have been staples of childhood for decades, with both the comic and the annual remaining firm favourites with fans old and young. However, the launch of Beano Studios last year has added another string to the bow, with the new creative studio actively looking at ways to expand some of the brands in the DC Thomson portfolio across various platforms.
“We know kids,” Allison Watkins, evp of consumer products, tells LSB. “For almost 80 years we have been engaging with and entertaining kids aged six to 12 – many of whom are now dads to our target audience. The multi-platform approach of Beano Studios across traditional media and publishing platforms, and what we are creating and controlling ourselves in the digital space is immense.
“Our own media channels allow us to be ‘always on’ and incredibly responsive to what kids like and love. We are investing heavily in supporting our brand.”
That investment is being liberally applied to key properties including Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and Classic Beano – which covers a new design direction celebrating plans for the 80th anniversary in 2018.
In addition, following the success of the Stella McCartney Dandy collection (pictured above) earlier this year, Allison and her team are working with them on additional ideas, as well as looking at how the characters can work through mainstream distribution. On top of this, Bananaman the Musical goes on tour in 2018.
Meanwhile, 1970’s magazine favourite Jackie has also been earmarked for development. “The critical acclaim for the regional tour of Jackie the Musical in 2016 demonstrated the huge affection that the brand has with women,” Allison states.
“Following the musical, we are focused on the look and feel of the magazine during the 70’s, so have created a design-led licensing strategy which targets women in the 50s which research has told us is massively underserved in a number of categories. They are also the fastest growing demographic on Facebook so, in addition to new ‘live’ content for TV and theatres being in development, we are also looking at an expansive social media campaign to support the licensing programme.”
It’s a busy time at 185 Fleet Street, but Allison and her team are certainly thriving. The long-term aim is simple: “To have Beano, and all of the characters within it, as loved on a global scale as it is in the UK,” concludes Allison.
Beano Studios: Need to know
Beano Studios was formed as a creative studio in 2016 to house a new multi-platform children’s entertainment offering.
The digital platform, Beano.com – described by Allison as a “feed of digital mischievousness for kids” – is the first step in a new chapter of Beano’s life. Over the coming years, Beano Studios is set to create, curate and deliver entertainment for kids across numerous channels, with TV programmes, theatrical experiences and consumer products joining the existing comic, annual and website.
“Published by DC Thomson & Co for almost 80 years, Beano is still very much a part of the family, however Beano Studios has been set up as a standalone business within the group,” Allison explains.
There are more than 50 people working within Beano Studios across both London and Dundee. In terms of licensing, Start Licensing’s Ian Downes continues to work on the Classic Beano programme, while Angeles Blanco joined at the end of last year as licensing director. Her remit is to head up Beano Studio’s own vertical licensing business, covering Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and Jackie, as well as a support for Ian.
A Menacing marvel
Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed is the first output from the Beano Studios strategy and the excitement has been steadily building says Allison. The series has been commissioned by CBBC in the UK and is due to air from autumn 2017.
“We had a huge response to the new CGI Dennis when that was announced pre-BLE 2016 and we’ve announced Freddie Fox (pictured above) as the voice of Dennis,” Allison says. “Dennis as we see him in this new series is much more active than a comic strip allows, and we wanted to ensure that the storytelling and play patterns were things that kids would engage with globally.
“Although there is huge awareness in markets like the UK and Australia, this is introducing him to a new global audience and we’ve been overwhelmed by the reaction. What we love most about Dennis, especially in the new series, is that he is the hero, without the need of any special powers.”
Allison continues: “He and his friends have a full armoury of gadgets and gizmos – the ultimate pea shooter and launcher device complete with a night vision torch attachment. We have taken a significant step up from Dennis’ beloved catapult in the comic.”