Great stories live forever. Anyone who doubts that needs to look no further than the classic tales of “The Jungle Book.” A collection of stories featuring Mowgli’s adventures with his jungle animal friends – written in the 1890s by Rudyard Kipling and famously retold through Disney’s eyes in 1967 – has been resurrected once again in a new 3-D CGI animated television series airing in more than 165 countries. The first season of 52 11-minute episodes and a 60-minute made-for-TV movie, “Rumble in the Jungle,” were developed by India-based DQ Entertainment (DQE) and began airing in 2010. It was brought to North America in 2011 at the hands of North American brand rights owner, SMC Entertainment Group Inc. (SMC).
“We launched this company in 2011 and I’ve been here since the beginning,” says Executive Vice President of Consumer Products Lisa Streff. “The biggest part of our story is the fact that we’ve done so much within our first 18 months of being in business. We own the North American rights to “The Jungle Book” for TV sales, home entertainment, licensing, merchandise and promotions. We are also the licensing agent for Dance Academy and H20 Just Add Water, which are two very popular shows on Teen Nick.”
SMC announced a television deal with Disney and “The Jungle Book” series made its North American debut in June 2012. The series’ worldwide success has led DQE to develop a second season of 52 11-minute episodes ready to air later this year and a made-for-TV holiday special for 2013 and to green-light a third season.
DQE is also in production of a $45 million holiday stereoscopic 3-D theatrical release with an anticipated release date of holiday 2014. The film’s producers have tapped an experienced team of top-echelon talent from the world of feature animation, including screenwriter Billy Frolick who worked on “Madagascar;” co-directors Jun Falkenstein from “The Tigger Movie,” “The Smurfs” and “Despicable Me,” and Kevin Johnson whose work includes “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked,” “Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Astro Boy” and “Stuart Little;” as well as Production Designer James Hegedus who also has worked on “Shrek.”
“SMC is able to leverage the strength of the entertainment to create a cohesive consumer products program across multiple categories,” Streff says. “The company has laid out a multiyear strategic marketing plan to build brand awareness.
“We are constantly getting emails and calls from parents inquiring when the product will be available at retail so their children can emulate the play patterns of ‘The Jungle Book’ series,” Streff continues. “Our goal is to create a brand that’s sustainable in today’s marketplace – that we create great Jungle Book products and experiences that parents and kids fall in love with. We know that The Jungle Book is an evergreen brand and will be around for many years.”
SMC has signed with more than 30 licensing partners to develop products for “The Jungle Book.” This February, home entertainment partner Phase 4 will exclusively launch the 60-minute made-for-TV movie “Rumble in the Jungle” on DVD at Walmart. This will be followed by a roll out of toys, games, apparel, accessories and more this summer.
Also this summer, the company, in partnership with its Jungle Book master toy partner, Sun-Mate Corporation, will exclusively rollout a line of products at Toys ‘R’ Us. Burger King, the global QSR partner, will be executing a Jungle Book-themed BK Crown Meal program and promotional themed toys.
Streff says the brand’s strength is evidenced by its passage into non-traditional categories. SMC has entered into a partnership with AirTransat to run episodes from the first series of “The Jungle Book” during the airlines in-flight entertainment programming. The company recently signed Dynamic Displays as the partner creating a 45-foot inflatable helium balloon that will appear this summer in parades across North America. Also, SMC will soon announce a strategic partnership with a company developing a live show performance that will begin touring January 2014.
The series’ second season will also help children get deeper into the story and characters. Streff says the company works very closely with DQE to tailor the storylines to help expand the development of The Jungle Book products being sold at retail. The characters, such as Mowgli, Baloo and Bagheera, have defining personalities that children are able to identify with, and in the second season, Mowgli will venture outside of the jungle into new and exciting places.
“With Mowgli being the main character, the popularity is really with the younger boys,” Streff says. “While the shows main target is boys, we know that girls and parents around the world are enjoying the show just as much. This is an evergreen property and a franchise that will continue to resonate with new and old fans around the world.”