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How the ‘maker movement’ is taking over licensing

We look at the shows and licensing programmes tackling the STEM subjects.

The arts and crafts ‘make and create’ sector has always been a strong one for the licensing business, but the past couple of years has seen products focusing on the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – really come to the fore, especially in the non-licensed toy space with the likes of K’Nex and Goldiblox.

Now, licensors are beginning to get in on the act, too. Both Nickelodeon and FremantleMedia Kids & Family are launching new series this year, with their heroes and heroines looking to encourage preschoolers and young children to engage with engineering, crafting, experiments, invention and science.

At the same time, HIT Entertainment and Mattel have rejuvenated Bob the Builder – the brand has kept its core values of construction, teamwork, positivity, empowerment and learning, but has also woven STEM learning into different episodes.

“With a huge need for more engineers and global efforts to attract girls to STEM-related industries, we felt it important to have a show in our portfolio aimed at inspiring viewers – particularly girls – to start exploring engineering, helping them understand how things are made, how things work and the nature of the world around them,” Rick Glanker, president of FMK, tells The Source when we ask what attracted him to Bitz and Bob.


Bitz is an eight year old engineering adventurer who, together with her younger brother Bob, loves to play and make amazing creations in the ‘Maker-space’ treehouse. The aim, says Rick, is to provide positive influences that reinforce STEM as ‘exciting and accessible’ to both genres.

He continues: “Our four minute live action companion show will feature kids making and testing creations inspired by Bitz and Bob’s adventures. I would love Bitz and Bob to be a breakout hit show that extends beyond the screen and captures the imagination of kids at home through imaginative and creative play.”

Nickelodeon already has a STEM-based series in Blaze and the Monster Machines, and it believes the arrival of Rusty Rivets (main picture) will complement it further. The show – which follows ten year old Rusty and his best friend Ruby – will use STEM across each episode as the duo use their creativity and imagination to solve problems.

“[The ‘maker movement’] is an evolution we’ve been aware of for a while,” says Marianne James, vp commercial partnerships, consumer products and experiences at Nickelodeon UK and Ireland. “There have been some beautiful products and clever companies directed at older kids and we hope that Rusty provides a great entry point for preschoolers.

“I really hope the series encourages kids to look at the devices around them and to explore how their world works. The show encourages reusing items and invention and it would be brilliant to think that it could inspire the next Elon Musk.”


Wendy Hill, brand activation director at Mattel, agrees that the maker movement is going to be an interesting trend to watch in the licensing space for 2017. The relaunch of Bob the Builder saw STEM learning introduced to complement the curriculum and teach preschoolers valuable skills in that area. For example, Bob now takes on the role of an engineer when he sketches out plans and he uses maths skills when assessing weight loads.

“The brand can definitely benefit from this trend as parents are more aware of how important these skills are and Bob is a great brand to help educate them,” Wendy offers. “This year, Bob has his own blueprints which are a great example of how parents and kids can build together.”

It’s certainly encouraging to see the licensing business embracing these subjects. Perhaps the ultimate compliment would be a successful engineer or scientist in the future citing one of them as the inspiration for their chosen career path.

The newcomers: need to know

Bitz and Bob – Airing on Cbeebies from 2017 and rolling out globally from spring 2018, Bitz and Bob forms part of Fremantle’s continuing five-year co-production deal with the BBC. The CP roll out will be lead by master toy and other core lines in 2018, with secondary categories from 2019 onwards. “We see lots of opportunities for some imaginative new lines,” says Rick. “LEGO has done a fantastic job in creating construction sets that appeal to girls and we really see a way of creating something similar.”

Rusty Rivets – Co-produced with Spin Master and airing from spring, Rusty Rivets has a base of inventing, creating and problem solving and will introduce preschoolers to concepts found in science, technology and engineering. The toy line from Spin Master will be the primary focus and will portray the theme of the show, while for other categories, Nickelodeon will be taking the characters – whether humans or their associated tools or the mechanical creations themselves – and transferring them onto products, as well as patterns utilising mechanical elements such as gears and cogs.


JCB steams into 2017

2016 was another record year for JCB Consumer Products, but the company is ready to take it up another notch in 2017.

On the JCB Kids side, further development will continue with the My First JCB preschool toy range from Golden Bear and authentic machine toys from HTI. New product releases are planned almost every month in the calendar year from Igloo Books, while new JCB Kids apparel will continue to be launched in select grocer channels and high street retailers from spring/summer.

JCB Kids experience zones will continue into 2017 with plans for a major new attraction at Gulliver’s Land in Milton Keynes to be launched around Easter, as well as pop-up JCB Young Driver Zones for summer festivals.

There are also plans to expand the tools ranges, targeting serious DIYers and trades people, while decorating products and workwear are set for expansion. The brand will also move into a whole new sector and segment of the UK high street in Q2 with an emphasis on fun for younger audiences and safety and durability for a specific grown-up audience.

On top of this, a dedicated team will be seeking opportunities to extend the brand further in the Indian retail market.

This feature originally appeared in the spring 2017 edition of Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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