True colours: How Guru Studio is making its mark in the UK preschool arena

LicensingSource catches up with the Toronto-based studio to find out more on True and the Rainbow Kingdom, as well as what else is in its locker going forward.

Over the course of its 20-year history, Guru Studio has been involved with the production of numerous high profile series, but over the last few years in particular it’s been making significant in-roads with new original IP.

True and the Rainbow Kingdom, having enjoyed a successful launch on Netflix, is now making waves on Tiny Pop in the UK, while new series Pikwik Pack is due to premiere on the channel this autumn, with bRAND-WARD looking after the licensing and merchandising for both in the UK.

“In terms of licensing, True and the Rainbow Kingdom is leading the way,” Jonathan Abraham, vp of sales and business development at Guru Studio, tells us. “After a very successful launch on Netflix we’re seeing the show generate extremely strong ratings as it airs on linear television around the world. It’s very quickly becoming a top show with broadcasters and kids.”

The licensing programme for the show kicked off in the US and Canada, with licensees including Chouette, Bendon, Aurora World and Spirit Halloween, while earlier this year the studio confirmed the appointment of United Smile as the exclusive master toy partner. It will be partnering with key companies in local markets for distribution, with Bandai picking up the mantle in the UK and Spain.

Jonathan Abraham, vp of sales and business development (left), and Frank Falcone, president and executive creative director (right), Guru Studio.
Jonathan Abraham, vp of sales and business development (left), and Frank Falcone, president and executive creative director (right), Guru Studio.

In addition, Fashion UK Global Licensing is launching clothing and accessories, Aykroyds and TDP will be developing nightwear, Roy Lowe is on board for hosiery, Imagine8 is creating fashion and hair accessories, Smiffys has dress-up and Warner Music Group has launched a line-up of albums and songs based on the property. This has already had over five million streams on Spotify since the launch of the first album, True Tunes.

“True and the Rainbow Kingdom is uniquely positioned as a colourful, vibrant preschool property with a core message that empowers children to be mindful, compassionate and respectful of all living things,” says Jonathan. “As a hero, True doesn’t wield a sword or wave a wand, but it’s her kindness and compassion that makes her aspirational for boys and girls everywhere. Now more than ever, we’re seeing these themes really resonate with kids and their parents all over the world.”

He continues: “As a show inspired by pop artists, we’ve been able to harness the brightness and vibrancy of the Rainbow Kingdom into our product offerings, creating a line look that really stands out online and on shelf. We have seen tremendous support and love from parents in the UK, with so many heartfelt messages, lots of engagement on Tiny Pop’s True and the Rainbow Kingdom contests, and tons of families dressing up as the characters for Halloween every year.”

Warner Music Group has had over five million streams on Spotify since the launch of the first album, True Tunes.
Warner Music Group has had over five million streams on Spotify since the launch of the first album, True Tunes.

As well as True, interest is also beginning to build in the UK for Pikwik Pack, while next year will see the arrival of new comedy adventure series, Big Blue, which follows sibling underwater adventurers Lettie and Lemo who lead a quirky submarine crew with a magical ocean fairy stowaway named Bacon Berry.

Guru moved swiftly to keep its productions on track during the pandemic, explains Frank Falcone, president and executive creative director at the studio, investing in IT infrastructure which also meant growth could continue in areas such as licensing, creative partnerships and development of new IP.

“Thanks to our incredible leadership and the flexibility and hard work of our staff, we’ve been producing and delivering animation at the same rate as we were pre-pandemic,” says Frank.

When it comes to further growth, Jonathan points out that being platform-agnostic is becoming a top priority, with a growing number of platforms springing up with a focus in acquiring world class content. “We’re also finding ourselves increasingly looking for unique content partnerships,” Jonathan concludes. “For example, our development team is actively working on a new IP in partnership with a leading toy company. Our studio is very busy and focused on meeting the growing demand, and we’re actively pursuing opportunities for new content and licensing partnerships.”

United Smile is on board as the exclusive master toy partner, with Bandai distributing the range in the UK.
United Smile is on board as the exclusive master toy partner, with Bandai distributing the range in the UK.

All about Guru Studio

Toronto-based Guru Studio was founded and is led by president and executive creative director, Frank Falcone, and celebrated its 20th anniversary last year.

“Over the last few years, our studio has experienced tremendous growth developing new, original IP,” says Frank. “We’re now in the fifth year of True and the Rainbow Kingdom and after a successful launch on Netflix, it’s very quickly become a top rated show on Tiny Pop in the UK. Building on that success, they’ve now acquired our newest series Pikwik Pack, which launched on Disney Junior US and Hulu last year, and is set to premiere on Tiny Pop this autumn.”

On the partnerships front, the company has been tasked with bringing to life Dino Daycare for Netflix and is also in production on a new series with Sesame Workshop called Mecha Builders, the first animated spin off of Sesame Street for HBO Max. On top of this, Guru is in production on the eighth season of PAW Patrol for Spin Master and Nickelodeon.

Over the course of the studio’s 20-year history it has brought to life a range of 2D and 3D shows such as Dino Paws for CBeebies UK and Treehouse in Canada, plus Mattel’s Ever After High, with the studio having now grown to over 400 artists.

Frank continues: “We’re always open to new projects and partnerships based on innovative, international, creative-led entertainment. Our aim is to continue being a world leader in storytelling for kids and find the best creative talent to bring these stories to life.”

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