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Why story is always king

INK Group’s Annalisa Woods on how a ‘story first’ approach is also key to a successful licensing drive.

The INK Group has a philosophy that underpins everything we do. This philosophy is that any show we represent must, first and foremost, have a great story. Because, not only does a great story make for great kids TV, it’s also the hook on which to hang a successful licensing programme.

You only have to look at the incredible success of Masha and the Bear, which is very story-driven, to see this approach works. The show, now on series three, is broadcast in nearly every country in the world and has spawned two spin-offs – Masha’s Tales and Masha’s Spooky Stories.

Don’t forget this show originates from Russia – hardly famous for children’s entertainment production – so getting noticed was always going to be difficult when faced with the stream of heavily-promoted content churned out by the leviathans of the industry.

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Yet, because the story is so good and captures the imagination of the audience, the show has transcended its home country and become a global hit. And – because kids want to play out these stories and enter into the fantastic characterisations – this inevitably drives the licensing programme. And Masha and the Bear has a huge licensing programme.

To give another example, when you go back to the golden age of animation shorts – Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Tom and Jerry, etc – you again see incredible stories. These cartoons are perfectly formed, with twists and turns that delight kids and adults alike.

As a result, they’re still being shown across the world – with massive licensing programmes attached to them – over 70 years since they first hit screens.

And it’s the incredible stories and flawless characterisation that really keeps them popular. They still engage and entrance today, in an age when most kids brands disappear within a few years, along with their merchandising programmes.

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And this is why story is king at Ink. The approach is paying off handsomely – along with Masha and the Bear, shows like The Mojicons and Beat Bugs are also gaining global traction.

There’s also ZAFARI, which is looking like the next big breakout hit. It’s the brainchild of animation visionary David Dozoretz and tells the story of a land where all the animals have different skins, patterns and characteristics, making each one unique. ZAFARI has already caught licensing and TV attention – with a host of broadcasters on board and Ultimate Source signed up as master toy licensee.

All our shows are projects that combine distinct originality with a really strong story, which appeals to international media buyers and – most importantly – to kids.

There is no formula for finding the right projects; it’s driven by instinct and comes with risk, but breeds long-term success on the screen and at retail.

Annalisa Woods is commercial director at the INK Group. The company will be on stand C70 at Brand Licensing Europe.

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