How AMGI Animation is Adapting to COVID-19 Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally shifted the entertainment industry. From production shutdowns to the rise in at-home streaming, the toll on people and businesses has caused studios across the spectrum to reexamine how they work. From Zoom meetings to direct-to-streaming film debuts, the industry is trying new things to be more adaptable and prepared for the pace that is sure to arrive when things open back up again.

Now, as a light at the end of the tunnel slowly begins to emerge, companies are looking to become more efficient and flexible than ever before. While this paradigm shift can be a challenge, some studios are finding their inherent nature is giving them the advantage to get up-to-speed faster than they even realized was possible.

One such studio is AMGI Animation. The self-described ‘IP factory,’ based in South Pasadena, Calif., has been able to quickly adapt to the new normal by leveraging the vision and expediency inherent in its DNA. AMGI’s unique advantage comes from its technology, business mission and its experienced team of animators that help bring each project to life.

“In a strange sort of way, this shutdown has kind of accelerated our production,” Colin Brady, co-founder, AMGI, tells License Global. “We were already a digitally based studio, so the transition to working from home wasn’t as difficult as we thought it would be. We can still create the characters just as fast as we did before, and all our animators are working remotely, so we are perfectly suited for this.”

The group includes alums from Disney and Pixar who leverage real-time rendering technology based on the Unreal Engine to create animations quickly. Using Unreal technology, the team can render projects rapidly from their home workstations in real-time, in an industry that isn’t always based on speed to market.

The studio’s unique business model also allows AMGI to be flexible and quick to react to the market. After just one year in business, the company has developed eight properties for each demographic of kids’ entertainment. Characters range from the young adult music-themed IP “Zeppelin Reign” to the younger-focused “Little Kaiju” property. AMGI is looking to leverage those digital-first characters by extending them into episodic streaming content and licensing across verticals.

“One of the things that struck me when I attended Toy Fair this year was the preponderance of toys that were built on digital influencer initiatives,” says Tony Diioia, co-founder, AMGI. “The sheer number of eyeballs that are watching content on these online platforms is really enough to kickstart a full-blown licensing program.”

AMGI’s fast-acting approach and potential to quickly develop streaming content for new character IP may end up being a significant opportunity for the studio, as distributors look to launch new material following the production stoppage. The company’s quick to market model is also powering how it works with licensees and retailers.

AMGI sees the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown as affecting how the industry does business even after companies can begin to reopen. With that in mind, the studio is looking to work with partners who can adapt to whatever the future may bring. Potential partners for the company include retailers and licensees with a robust e-commerce and digital presence.

“Eventually, we are going to come back, but I don’t think we are going to come back to exactly how it used to be,” adds Diioia. “We think that e-commerce is going to be an accelerator based on what is happening today.”

Overall, AMGI believes that it will come out of the COVID-19 shutdown with a business model that has been accelerated, as major industry players look for companies that fit the quick-to-adapt mold.

As everyone learns to readjust to a fundamentally shifted work environment, companies such as AMGI will prove vital for an industry landscape looking to offset the challenges of the shutdown rapidly.

“I think when we look back at this time, we are going to see it as we got a shot of adrenaline when everyone slowed down,” adds Roger Paglia, chief executive officer, AMGI. “We are one of the few independent studios still standing, and our whole crew is churning out properties.”

Source: https://www.licenseglobal.com/streaming-and-tv/how-amgi-animation-adapting-covid-19-challenges

Quibi and Peacock: Two Very Different Streaming Services Launch During a Pandemic

Streaming giants, such as Netflix and Disney+, have seen huge numbers, as people around the world are asked to stay home and help stem the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic. Netflix saw record-high traffic in March. Disney, meanwhile, has leveraged its streaming platform to bring new releases into people’s homes as movie theaters are shuttered.

While consumers continue streaming film and television while stuck indoors, the streaming ecosystem will become even more prominent over the summer. Both Quibi and NBCU’s Peacock platforms are launching this year. The platforms have been in development for years, but their arrival during the pandemic is both a blessing and a curse.

Peacock: NBC’s Streaming Play to Arrive Early Amid Pandemic

Peacock is scheduled to officially hit the market in July. However, in a bid to capitalize on the streaming uptick during quarantine, NBCU announced that some Comcast customers would get a sneak peek of the streamer’s content. Early-access users will be able to watch a limited amount of content, including classic shows like “30 Rock” and “The Office,” according to Reuters.

“With the majority of the country at home, the demand for news and entertainment is truly at an all-time high,” says Matt Strauss, chairman, Peacock, in a conference call covered by the Los Angeles Times. “Many viewers are seeking out programming that is comforting, familiar and even nostalgic.”

The Peacock streaming service’s early access offering won’t be the same as the full product expected to launch later this year. Peacock’s full slate will include live sports and original content that have been delayed due to the pandemic. In a letter to employees covered by Variety, Strauss said that original content, including a reboot of “Saved by the Bell” would be delayed until 2021.

“This is a marathon and not a sprint,” Strauss said in the letter. “While we are launching with a strong array of news and entertainment offerings, much more content will be on the platform down the road, including our original productions and many more sporting events. The product itself is in its beginning phase and will undergo continuous updates and enhancements.”

Quibi: Mobile-First Streaming Content Faces New Consumer Paradigm 

Quibi is a short-form, mobile-friendly streaming platform from former Disney boss Jeffrey Katzenberg and ex-chief executive officer of H.P., Meg Whitman. The platform launched last month to substantial numbers, with 1.7 million app downloads during its debut week. As a platform, Quibi leaned into the market with a 90-day free trial for all interested consumers.

While off to a hot start, the streaming platform has already seen some potential attrition with the app downloads falling out of the top 70 on the App Store charts. According to App Annie, the Quibi app trailed competitors such as Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu in its second week. The potential reason for the decrease in downloads may be attributable to the quarantine.

As a mobile-first platform, Quibi did not launch with TV casting abilities. While the feature is in the works, the lack of viewing options on the big screen may be a negative for consumers spending more time than ever on the couch.

More Streaming to Come

Streaming is more crowded than ever before, and it looks to get more crowded into 2020. Along with Quibi and Peacock, WarnerMedia is debuting HBO Max in May. As nearly everyone turns to the TV or consumes virtual content, for the time being, it looks like they will at least have a slate of new streaming platforms to try if they are interested.

Source: https://www.licenseglobal.com/analysis/quibi-and-peacock-two-very-different-streaming-services-launch-during-pandemic

Premier League stars ready for action in ePL invitational tournament

Premier League footballers will be putting their EA SPORTS FIFA 20 skills to the test in the inaugural ePremier League Invitational tournament.

A host of familiar faces are going head to head as they represent their club in a knockout tournament from the comfort of their own homes from Tuesday 21 April.

The prize fund is being donated to the #PlayersTogether initiative, which was created by Premier League players as a collective way of generating funds for the UK’s National Health Service and distributing them where they are needed most. The tournament will also continue to urge everyone to follow official advice by staying home and saving lives.

Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said: ‘The thoughts of everyone at the Premier League are with all those directly affected by COVID-19.

‘In response to the pandemic, the League, our clubs and players are providing valuable support for communities.

‘We are also aware of the importance of finding new ways to entertain fans at this time and we are excited to bring together a strong line-upof players for the ePremier League Invitational tournament.

‘With many of our international broadcast partners showing the matches, fans around the world can tune in and enjoy the action. We knowhow popular FIFA20 is with players and I am looking forward to seeing who will be crowned the ePL Invitational champion.’

Among the players competing in the tournament are Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Todd Cantwell (Norwich City), Ryan Fredericks (West Ham United), Diogo Jota (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) and Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace).

The full line-up will be confirmed ahead of the draw for the tournament, which takes place on Monday 20 April. The opening rounds feature four matches per day between midday (BST) and 4pm (BST) from Tuesday 21 April to Friday 24 April. The semi-finals and final will betelevised live at 3pm (BST) on Saturday April 25.

Fans can watch all the action throughout the week on the Premier League website, app, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, Official PremierLeague Broadcast Channels, YouTube and Twitch channels as well on the Football Daily YouTube channel.

For more information visit www.premierleague.com/epl-invitational.

The ePL Invitational tournament is operated by esports tournament organisers Gfinity, who have worked on the first two seasons of ePremier League.

About the Premier League 

The Premier League produces some of the most competitive and compelling football in the world. The League and its clubs use the power and popularity of the competition to inspire fans, communities, and partners in the UK and across the world. The Premier League brings people together from all backgrounds. It is a competition for everyone, everywhere and is available to watch in 1 billion homes in 188countries.

Emoji, Las Sevillanas Chew on Sweet Deal

Traditional Mexican confectionery brand Las Sevillanas has developed a program with Emoji that features a collection that features six of the main Emoji brand icons.

“We couldn’t think of a better partnership to continue building our brand in Mexico,” says Marco Hüsges, chief executive officer and founder, The Emoji Company. “Emoji and Sevillanas spray positive emotions to the youngest target that appreciate traditional candies.”

Yellow circled wafers with the classic “cajeta,” or goat milk flavor, are available via the deal.

For the first time in history, Las Sevillanas decided to enter into the licensing business and chose Emoji to be applied to their traditional confectionery product. The program was launched during Q1 2020 and is being sold across wholesalers and supermarkets around Mexico.

Source: https://www.licenseglobal.com/food-beverage/emoji-las-sevillanas-chew-sweet-deal

Acessorizing for a Pandemic

Masks have become of the face of the battle against the coronavirus and are taking a little more style and flair. And, inevitably, characters, logos and designs of all sorts have begun to pop up to cover mouths and noses. As far as we can tell, they’re rarely, if ever licensed. (We have no idea whether the masks above via Etsy are licensed; they merely illustrate the ubiquity of merchandise flooding the online world.)

A quick trip through the maker marketplaces is instructive. Going into the weekend, Etsy maker Kawaii Dress Shop had a line with Disney characters including Maleficent, Snow Queen Elsa from Frozen and Cinderella, all priced at $19. Turkey-based Art Plus had a version with Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises artwork on Zazzle, while Etsy maker Back Stitch Beauty was selling Sesame Streetcharacter face masks in men’s, women’s and children’s sizes.

A Disney spokeswoman declined to comment, and a Sesame Workshop spokeswoman said the design we cited isn’t licensed but declined further comment. Spokespersons for the Van Gogh Museum, Etsy and Zazzle couldn’t be reached.

Brand Owner Dilemma

Brand owners are in a ticklish situation – needing to maintain control over their characters, logos and other IP, but not wanting to come within miles of being perceived as profiteers during a crisis. They also have to be concerned about potential liability if, for example, a character-adorned mask is sold to somebody who thinks they’re buying rock-solid protection and subsequently gets sick.

When Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said in an interview last week that the number of its makers producing cloth masks had increased fivefold to 20,000 during the prior weekend, he also hastened to add that “the CDC itself has said a fabric face mask is probably better than nothing but please do not assume that this keeps you or the people around you safe. It’s an additive measure. It’s not preventative.”

So even as they pitch in to the collective effort, brand owners are conscious of walking a fine line. Natasha Fishman, EVP of Marketing at Authentic Brands Group, (ABG) acknowledged that if the state or federal government mandates wearing face masks, ABG would likely initially give them away to healthcare workers. ABG’s Hickey Freeman division currently is making  masks using hospital-provided surgical curtains and distributing back to hospitals in the Rochester, NY area.

The goal is not to profit off the pandemic because “clearly there is a need , and that need starts from healthcare workers, then other essential workers,” Fishman said. But “then it will translate to bringing product to people that becomes part of their personality for PPE.”

Longer term,  ABG will make about a dozen of its more than 50 brands available for licensed masks, says an ABG spokesperson. The first ecommerce sales are expected to launch in the next few weeks.

“Up until a few weeks ago, Americans really didn’t wear masks,” says the ABG spokeswoman. “And going forward [a key element] it will be aligning with a real charity.  Brands partner with charities because they want to have a purpose that creates an authentic connection and we will see more of that. Once people stop buying masks frantically, charities will be a key component and eventually it will be OK for companies to make money from face masks.”

Source: https://licensinginternational.org/news/accessorizing-for-a-pandemic/

Netflix’s Money Heist inspires Persol

Global eyewear brand launches collection inspired by Spanish heist crime drama series.

Global eyewear specialist, Persol has become the latest brand to team with Netflix, with the company revealing a new range inspired by Spanish heist crime drama, Money Heist (La Casa De Papel).

The limited collection of 350 numbered pairs features a style with 24-carat gold-plated lenses named after the drama, reported Fashion United.

In addition, there is also the El Professor Original and El Professor Sergio, an optical and sunglasses style inspired by the show’s main character.

Filmed in Madrid, Money Heist became one of the most watched series on Netflix and the most watched non-English language series in 2018. It follows the story of a criminal mastermind who goes by the name ‘The Professor’ who has a plan to pull off the biggest heist in recorded history – to print billions of Euros in the Royal Mint of Spain.

Source: https://www.licensingsource.net/netflixs-money-heist-inspires-persol/

Happy Socks Debuts ‘Spongebob SquarePants’ Collection

For spring/summer 2020, Happy Socks has announced it will debut its first “SpongeBob SquarePants” collection. Designed for fans of all ages, the Swedish lifestyle brand’s new collection features swimwear, their signature crew socks in tropical prints and a pair of tribute socks that emulate SpongeBob’s signature knee-highs from the TV show.

“We are so excited to partner with ViacomCBS to bring ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ to life,” says Laura Frisk, marketing head, Happy Socks. “This enthusiastic, optimistic Sponge has become a symbol of happiness and the perfect character to help us bring happiness and color to every corner of the world.”

The Happy Socks x SpongeBob collection is available now online at happysocks.com.

Source: https://www.licenseglobal.com/footwear/happy-socks-debuts-spongebob-squarepants-collection

How Beanstalk is Navigating its New Normal

As the licensing industry continues to do its part to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are adjusting to a new normal that includes working from home. License Global has continued to highlight the ways that the business community has adapted to the evolving nature of the industry on the fly. From Brainbase’s new technology stack to Vida Brands’ community outreach, our ongoing series shares the licensing community’s best-practices of working during such unprecedented circumstances.

In today’s continuation of our series, we take a look at Beanstalk. The licensing agency revealed its new virtual initiatives and shares how its partners are doing their part to help in this crisis, as well as the following inspiring note to the broader licensing community:

“COVID-19 has changed all of our lives so suddenly, from the way we work, socialize, travel, communicate and much more. While there is some relative comfort knowing that we are all in this together, the next months are going to be especially challenging as we adjust, remain calm and find new ways to stay healthy, work effectively and be virtually together. We will come together in unexpected and comforting ways. Creativity will be unleashed that will be enlightening. And we will have a new appreciation for the simpler things in life — nature, family, friends and even slowing down from the day-to-day frenzy of the urban jungle. While we may not have expected that this situation would have unified us, it has. And it has forced us to be resilient. Resilience is a powerful and empowering trait. It gives us courage and some sense of control. Once this is behind us, we will emerge even stronger knowing that we endured the most difficult of setbacks.”

Thinking of all of you and wishing wellness and safety,

Allison Ames, President & CEO of Beanstalk

Virtual Happy Hour Bonding

Beanstalk’s digital working initiatives include a weekly virtual happy hour when team members from its New York, Cincinnati and Miami offices come together to share cocktail recipes, binge-worthy show recommendations, tips for working from home and stories of gratitude with one another

Source: https://www.licenseglobal.com/industry-news/how-beanstalk-navigating-its-new-normal

Sales of Games & Puzzles Rise Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The top ten toys are:

 

  • Monopoly Class;
  • L.O.L. Surprise! Hairvibes;
  • Dobble;
  • L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. Lights;
  • Technic Bugatti Chiron Construction Kit 1:5;
  • Scrabble Original;
  • Technic Land Rover Defender 2573 Pieces;
  • Cluedo;
  • L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. Doll Asst;
  • and Uno Original.

The biggest selling toy category in the first official week of lockdown was games and puzzles, which earned a 21 percent share of weekly spend across the entire toy sector. The categories spending shared marked a nine percent increase from the same week in 2019. Outdoor and sports also saw growth with 18 percent of all sector spend, up from 12 percent last year.

“Our figures clearly show that consumers are preparing for the coming weeks of isolation with a selection of family board games, outdoor and seasonal summer toys, craft kits and building sets,” says Frederique Tutt, global toy market expert, The NPD Group. “It’s interesting to see the classic games of Monopoly, Scrabble, Cluedo and Uno on this list. These ‘standards’ have shown us over and again that they can stand the test of time when reinvented and so it looks like they’ll continue entertaining generations of Britons as householders look to release stress and tighten family ties during these challenging times.
In the U.K., Brits are also buying some of the toughest building sets available. With their price points at around £233 for the Technic Bugatti Chiron Construction Kit and approximately £153 for the Technic Land Rover Defender kit, these sets are not just for kids.

“We’re seeing a clear ‘kidult’ and adult trend here,” adds Tutt. “Perhaps some of the buyers are grabbing the opportunity to use their newly found spare time to achieve a long-term dream to build one of these cars in LEGO.”

Other top sellers include playhouses, slides and swingball sets. Also, to keep the kids occupied, sales in the Arts & Crafts category almost doubled (up 97 percent) with slime, dough and craft kits all making it into shopping baskets.

Source: https://www.licenseglobal.com/toys-games/sales-games-puzzles-rise-amid-covid-19-pandemic

Homebound ‘Kidults’ Helping to Drive Construction, Game, Puzzle Boom

The sharp rise in sales of puzzles, games and building sets ( widely publicized and extremely logical in these “shelter in place” times) has seen the continued emergence of “kidults” — grownups filled with nostalgia and perhaps seeking out new activities – as a driving force in those categories that was underway even before the pandemic struck.

Adding fuel

The crisis has only added fuel to the fire. “In my opinion, some of this growth [in games, puzzles and construction sets] is coming from adult sales,” says Julie Lennett, NPD Group’s leading toy authority. “We’re seeing strong growth in adult puzzles, expensive and more complex LEGO sets, and ‘adult’ games like Cards Against Humanity and Settlers of Catan. Even adults are looking for a way to escape the chaos in their lives and toys can be a great distraction.”

For example, in the UK and Australia, Lego’s Technic Bugatti Chiron and Land Rover Defender construction kits – both of which have more than 2,000 pieces and are priced around the equivalent of US$280 —  were among the Top 10 selling products in the games/puzzles/building sets category in the weeks ended March 21 and 29, respectively, according to NPD. And the UK’s John Lewis department store chain said sales of puzzles in the week ended March 29 were higher than during the Christmas holidays and that more than half its stock – including all 1,000-piece versions, which are mostly aimed well beyond younger age groups —  was sold.

“Kidults is something that applies to puzzles, because it is something that reminds you of your childhood. In the current situation, it is definitely helping to drive sales,” says Melissa Dragonas, a Product Manager at Ravensburger USA. Indeed, the company’s sales of puzzles rose 370% during the past few weeks, and while children’s products led the category — Disney Collector’s Edition, Villainous, Frozen 2 and Toy Story 4 puzzles were top sellers — adult puzzles “weren’t far behind,” says Dragonas.

The rise in games, puzzles, and building set sales wasn’t limited to one global market. While sales of games and puzzles were up 228% in the U.S. in the week ended March 21, they also skyrocketed in the UK (240%), France (122% for puzzles; 83% for games), and Australia (417%), according to NPD. In the UK, games and puzzles also more than doubled to 21% its share of toys sales in the week ended March 21. In the case of building sets, sales soared in the U.S. (76%), UK (59%) and Australia (155%).

The increase in sales hasn’t been limited to mass merchants and toy stores. Etsy’s sales of puzzles and games were “more stable” in March along with those of bath and beauty and self-care, CEO Josh Silverman told investors. Those sales offset a sharp decline more typical top sellers in March such as jewelry and wedding-related items, the purchases of which were delayed as weddings were postponed, Silverman said.

“We have some games that are moving up in the ranks like Monopoly and Uno for obvious reasons, because these are like comfort food,” says NPD’s Lennett. But whether that trend continues after the coronavirus outbreak abates, “remains to be seen. There is the potential that families rediscover (or discover) the joy that playing family games has on the family. I hope that happens, but we’re in unusual times and I don’t think anyone can predict what families will be doing in a month or six months.”

Source: https://licensinginternational.org/news/homebound-kidults-helping-to-drive-construction-game-puzzle-boom/