Report – Meet the Commissioners: Branded Content

Posted on: Thursday 06 July 2017 11:04am

The process of adapting series or films from books, toys or dolls is not new, but in our evolving world of converging content and 360° approach where the dynamics are changing, it is difficult to know what comes first: The toys? The merchandising? The story? Or is it social media? Hasbro Studio, Mattel Creation and Beano Studio share their approaches.


  • Big toy and IP companies are still developing their own IP but are also taking on-board new IP to be developed and are open to ideas to develop some of their historical brands and characters
  • Stories and characters are now the biggest driver for branded content production, not toys and merchandising
  • The 360° approach is important… but not all platforms will suit all properties. It is more important to tick the right boxes than ticking all boxes


The session started with changemaker Filippo Yacob, who, inspired by the birth of his son, founded Primo Toys in 2013. The company creates the educational smart toy Cubetto Playset, teaching 3-6-year-olds the “21st century literacy” Fillippo believes should be fully included in children’s education. Through tangible physical elements, Cubetto helps users learn computer coding and take children on adventures as they programme, preparing for a future where possibly 65% of jobs don’t yet exist.

Lana Castleman, Editor and Content Director at Kidscreen, introduced Finn Arnesen of Hasbro Studios, Christopher Keenan of Mattel Creations and Chris Rose, from Beano Studios, to answer questions.

What content has been developed?

Hasbro Studios, set up in 2009 as a virtual studio (development) in L.A., has spent the first five years working on the development of global series for their five top toys brands.

After experimenting with production, Mattel set up an umbrella department, Mattel Creations, gathering content, distribution, insight and digital groups. Originally focusing on successful brands, the group also looks into their other brands as well as external proposal for new ideas. Their focus is now on play, not on toys.

Beano, though an 80-year-old brand, only opened Beano Studios at the end of 2016 to develop entertainment content around the existing characters, but also developing new ones for their digital platform, talking to kids all the time to reinvent themselves.

What original ideas can be pitched and how?

Hasbro Studios just developed Stretch Armstrong for Netflix. They were approached with the concept and worked on developing loosely a story around their stretching character.

They would like to find more pre-school concepts as well as gender neutral adventures for an older audience. Ideas can be sent directly to Finn Arnesen, but will have to be evaluated by all departments. The creators would be attached to the projects but Hasbro fully buy out the ideas.

Mattel Creations are mainly looking for strong characters and strong stories, driven by passionate people and that will last through time. They are not looking for toys-based IPs, which they leave to the specialist team. The development teams in L.A., New York or London can be contacted but a licence agent, lawyer or signing a (non-negotiable) submission agreement for bilateral protection is mandatory. IPs and production services are negotiated separately.

Beano Studios would like to touchpoint on all kids’ levels through their Buzzfeed-like site for 6 to 12 year-old. They are looking for characters that would resonate with their audience but also idea on how to develop some of their existing characters that wouldn’t be developed yet. Projects can be sent to Chris Rose directly.

All three development studios would like to hear about ideas as early as possible as it makes sense to work together at the development.

Any example of new branded content?

Hasbro’s new series is ‘Hana Züki’. The idea, born in 2005 from the mind of two Dutch people, was acquired in 2010 for a lifestyle and clothing brand. Hasbro Studios decided to develop the world around Hana Züki and to give her a voice and an opinion in order to take it to entertainment. The series was launched following a new model on YouTube and has no toy lines in the pipeline, nevertheless some merchandising exists, including wearable tech.

Mattel Creations explained the new toys line Enchantimals, which also has a 60-minute special episode in production. The IP was part of Mattel’s ideas and the studio, who got excited about the concept of embodiment of animal behaviours, pushed for the toys line to be launched.

Beano Studios could be able to move quickly on deals, Mattel and Hasbro productions move at a slower pace and sometimes require more patience.

By guest blogger Violette Martin, Distribution Sales Manager, British Film Institute

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