SIX YEARS ago, when Iconix Brand Group landed a $175 million deal to buy such properties as “Peanuts,” “Dilbert” and “Fancy Nancy,” the licensing firm with strong fashion brands was moving into a new realm. Because sometimes, as content, character is king.
Today, Iconix is only strengthening how it delivers cartoon-character entertainment to the world. A year after the company acquired Strawberry Shortcake from American Greetings for $105 million, Iconix is making the world much more strawberry.
Iconix is announcing a deal Tuesday morning with DHX Media for joint creation of a new “Strawberry Shortcake” animated series. The agreement, for starters, calls for nearly 40 episodes for global distribution.
That news comes amid Strawberry Shortcake’s reintroduction into comic books, thanks to a deal between Iconix and IDW Publishing, that features the work of writer Georgia Ball and artist Amy Mebberson. IDW showcased Strawberry’s return on national Free Comic Book Day this month with a special issue that the publisher says found its way to more than 100,000 readers. (Iconix also touts that Strawberry Shortcake content has topped 110 million downloads on its apps.)
Born in 1980 as a greeting-card character and toy line, Strawberry Shortcake, not unlike “Peanuts” characters, is being positioned to win over the offspring of generations who grew up on her.
“Moms were raised on this brand,” says Derek Roberto, Iconix’s vice president of entertainment and new media, “and we want a continuum from moms to their girls.”
Roberto, who has a 3-year-old daughter, says that Strawberry Shortcake has maintained a core quality that makes her just as appealing to young kids today: She is “unapologetically sweet and sincere, and there’s a humility to her character, even in the modern iteration.”
Similarly, IDW hopes that Strawberry Shortcake, given her proven appeal, will help introduce young female readers to comics.
“Strawberry Shortcake, at its core, is about displaying strong independence and a smart personality,” says Craig Herman, the executive director of publishing for Iconix and Peanuts Worldwide. “And IDW has done a beautiful job of incorporating story lines [about] cooperation and friendship and problem-solving.”
Throw in the scented alternate covers that IDW has worked up, and Iconix is banking on the sweet smell of new property success.