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SGLP’s Simon Gresswell, Start Licensing’s Ian Downes and Dinosuit’s Ross Padgett share their thoughts on IP that’s built for success in the construction sector.
The world of licensed construction kits has arguably never been healthier, with innovation coming from established companies and smart new players alike.
LEGO is obviously still a titan in this space, and recent months have seen brands ranging from The Lord of the Rings to Hokusai’s The Great Wave get the brick treatment.
In the partworks space, there continues to be interesting collaborations being made. Earlier this year, Hachette Parkworks debuted its Build the Batmobile Tumbler magazine. Once built, the 1:8 scale model boasts lights, moving parts and sound effects, while the accompanying magazine features the history and evolution of Batman and his Batmobiles.
Other recent licensed launches to come out of Hachette Partworks includes a detailed Create & Decorate a Disney Doll’s House magazine, as well as an Eddie Stobart haulage truck build.
Brands have also embraced the world of ‘paper play’ and craft-based construction kits in recent years.
Paper-play firm PlayPress launched its first licensed set back in 2019 with an RNLI Lifeboat, and has since debuted play-sets for IP like The Gruffalo, Zog, Dinosaur Roar and Shaun the Sheep.
Sticking with this sector, US-based 3D paper figure company Cubles has also enjoyed success working with a range of eclectic brands. Licensed launches to date for Cubles includes Dog Man, Little House on the Prairie, KISS, GI Joe, My Little Pony and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Last month’s UK Toy Fair saw Paper Engine launch a Build Your Own Wallace & Gromit Rocket. It was promptly named one of the ‘Hero Toys’ at the show and is also in the running for a Gift of the Year award.
The firm’s Aardman collection also includes a 60-piece Sidecar Plane set and a 76-piece Techno Trousers set that comes complete with a build-your-own Feathers McGraw.
What other brands are out there that could be a great fit for partworks magazines and construction sets? We asked SGLP’s Simon Gresswell, Start Licensing’s Ian Downes and Dinosuit’s Ross Padgett for their thoughts…
Simon Gresswell, SGLP
Having been involved with many great sporting events, federations and institutions in my career, I think ‘Homes Of Sport’ would make fascinating and content-rich partwork collection. With hinged opening sections on the build-up and the addition of great digital content via QR codes, the constructible collection could tell both the history and the story of all the elements of the venues – from original land use to the plans, the stadiums, the modernisations. It could be complemented with a whole plethora of content about the events and amazing moments that have been staged and taken place there…
Think of the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s transformation over recent decades alone as the ‘Home of Tennis’. Or Lord’s, with its many tales to tell – not least of all, the most dramatic World Cup Final ever in 2019 – along with the history of The Long Room, the Pavilion and iconic construction additions, like the space age Media Centre.
Twickenham and Wembley have been transformed completely over the decades, but so much sporting history still remains, even after complete re-construction. These ‘Homes of Sport’ will always have their archives embedded in whatever construction is added or changes which come about.
Having had a ‘high-powered’ lunch meeting with Messrs Downes and Levy recently at the renovated and re-purposed Battersea Power Station, I would also like to see its history and transformation turned into a partwork in the same vein as above. If you haven’t been yet, just go. It’s incredibly impressive… And yes, there’s merch!
Ian Downes, Start Licensing
Having recently attended the UK Toy Fair, Top Drawer and Spring Fair, there is no doubt that construction, model making and crafting in general seem to be strong areas. Companies like Airfix have a long tradition of tapping into the licensing pool to develop products, while newer entrants like PlayPress and Paper Engine – with card and paper construction kits – are using licenses to bolster their portfolios and widen their reach. Paper Engine’s Wallace and Gromit kits attracted a lot of attention at the Toy and Gift Fairs for example.
A well-chosen license can bring a ready-made audience and creative inspiration. I think there are opportunities to be found in the charity and heritage sectors. PlayPress have done well with their RNLI construction kit, for example.
I think kits based on the likes of Historic Royal Palaces’ collection could work well, while in my own work I think museums such as The Ashmolean could inspire a range of construction kits. These could dip into specific parts of the collection, such as elements of their Egyptian gallery or signature items like Guy Fawkes’ lantern.
Heritage licenses have the potential to create a sales platform via museum shops but also tie into other marketing opportunities, such as school projects. They also bring authenticity to projects. Beyond this it will be interesting to see how new technology can be incorporated into the category. Could there be kits that incorporate lighting, sound effects and audio content to make them even more realistic?
Ross Padgett, Dinosuit
Our current range of construction toys looks to the prehistoric era, which is a great catalyst for imagination, fun and learning through making. I think the polar opposite end of the historical line also offers an abundance of wonderment and intrigue which as a genre, produces enormously engrossing construction kits.
I would love to see some collaborative construction toys with Mr Marmite himself, Elon Musk and his team. Applying their bombastic blue sky thinking approach to the conventional construction toy line would be exciting. SpaceX and the spacefaring generation for example: ‘Believing that the future is going to be great.’ SpaceX are known for their propulsive breaking of glass ceilings and making it a tangible reality for us to ‘boldly go’ by turning science fiction on its head.
Beyond just cardboard replica rockets there is an irresistible fascination with space colonisation and multi-planetary exploration which can be explored with SpaceX STEM construction kits. These could investigate the challenges of living on Mars with an innovative rethinking of our living necessities, stimulating young minds and their imagination.
Perhaps collaborating with SpaceX and their creative disruptors might produce some boundary breaking kits and would also foster a little rethinking of conventional construction toys too. Who knows what possibilities could come from the collaboration… Magnetic antigravity seed growers, Mars solar wind vehicles, ice armoured modular base systems…
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