BrokenHeart Pets Rescue – Working Hard for their Big Break

27 04 2015

S&Btalk-2I recently interviewed Daryl Slaton, partner in Tails of Whimsy, a storybook studio, and the artist/author of BrokenHeart Pets Rescue about their characters and their journey.

J’net Q: Many of my readers are interested in developing characters and character-based properties. I have been representing the publishing aspect of BrokenHeart Pets Rescue. Can you tell us a little bit about the characters?
Daryl A: Scooter. the dog, and his sidekick Boots, the cat, were once homeless but have now found loving, “fur-ever” families. They wear a broken heart emblem on their chests in solidarity with other homeless animals and their whimsical stories focus on ways to rescue and protect them. I have written the story and created the character art. My partner (and wife) Louise Glickman is a writer and designer with a public relations and marketing background, and also brings business management skills to Tails of Whimsy.

Q: How did the concept for Scooter and Boots get created?
A: Louise is from New Orleans and, though we now live in Asheville, NC, we had both given time to saving animals in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The head of the Louisiana SPCA and hundreds of volunteers developed ways to save over 9,000 pets and were able to return over half of them to their original homes! We were honored when they asked us to create something “special” to thank the volunteers for their efforts Christmas of 2005. Thus, Scooter and Boots first appeared as animation on the non-profit’s website. However, they didn’t surface again until we needed one extra banner for our Licensing Expo booth in 2013!

Q: How have you developed the market for two key characters?
A: It feels like Scooter and Boots have become late-in-life children for us. We talk about them daily and have been fortunate enough to tailor them into a portfolio of products that bring their stories to life.

BHPheads1In January 2015, we decided that we needed to test market them by building a fan base on social media. We had Scooter made into a puppet and began posting images of him around town as well as creating cartoon posts of both characters. We now have over 10,000 Facebook fans and remain active on Twitter, LinkedIn and on our blog.

Q: How have the characters and story evolved based on your ideas vs market needs?20140409_135212
A: After exhibiting our first time at Licensing Expo 2013, our initial feedback was that our story of homeless pets was “just too sad.” People loved the characters but despite repeated attempts to show the upbeat side of the Scooter and Boots’ back story, licensees and publishers remained unconvinced.

At Licensing Expo 2014, we brought puppet Scooter to “meet” visitors to our booth. The truth is, you can get away with a whole lot when you speak through the voice of a puppet. On a whim, Scooter did a short interview with ArtMoose, a production studio. I was curled up under the desk performing as Scooter, but I’m not a puppeteer. For a first time try, we got a huge response. A group gathered and applauded when the interview ended and an entertainer with her manager came by and asked Scooter to come to Sacramento for a show (which he did last August). But best of all, we partnered with ArtMoose to create a TV pilot called “Scooter News Network.” It’s ready to show to networks, sponsors and underwriters at Licensing Expo 2015. Scooter will be also doing “live” broadcasts this year at the ArtMoose booth.

Q: Why do you think your characters are different and unique?
A: I have thought long and hard about the voices of Scooter and Boots. To our knowledge, there isn’t another whimsical property that is so focused on finding homes for animals and on care and conservation worldwide. The trick has been to keep their humor and character intact, delivering their targeted message but still staying funny and fun. They are more entertainment than education and we always have to balance their voice carefully as well as keep it focused on our target audience of children 3-9.

Between 5 and 7 million companion animals enter shelters nationwide every year, and only 1 out of 10 dogs born ever find a home. Stray cats alone may be as high as 70 million annually in the U.S.

Q: What has surprised you both most about this journey?
A: Two things, really.

First and foremost, how long it takes to monetize a property after you’ve developed a character. A good part of my commercial art career was built on my ability to create characters for corporate branding and that I was an early champion of doing this digitally. I’m very quick and experienced at adapting them for illustrations, ads, trade show displays and animation. This comes naturally to me but creating the character is the simplest part of the licensing and publishing game. What counts most is what you do with them and how you can market them to publishers, agents, studios and distributors. Also, staying focused on your audience and message.

Secondly, and speaking broadly (there are always exceptions), characters are virtually nothing without their stories. Even though I’ve had a bit of success in licensing some character art (without a story), the biggest responses have been to my story-driven characters. Basically, if you have a story to tell then publishing goes hand-in-hand with licensing. Even with our positive response at Licensing Expo and sound advice from agents and consultants, we’ve had to learn two industries from the inside out! For the first time, we will do both Book Expo America and Licensing Expo this year. We’re keeping our fingers crossed to get noticed, get published and get signed contracts!

Q: Why do you keep persisting to get more exposure and fans for Scooter and Boots? What drives you both?
A: We love Scooter and Boots and our other properties, too. But we have to prove their commercial viability to get a deal. Publishers, licensees and manufacturers insist on credibility and exposure before they are willing to commit to new licensors. In discussions and proposals, I want to show that I am more than just a character designer and storyteller. My wife has a marketing background and we have resourced additional talent to our company who bring editorial services and social media skills to our mix. In this respect, we want to make publishers and licensees aware that by working with Tails of Whimsy, they are getting art, stories and savvy business partners.BHpetsSellSheet72Post4

What drives me? This is what I do. I love creating characters and their stories. It’s that simple. I like the idea of making people smile.

Q: What’s the most important piece of advice you have received regarding Scooter and Boots’ BrokenHeart Pets Rescue?
A: Be patient and stick with it. To get from character to contract in licensing, it takes a whole lot of drive as well as financial commitment.

Update from J’net: My next Free Ask J’net Q&A, Tuesday, May 5th at 10:00 am  PDT / 1:00 pm EDT, is dedicated to the topic of Trade Shows. I will cover as many questions as possible in the one-hour Q&A relating to Surtex, Book Expo, Licensing Expo or other trade shows – walking them, attending your first year, exhibiting at them…whatever you need to know to help your business grow! Here’s our schedule page, please register early and get put your question at the bottom of the registration form. 


5 Mistakes that Character Creators Often Make

28 01 2015

Do you have an idea for a new character? Do you think your new character would be an ideal fit for television, books, apps, games, toys or comics? Well, that is a great start. But to fully develop a character that you can sell or license as a larger media property, you’ll need to know that character from the inside out. And you’ll need to be able to communicate the nuances of the character to your audience, quickly and expertly.

If you have created and developed a character and are wanting to build a property, with media and licensing, then consider the following advice. Take these five common mistakes and create your own check-list of things ‘not to do’ when it comes to building your own character or character brand:

1. Create vague characters. This is a no-no. Your characters can’t look like or behave like everyone else’s’ dog, cat or whatever. Your characters need to be distinguishable with specific traits, style, and purpose. Develop the detailed background and dreams for your characters, including answering the questions: who, what, when where, why and how.
2. Think that ‘everyone’ is your target audience. Instead, find a niche audience where you can gain some impact and create impressions before broadening your scope. Try to figure out where your target audience lives, works and plays…and most importantly…how they prefer to get their entertainment and information. Eventually you can adapt your content to expand the audience. But don’t ever think that ‘everyone’ is your target audience.
3. Assume people will immediately ‘get’ your characters the way you do. Don’t be naive. You need to mentally put yourself in your audiences’ chair to adequately understand their perspective. This is a powerful internal tool to develop. You can then create your character’s personality and mannerisms, so your audience can ‘see’ just how funny, ironic, sweet, improbable, dumb, charismatic, sarcastic, ill-at-ease, or whatever your characters really are! It is up to you to develop these traits, as well as create exposure through media, products and other channels.
4. Attend trade shows ill-prepared. Creator’s frequently exhibit at trade shows too early in the development of their characters. In addition, they fail to design the proper materials to actually sell producers, publishers, manufacturers and retailers on doing a deal. Without the right marketing materials and content, these potential partners can’t distribute your characters to their biggest potential audience and help build the brand. Be sure you are ready and get the help you need to do it right.
5. Develop non-sustainable characters. Do your characters appeal to a large target audience, or one at least big enough to support your creations and accomplish your goals? Do they fulfill a long-lasting need in the marketplace, which means they could become ‘evergreen’ characters? Or are they a flash on the horizon of trends? Be careful not to put your time and energy into characters, unless they have the audience potential to match and sustain your ideas and dreams.

Hammy from the 'Over the Hedge' Movie

Hammy from the ‘Over the Hedge’ Movie

All of these mistakes can be avoided with the proper training. I have two excellent classes which elaborate on these specific problems. One class, in which I collaborated with Michael Fry, creator of ‘Over the Hedge’ (DreamWorks) and ‘The Odd Squad –Bully Bait’ (Disney-Hyperion) is called ‘Building Character – How to Cash In On Your Characters Without Losing Your Soul.’

Or you may be planning to attend a trade show and interested in: ‘Marketing Your Art, Characters, Designs and New Brands Through Trade Shows’. Each of these can be purchased and downloaded through our website. The next FREE Ask J’net Q&A is open to everyone who wants to ask questions about characters and character licensing next week, Thursday, February 5th from 12:00-1:00 p.m. PST / 3:00-4:00 p.m. EST. The registration form includes a place at the bottom for your questions, and you will be sent the Dial-In Number and Access Code for the session the evening of February 4th. Register here.

Many Characters Start in the Art+Design Zone

17 06 2014
J'net gets reward from her client Scooter of Brokenheart Pet Rescue

J’net gets reward from her client Scooter of Brokenheart Pet Rescue

The diversity of manufacturers walking the show never ceases to amaze me. I have a request from a manufacturer of blankets, towels and other products specifically for western, native american and other types of realistic fine art. If this is a style of art that you do, please contact me by phone or email.

And now for the video blog portion of this post. I had the opportunity to meet with one of my clients today, a multi-talented visual artist who had decided last year came to Licensing Expo for the first time–Daryl Slaton of Tails of Whimsy.

The Mighty Machines of Mackie McKeens

The Mighty Machines of Mackie McKeens

Timree Paint Studio:
Timree Gold is already rich. Her hand painting talent is tremendous. Now she shares her favorite painted designs at the Licensing Expo with examples. “I made product samples in the categories that I feel are the most appropriate for the brand. We’ve got lunch boxes, plates, cell phone cases, stationery and pillows, that are just easy examples of what you can do with the property,” said Gold.

Timree Gold's Art Licensing Collections Shine

Timree Gold’s Art Licensing Collections Shine


3 Character Building Tips from ‘Over the Hedge’ Cartoonist Michael Fry

11 10 2012

If you are interested in creating characters that will become household names, then you will appreciate these tips from Michael Fry, co-creator and writer of the Over the Hedge comic strip.  These are just a fraction of the practical and valuable information to be shared next week, October 15-17, as Michael and I (former Dilbert VP of Licensing) teach ‘Building Character-How to Cash In On Your Characters Without Losing Your Soul,’ a six-hour webinar that will guide you through the intersection between art and commerce.  (To Register or Learn More)

Character Building Tips from Michael Fry:

1. Most successful characters are extensions of yourself. Both your best and worst self. The more honestly and clearly you see your strengths and flaws, the more authentic your characters will be.

2. Audiences care about characters they can relate to. But not in a generic way. Your characters should be a specific as possible. The audience will relate to those aspects that are specifically relatable to them.

3. No one cares about your character or creation as much as you do. NO ONE! Your publisher or syndicate represents many properties. You represent one. Your interests are similar. They are not the same.

They say content is king. But the truth is that viewers and readers fall in love with characters, not content. Whether it’s a novel, graphic novel, children’s book, comic strip, web comic or web animation, characters are what attract loyal fans. Join us next week and learn, as Michael puts it, “How I got two comic strips you’ve never heard of made into a prime time TV series and animated feature film.”

This is part of the Worldwide Creators’ Intensive series from All Art Licensing, where our goal is to bring you the best information and advice for creators, at really affordable prices. Check out the details here.

Awesome October Classes

24 09 2012

I’m back with an ‘Awesome October’ of classes scheduled and wanted to share it with you today. If you have animation, television, movie and product licensing dreams for your character concepts then this is your chance to learn from a fantastic businessman, creative dude and teacher, Michael Fry, who co-created Over the Hedge (with partner T.Lewis).  Michael and I are joining forces to teach ‘Building Character: How to Cash In On Your Characters Without Losing Your Soul. ’This is the first webinar in All Art Licensing’s Worldwide Creators’ Intensive Series for Fall 2012/Winter 2013.  These courses are designed to bring top names,  highly qualified speakers, to creators around the globe.  We will specialize in providing detailed, immediately useful, information at a price nearly any artist can afford. These are always online events (webinars) so you can attend from anywhere, ask questions, and download the course and presentation soon after the live event for further study.  You never need to worry about missing one spec of valuable information. And of course, it’s time for another Free Friday, Ask J’net Q&A, so read on…there is something here for everyone.

Ask J’net Q&A – Friday, October 5, 2012 9AM PDT (12 Noon EDT)

Join me for our next, wildly popular Q&A class, where you have the opportunity to tap into my knowledge,  experience and brainpower.  This one hour class is a ‘live’ phone event where you provide the questions and I provide the answers – for FREE! Below I’ve listed just a fraction of the questions I’ve answered over the years.  So sign-up today and don’t forget to send in your questions on your registration form!

  • How do you organize a licensor’s web site to appeal to manufacturers?
  • As an artist, do I need a blog?
  • How risky is it to do spec work?
  • When signing licensing deals, should a press release be done for each company?
  • If I don’t like doing borders and patterns, can I just do stand alone images?
  • What are the traits to look for in a good manufacturing partner?
  • What design and theme trends will be seen on product this year?
  • How do I get started in art licensing?
  • What are private label products?
  • What would be the first 5 questions I ask a manufacturer, if they express interest in using my artwork for licensing?
  • How do I negotiate a royalty with a major manufacturer that wants to pay a flat fee?
  • When I copyright a “collection” of designs under one copyright, are they all covered?
  • When creating seasonal art, how far in advance are manufacturers shopping for it?
  • How can I determine if I need an agent or not?

Introduction to Art Licensing – Sponsored by the Graphic Artists Guild – Wednesday, October 10th 11:00 AM PDT (2:00 PM EDT)

A great class for those thinking about or entering the art licensing field. Learn about how art licensing works in this live webinar — which is FREE for Graphic Artists Guild Members. It will cover the fundamentals of art licensing and provide insights to help you determine where you fit into this business. I will teach the art licensing process, timelines, today’s artist requirements and challenges that are to be expected, as well as valuable information on retailers, the agent/artist relationship, and much more. If you are already a ‘Guild’ member, you can sign up on their site for free, or become a member to take advantage of other benefits and then register.  All registration for this event is being graciously handled by the Graphic Artists Guild. Awesome-thank you! Register here.

Worldwide Creators’ Intensive – Building Character: How to Cash In On Your Characters Without Losing Your Soul

Mon-Wed, October 15 -17, 2012 (6+ hours of training—register before 9/30 and it’s only $85)

Taught by: Michael Fry, Co-Creator ‘Over the Hedge’ and Creator ‘Committed’ (Bio) and J’net Smith of All Art Licensing / DILBERT Marketer (Bio)

They say content is king. But the truth is that viewers and readers fall in love with characters, not content. Whether it’s a novel, graphic novel, comic strip, web comic or web animation, characters are what attract loyal fans and licensors. Audiences want to own and share a piece of what they love, whether it’s a T-shirt, a plush toy or a major motion picture. But how do you get your character from the page or screen to the store or theater? Build an audience and licensors will come, right? Yes, that’s part of it. But there’s more — a lot more to making sure your characters get the best shot at becoming household names.

Please join the co-creator and writer of the Over the Hedge comic strip, Michael Fry, and I for a 6 hour webinar held  over three-days that will guide you through the intersection between art and commerce to best develop and market your characters to their maximum potential. The live seminar includes an extensive downloadable audio and PowerPoint presentation that outlines each step in the process from creation, publication and brand building to promotion and licensing for television and film. You can learn more, register or see the  daily schedule for Building Character online or click here for a printed version of our Worldwide Creators’ Intensives for Fall 2012/Winter 2013.

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