Animation is another amazing platform for HeadStart’s global plan and you can’t help but be amazed at the progress of a small Australian locally held helmet company that has been transformed into a globally recognised Toy & Entertainment organisation.
Mentored by his father, Andrew Hendy has taken the reins and through innovation is guiding HeadStart International on a journey which shows no boundaries. Andrew has been the catalyst for numerous projects of recent times, which includes the Resoftables plush range, which has already been responsible for the recycling of two million drink vessels. He has also more recently launched a national promotion with Woolworths featuring a collectible range of Disney/Ooshies, which would compare favorably with any such promotion anywhere in the world. Fiercely supportive of his team at HeadStart, they continue to break records. Toys have always been about entertainment and Andrew recognized this early on and as a result, HeadStart Animation is another conduit to them developing and being in control of their own IP. We recently learned that HeadStart had cut a deal with Cartoon Network to produce an animation series for their brand BFF — Best Furry Friends. This series is now on-air in Greater China. We spoke to Andrew and posed some questions to him in relation to his current and on-going plans for an animation portfolio.
Hey Andrew, thanks for your time. To begin with can you tell us a little about your new deal with Cartoon Network for a 52 episode series for Best Furry Friends?
We have been delighted to work with Cartoon Network on the Best Furry Friends TV show. The first series aired last year in the Australian market on both Boomerang and 9Go! The remaining episodes will role-out through 2021. We’ve also aired in China on Youku, quickly becoming a top animated series after launch. We are excited to bring Youku much more content for the Chinese market over the coming years. In addition we have recently partnered with Toonz media to sell the content in Europe and other markets around the world.
Understanding the history of your family in the Toy Business, what led to HeadStart pursuing the animation category?
The process of creating toy IP is all about storytelling. We have one of the most creative teams in the world and we will be storytelling through the physical and digital worlds across our toy, animation and gaming divisions.
Do you have any plans to move Ooshies into the animated arena?
It has certainly always been the dream. We would need to work with our licensing partners to make that happen. By showing the world how good the content we are making is, it might just open a few doors in the future.
I notice with interest that you have moved to develop a property portfolio to shop at the Cannes MIPCOM global animation market. Can you give us a short overview of your additional brands… What have your learned?
We are sharing two new animated series at MIPCOM and looking for broadcast and licensing partners. The first is called Unicorn Girls, we have completed the pilot episode and it’s looking AMAZING. There is a real depth of character and storytelling. We feel that there is not enough good animated content aimed at girls 4-10 years old and after the success of our BFF series we are bringing something brand new into that space. Secondly, we are introducing Trever and the Tricky Tractor, a brand-new preschool series co-produced with Greg Page, the original yellow Wiggle. Greg is bringing to the table a wealth of experience as well as a background in early childhood development. The content is currently being produced in motion capture animation and will be like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
With the proliferation of brands available on the market today, what differentiates your brands from the next?
Having been heavily involved in the toy industry for so many years, we wondered why there was so much animated content for boys which was driving the toy aisle whereas girls were not being served much original content at all. Mostly the top toy brands such as Barbie and My Little Pony would be turned into animation but very rarely does a great animation present itself that girls can engage with and want to carry over to their physical world.
With the architecture of the global marketplace evolving daily, has the engagement of the consumer required more innovative strategies to gain their support?
I don’t think so, in fact I think with streaming services taking over it’s going to get a lot easier for small to medium content creators to get cut through. Traditional TV networks are limited by their schedule whereas streaming services can bring unlimited content to the consumer, it is then up to us to engage the viewer and have them coming back for more.
What will MIPCOM look like in 2020?
It will look like a website and lots of zoom calls.
What’s 2021 looking like for you?
Our biggest year ever. Our toy business is booming, we will have three TV series in development and our mobile gaming company, Cactus Studios, will release our first three mobile games on iOS and Andriod.
Thanks Andrew, we will check-in on you again shortly to learn more about you plans both locally and globally. When you look forward and plan it is amazing how things go!