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My 15 years of licensing

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I can’t quite believe I have been at Aardman for 15 years, so I thought I’d write a few words to celebrate. A lot has changed in the Licensing world and at Aardman over those years. I thought it would be fun to remember some of my favourite moments, amazing products we’ve created and partnerships we’ve made over the years.

I am currently Category Manager for Publishing and Soft Lines. I first started as Licensing Co-ordinator in 2005 in the run up to Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Our office was a temporary building in the car park. Although our office wasn’t glamourous it was a fun time working with a Hollywood studio like DreamWorks.

The way approvals mostly worked then was by faxing (yes faxing!) approval forms over a fax machine to the licensee. We had an interesting range of products around the movie. My favourite products were the intricate 3D Wecso alarm clocks. Also Corgi cars produced a miniature Anti-pesto van and bun-vac, the attention to detail was amazing.

Product licensing Aardman

Over that period a lot of my time was also taken up with Wallace and Gromit approvals from Japan. A large company called Sumitomo produced 100’s of promotional items a year. From towels to dog coats to car gear stick covers!

Fifteen years later and still a good proportion of my time is taken up working with our partners in Japan, this time on Shaun the Sheep. The Japanese market still fascinates me. The licensing market is very developed over there and the products and designs are so forward thinking, they often influence what we do here in the UK. They are content hungry and part of my job is to work with our amazing in-house designers and feed in what assets our licensees need from illustrations and graphics to photography. We produce a new pack of assets suitable for apparel or gifting every month.

We also work with agents in China. This territory is relatively new to licensing so a different approach and relationship is taken. We’ve recently just launched a fabulous apparel range with Fila children’s sportswear in China. The campaign has been successfully driven by an engaging social media campaign.

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Aardman recently collaborated with Italian high fashion sportswear brand FILA Kids China on a line of children’s clothing featuring @shaunthesheep. The creative promotional partnership, Shaun the Sheep x FILA Kids China launched with a 'Shake it with Shaun' themed campaign on Children’s Day, and achieved an impressive 11M views in just 24 hours. The new product range consists of apparel, footwear and accessories for children, supported by in-store activities featuring Shaun the Sheep character costumes, interactive dance machines for shoppers to enjoy, as well as a Tik Tok online dancing challenge. . . . #Aardman #ShauntheSheep #FILA #FILAKids #FILAKidsChina #licensing #characterlicensing #brandlicensing #apparel #sportswear #licenseglobal #licensingexpo #chinamarket

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I absolutely loved working on The Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists in 2012. It felt such a personal film for the studio. Its still one of my favourite Aardman films. We had real fun dressing up as pirates, researching pirate products and coming up with pirate puns! The icing on the cake for me was creating a publishing program with publishers Bloomsbury creating some truly beautiful and funny books, that and meeting Hugh Grant of course!

We’ve also had great success with Shaun the Sheep over the years. He’s our most popular character around the world. It’s been amazing to work alongside two feature films. This is such an exciting process to be a part of; we love showing visitors around the studio. Fifteen years later and the creativity and attention to detail at the studio never ceases to amaze me. We really hope this feeds in to the products. A highlight of working on Shaun the Sheep was travelling to Germany and seeing a whole shop full of Shaun product. That’s something we rarely get the chance to see; all the work we do in one place.

So it’s 25 years since Shaun the Sheep featured in The Close Shave and we are celebrating this, this year. We have created some beautiful silver jewellery with Licensed to Charm, there are some new Funko figurines and we have resurrected the original Shaun back pack we produced in the 90’s made famous by Spice Girl Baby Spice!

My absolute passion is children’s publishing. I spend a lot of time working with publishers around the world coming up with ideas for books and ranges for our brands. Every territory is different. What books work in China or France or the UK are all very different. I also love making new connections and developing partnerships with publishers looking for new opportunities.

We’ve produced some amazing publications and ranges of books. Brand new stories written for Shaun the Sheep, educational titles with Timmy Time and the British Council, beautiful picture books using our photography from the films, art books, biographies, comic strips and my favourites Find Shaun illustrated books; we’ve produced six titles in Japan working with the talented artist Andy Janes and selling 100,000’s of copies so far.

Our team at Aardman has grown so much over the years. And it truly is a great team to work with. We try to be an approachable, down to earth bunch. Working from home has been a challenge, I really miss chatting to all my colleagues and having visitors to the studio. But I do enjoy seeing my kids when they come back from school and wearing trackie bottoms all day!

Connect with Jess over on LinkedIn.

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