LazyTown is shown in 170 countries and reaches children in 500 million homes. The company has around 300 active contracts at any given time, both with television stations and a variety of producers who have signed an agreement to use the brand. Now LazyTown plans to conquer Asia with the help of Turner Broadcasting. "LazyTown has a very strong position in North America and Europe, in every sing...
The adventure of Latibær aimed at a foreign market.
Magnús Scheving and his colleagues are planning a large-scale foreign marketing of the adventure of the Sports elf and his friends in Latibær. Sverrir Sveinn Sigurðarson talked to the “town council” of Latibær about the plans, but the creation will go by the name “LazyTown” in other countries of the world.
The children’s adventure of Latibær has in recent years enjoyed great popularity in this country. The stories of the people of Latibær and the Sports elf are well known, who comes to visit the town to free the children in Latibær from the suffering of various ailments such as laziness and inactivity, eating habits, sugar eating and selfishness, and has earned a permanent place in the hearts of the children in the country and even adults as well.
The Icelandic adventure of Latibær has been well taken care of, and there is a good supply of various products and entertainment related to the creation of the work. A play about Latibær was staged, which was very popular on stage in the Loftkastalinn Theater. Magnús Scheving has also been tireless performing as Sports elf in kindergartens and at various gatherings where children have gathered. Three books have been published about Latibær, the board game Latador, a CD and clothing to name a few. In addition, Búnaðarbanki has acquired the rights to use Latibær and its characters in marketing material for children, and also Fiskafurðir hf. for the products Orku-Lýsi and Orku-Fjör.
In addition to this, a new play directed by Sigurður Sigurjónsson based on the book “Latibær í vandræðum” will be premiered at the National Theater at the end of September.
Lack of good stories abroad
It should therefore come as no surprise to a few that the author of the work of creation and his collaborators, in view of its popularity, have begun to pay close attention to foreign markets where market sizes and possibilities are far greater than in Iceland. That is the end of the matter.
“We have found that people all over the world are looking for new ideas (“concepts”) and whole characters with good plot and message. There is a need for new children’s adventures that are ready to use, and at the same time the possibility to build on them in any medium” says Magnús Scheving.
“Lately, murder games and various forms of violence tend to come up. Therefore we create non-violent and fun children’s material that children like to participate in through sports. That’s why we put the Sports elf into this because I felt I needed a person to personify physical activity in children” says Magnús.
“Latibær’s world of thoughts and message is not only connected to movement but also to various life values, such as being positive and thinking about one’s neighbor and not only about oneself” Sigurður Sigurjónsson adds.
“In Latibær there is a feeling that even if you are not completely perfect, you can still be happy with life. There is six years of development work behind Latibær in the Icelandic market. We have therefore been collecting, and various things have been said, done and examined. We have now reached the point where that we are improving what we felt needed to be improved, but also sharpening the aspects that we felt were positive. We are reducing preaching and broadening the characters at the same time” says Magnús.
Aiming for a foreign market
Magnús Scheving and his partners are currently working on promotional material that will enable them to introduce Latibær, or “LazyTown”, to influential foreign investors in the world of the entertainment industry.
In this promotional material, multimedia technology is used in an innovative way, and Magnús says that only a few companies in the world use such promotions, including the Disney company in the United States. Latibær’s characters were redrawn in two dimensions, and at the same time a three-dimensional computer model was made of them for the presentation material. Work has been done on making a multimedia presentation of Latibær, and at the same time work is being done on hand-guided puppets, so that it is possible to make a puppet film about the adventures of Latibær.
“What one has been waiting for is this multimedia market presentation with everything that belongs to it. I have not wanted to show Latibær in the form it was. It was actually built in six years and as a result, the design was followed. In one picture the Sports elf may have a big beard and in the next picture he has a small beard, and so on. It lacked the overall look I’ve been waiting for.
I have recruited financially strong investors to start a company called LazyTown International Inc. Emil Grímsson, CFO of P. Samúelsson Toyota dealer in Iceland, is the expected chairman of the company.
Meanwhile, I had shown these ideas to four investors abroad, and they were all interested in buying this, as Latibær looked like then. However, I backed out of it because I want to show it when it’s ready, in the form I want Latibær to be” says Magnús.
He says that the promotional package is made with the aim of contacting foreign investors who have the resources to do things of the size required by the international market. “We are booked for meetings with very financially strong parties abroad until December.”
“The marketing itself, when the development work is completed, is very expensive in a foreign market. That will be the main cost of this project” says Sigurður Arnljótsson, managing director of software and computer graphics company CCP ehf. “But the turnover in this market is of course enormous compared to the market in this country. There are completely different sizes. Companies in this sector can become significantly large. Tintin is e.g. a very large company in Belgium and the Smurfs as well as a stable company in Ireland. And Disney is one of the largest companies in the United States” says Magnús.
See various marketing opportunities
Then it is straightforward to ask whether the Latibær people have made marketing plans. Are certain sales targets on paper, for example? “The point is that it is difficult to make detailed business plans for phenomena such as Latibær that can be implemented in so many different ways. But with this multimedia market presentation, we can show all possible ways to work with the Latabæjar idea, and we believe we are well equipped to put this on the market for that reason” says Magnús.
However, they say they can see various possibilities where Latibær’s content on exercise and health could be utilized. For example, there is a market for TV shows, children’s literature, video games and sportswear.
“For example, the vitamin market in the United States. Manufacturers there need a “concept” to make vitamins more marketable to children in competition with, for example, high-fat and sugary foods” says Magnús.
They say that by far the largest market for creative works such as Latibær or Lazy Town is to be found in the United States, and the policy will be set on that market mainly.
In a good category with Disney
“We at the software and computer graphics company CCP ehf. took part in redesigning the appearance of the characters and surroundings of Latibær together with Magnús. First, the characters, which were originally drawn very pleasantly by Halldór Baldursson, were redesigned or drawn in two dimensions. We got a British artist named Al Gaivoto to collaborate. He has drawn in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, the Fred Flintstone and Woody Woodpecker cartoons” says Sigurður Arnljótsson.
“Characters and environments are being introduced in a computer-based 3D that appeals to people today. Not only is it possible to sell a book or cartoon, but you can also create a 3D computer cartoon and video game. It can therefore be said that we are here to put Latibær in the same quality category in terms of appearance and product as the Disney company” says Sigurður.
The multimedia presentation package will also include information about all the products that have been produced under the Latibær brand, as well as information about the market here in Iceland and how sales have gone in each case. There would also be pictures of possible products related to Latibær. Magnús would like to point out that Máni Svavarsson has composed all the music related to Latibær, and it is foreseeable that this will continue.
The look of Latibær itself was also redesigned by Snorri Hilmarsson, a set designer, and he says that he has been influenced by his environment here in Reykjavík. “A Swede came here and said about Reykjavík that it was as if the houses had been thrown out of a plane. When the British saw this design, they felt a great mess in Latibær; there was not one style in all the houses, but it was different from each direction. This is just like here in Reykjavík where you are brought up” says Snorri.
Magnús says that the goal was that Latibær could be anywhere similar to Duckcity in the Donald Duck magazines.
Puppets and foreign plays
In addition, work has been done on making puppets with the characters of Latibær. “We create latex puppets that are similar to those used in the “Spitting Image” TV shows” says Guðmundur Þór Kárason, puppet designer. “There are two of us working on this, me and Stefán Jörgen Ágústsson. We shape the characters in clay with all the details and then mold them in latex, which is a soft rubber-like material. These puppets are controlled by hand. “
“One of the main advantages of the puppets is that it is very easy to voice puppets in other languages” says Magnús. The photo will be taken on 35 mm film and will be 70 minutes long. Sigurður Sigurjónsson will be the director and Karl Óskarsson will be the cinematographer, since Karl has now become one of the leading British filmmakers.”
But what about the play about Latibær? Foreign children’s plays are now being staged in Iceland. Is it not possible for the children’s plays about Latibær to be staged in foreign theaters? “Of course. That must be the case. Only a matter of time. As an actor, I think children will always enjoy coming to the theater and seeing plays like this with actors of flesh and blood” says Sigurður Sigurjónsson.
“What I find positive about this is also that Latibær has 80 people at work at the moment. Sixteen people are only working full time on projects related to marketing LazyTown abroad. It is also good to be able to complete projects here at home and create employment in this field. That’s a key point, and it would be great if some of the things related to Latibær in this country could be produced. That would be the best thing” says Magnús Scheving.
Great success and advantages of Iceland as a test market
As mentioned before, Latibær has enjoyed great success in this country during the time that the sports elf has laid the rules of life for the children. Magnús Scheving is asked to look in the rearview mirror and describe the story of this adventure, which can be called an adventure in two senses, i.e. both in a narrative and commercial sense.
“It is, of course, the play Áfram Latibær which was seen by about 30,000 people. The videotape has sold 20,000 copies. Three books have been published about the adventures in Latibær, and they have sold about 20,000 copies. CDs have sold about 16,000 copies. copies and the board game Latador has sold about 8,000 copies since it was launched last Christmas 1998.
There have also been regular handball games, T-shirts sold as well as Sports Elf’s clothes. There are various things that have come out of this.
Magnús talks about the small size of the Icelandic market. “Marketing and doing everything well, design and other things, costs an incredible amount of money. The Icelandic market is very small, and when you start with an idea like Latibær you have to decide whether to do things badly, or to do things well and then have less profit, but Latibær has tried to have its products from very high quality. Latibær, for example, has not been associated with a product in Iceland unless I was able to confirm its quality without fear and stand behind the product wholeheartedly. For example, I can recommend fish oil, skyr (dairy) and savings.”
But the good thing about Iceland, no matter how small, is that the country is a great test market. Here is a quick response and you can try an idea and get a quick response on whether it is good or not. Children are also very demanding spectators. They say exactly what they think, and either they like it or they do not like it at all. We therefore have a very tough group of buyers. Many people think that it is possible to offer children anything, but that is far from the case. They are harsh critics” says Magnús Scheving.
Children are taught something about finances and savings
Magnús says that Latibær has also been used to teach Icelanders a bit about saving, but Búnaðarbanki gained the rights to use Latibær and its characters on various products for children that are related to the individual’s finances.
“I feel like everything is given for free today, shirts and hats and such. Therefore, I decided to create a special currency for Búnaðarbanki, which is Latibær’s currency. If children come and deposit money in their bank account at the bank, they get Lato money back.
They can then e.g. buy a hat or shirt for the Lato money and thus feel better about the value of money, i.e. that things are not free. “I think money and children go hand in hand” says Magnús.
Interviewees are finally asked for a final word that describes their vision for Latibær.
“New Disney” says Sigurður Arnljótsson in a light tone.
“This is a small Icelandic version of the Disney company that we envision, which produces high-quality and educational entertainment for children” says Magnús, adding that it would be very positive if Latibær could create jobs in this country in the field of art and entertainment. “These activities can create interesting jobs in many sectors of the economy, as the examples from abroad prove, and it can be stated that thinking and creativity do not pollute” says Magnús.
“Well, I’m just moved to the town, so to speak, and hope that Latibær will be a fun and positive town in the future, and humane. Then I would be satisfied” says Sigurður Sigurjónsson in the end.