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United Media Being Sold to Iconix

E.W. Scripps Co. said Tuesday it will sell United Media for $175 million to Joe Boxer owner Iconix Brand Group Inc. The sale of United Media Licensing also means Iconix has a new partnership with the family of the late “Peanuts” creator, Charles Schulz. They’ll receive 20 percent ownership in the unit that owns “Peanuts” and pay that percentage of the sale price. United Media Licensing also represents other character brands such as Dilbert and Fancy Nancy, but the bulk of its licensing business comes from “Peanuts.”

In 2009, revenue of the unit fell 10 percent to nearly $92 million. That figure includes United Media’s syndication operations, which Scripps will still own, meaning it will still syndicate comic strips and editorial features.

Scripps said the cash deal will close by the end of the second quarter.

CPSC Approves Mattel’s Request for In-House Testing

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has voted unanimously to approve Mattel’s request to use two more of its own company laboratories for the third-party checks on its toys. The CPSC said Mattel was able to show that its in-house testing would provide equal or greater consumer safety protection than an outside lab.

Under law passed in 2008, the makers of children’s products must perform independent third-party tests for lead, lead paint, and other potential dangers. The legislation has a provision that allows CPSC to consider requests from manufacturers who want to use their own testing facilities for third-party checks.

MEG Signs New Broadcast Deals for In My Pocket, Hires Sales Lead

MEG Toys has signed new broadcast deals for its new animated television series, Puppy In My Pocket Adventures in Pocketville, produced in HD. The series (52 x 13 minute episodes) will debut later this year in Italy, and across the rest of the world in 2011. Presales have been negotiated throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

MEG and Giochi Preziosi, co-producers with Mondo TV on the series, will coordinate and manage the licensing program for Adventures in Pocketville. Giochi Preziosi will manage Europe, excluding the UK, while MEG, in conjunction with its merchandising agent Licensing Works, will oversee the other territories. The new television series licensees will join Puppy In My Pocket licensees, including Scholastic Books, Bakery Craft, NTD, Senario, Cadaco, Wiesner, and Redan.

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North American Comic Book Stores to Celebrate Free Comic Book Day

On May 1st, comic book retailers across North America will give out over two million comic books free of charge, in celebration of the 9th annual Free Comic Book Day.

Comic books will suit everyone’s taste, from Toy Story, Shrek, and Sonic: the Hedgehog to Iron Man, Superman, and even Lady Gaga.

Publishers set to participate include Dark Horse Comics, DC Comics, IDW Publishing, Image Comics, and Marvel Comics. Along with the free books, comic book stores will host creator signings, special sales, and encourage customers to dress up as their favorite super hero or comic book character.

To find a local store and to learn more about Free Comic Book Day go to www.freecomicbookday.com, or follow Free Comic Book Day on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/FCBD10.

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Big Idea to Release New VeggieTales DVD, Teams with Manufacturers

Big Idea Entertainment is releasing a brand new VeggieTales adventure targeted towards girls, VeggieTales: Sweetpea Beauty—A Girl After God’s Own Heart. The DVD, to be released on July 31 in Christian market stores and on August 3 in the general marketplace, tells a tale of true beauty.

When a decree is made that only the most beautiful can rule the land, the insecure Queen Blueberry banishes Sweetpea Beauty to a dark forest. Sweetpea’s fate seems bleak until a charming prince, a band of merry minstrels, and seven snow peas come to her rescue. The DVD also features the tale of Snoodlerella and bonus features such as sing-along songs.

Beginning July 31, Big Idea Entertainment will roll out a line of Sweetpea Beauty-themed consumer products. Merchandise will include plush toys of Sweetpea Beauty and Prince Larry from Gund, a puzzle from Talicor, purse and shoe charms from Crocs/Jibbitz, and more.

Disney Greenlights New Monsters Movie, Plus Pirates 4 and The Muppets

During a presentation on Thursday by Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross, Disney unveiled its upcoming slate of movies.

Pixar will release a sequel to Monsters, Inc. in November 2012. Monsters, Inc. debuted in theaters in 2001, and has grossed over $525 million worldwide. Ross also announced that Pixar’s Brave has been scheduled for June 15, 2012.

Other upcoming movies include Pirates of the Caribbean 4 and The Muppets in 2011, and Prom in 2012.

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Brandberry Appointed as The Wiggles’ Licensing Agent

Brandberry has been picked as The Wiggles’ new licensing agent in North America. Brandberry will handle all licensing categories for the children’s entertainment group.

The Wiggles are featured on Sprout, as well as on the virtual world Wiggletime.com, and the group’s website, TheWiggles.com. Each year, The Wiggles release two new DVDs and CDs, embark on two North American concert tours that visit more than 70 cities, and are featured in Six Flags Theme Parks with five Wiggles World theme areas.

Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of The Wiggles.

K’NEX Donates Portion of Holiday Sales to Philadelphia Children’s Hospital

On April 6, K’NEX donated more than $20,000 to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), a donation that was the result of the company’s holiday fundraiser last year. During last November and December, K’NEX pledged to donate 10 percent of KNEX.com sales during those months to The Cancer Center at CHOP. The company also accepted additional donations through its website.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has been ranked No. 1 for pediatric cancer care by U.S. News and World Report and is the nation’s largest provider of services for pediatric cancer patients. Donations are helping CHOP researchers find the best non-invasive treatments and, ultimately, cures for every type of childhood cancer.

CHOP develops new therapies to treat pediatric leukemia and other blood disorders, brain tumors, sarcomas, retinoblastoma, and neuroblastoma.

Bella Sara Expands into Accessories

Bella Sara has partnered with Berkshire Fashions, Inc. for a new line of Bella Sara-branded accessories. Berkshire Fashions will design and produce headwear, cold-weather accessories, hats, scarves, hosiery, slipper socks, raingear, and packaged panties that will feature Bella Sara’s positive messages and beautiful imagery.

Recently, Bella Sara launched a sleepwear line with licensee, Bees and Jam, LLC, and a toy line with JAKKS Pacific.