Reports: Mattel Finalizing Deal to Buy Hit Entertainment

According to multiple news outlets, including the Financial Times, Mattel is in talks with Apax Partners to buy Hit Entertainment for £500 million. Two anonymous sources told the Financial Times that Mattel is in the final stages of negotiations to purchase the company that Apax bought in 2005 for £489 million. The sale of Hit will not include the group’s stake in children’s channel Sprout, but will include Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank Engine, Angelina Ballerina, Fireman Sam, and Pingu.

Angelina Ballerina Premieres New App for iPad

Callaway Digital Arts and Hit Entertainment have debuted its new Angelina’s New Ballet Teacher App for iPad is now available on Apple’s App Store.

The Angelina’s New Ballet Teacher App brings the dancer to life with narration, animation, puzzles, paint, and video. Each page of the story magically transforms into a painting page or interactive puzzle with the simple tap on the screen.

The app is available for $0.99 from the App Store, rolling out in the rest of the world early this summer.

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Hit Entertainment Names Licensees For New Barney Products

Barney is back with new licensees for products that will attract both young and old fans of the popular television show. Braha has obtained the license to create Barney plush puzzle mats while a Barney-inspired pillow will join the line of Pillow Pets from Ontel Products Corporation and CJ Products, LLC. Rasta Imposta is designing an adult Barney costume to complement the child’s costume they already produce. Yoostar is adding Barney & Friends to its library of content, allowing users to insert themselves into video footage from the show. Other apparel and accessories licensees include At Full Speed, Bio World, Classic Imports, Concept One and Planet Sox.

Shane Acker to Lead Thomas the Tank Engine Film Adaptation

Thomas the Tank Engine will star in a live-action fantasy film adaptation of the popular children’s television series. Academy Award-nominated director Shane Acker (9), has signed on to lead a creative team consisting of Academy Award-winning Weta Workshop (Avatar, The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Mattel’s entertainment properties design team. The goal of the new film is to make the Thomas characters and storyline more appealing to the entire family.

Hit Entertainment, which owns the Thomas franchise, has also named Chris Viscardi and Will McRobb (Alvin and the Chipmunks) and Josh Klausner (Shrek the Third, Date Night) as the writers for the film. Julia Pistor (Charlotte’s Web, Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events) will serve as the producer.

Thomas & Friends Pillow Pets to Launch This Year

Hit Entertainment has signed a licensing deal with Ontel Products Corporation and CJ Products, LLC to create Thomas the Tank Engine-inspired Pillow Pets, the first property that Ontel Products Corporation and CJ Products have taken on for My Pillow Pets.

The Thomas & Friends Pillow Pets will be available this year at mass and specialty retail stores in the U.S. and Canada. The product will feature a strap that closes underneath to transform Thomas from his engine form to a pillow.

Roary Toys Racing into Stores Next Month

Roary the Racing Car is zooming onto store shelves in the U.S. next month. Following the U.S. broadcast launch of the television series on Sprout, the new Roary line will hit Toys “R” Us stores and Toysrus.com in March.

As the U.S. master toy licensee for the brand, Bandai will offer a full line of Roary toys, including die-cast, push-along Racing Stars, Talking Turbo Vehicles, Roary R/C, Silver Hatch Racetrack play sets, and more. The die-cast vehicles, Talking Turbo Vehicles, and Roary R/C will be packaged with a special episode of Roary the Racing Car on DVD.

Following the Bandai toy launch, K’nex will release sets that will allow kids to recreate their favorite Roary characters and scenes.

The first Roary DVD, Roary The Racing Car, from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, will launch at mass retailers in June. The series was created by Chapman Entertainment and is represented by Hit Entertainment in North America.

Angelina Ballerina and Thomas and Friends Premiere in Latin America

HIT Entertainment and Discovery Kids have debuted new episodes of Thomas and Friends in CG animation, as well as the new CG animated series Angelina Ballerina the Next Steps, in Latin America. In its first week of launch, Angelina Ballerina the Next Steps received the top ratings for girls ages 4-11 across all kids pay-TV networks in Colombia and Brazil, and ranked as the No. 2 kids’ program for girls 4-11 across all kids pay-TV networks in Mexico and Argentina.

Thomas and Friends
introduces new characters including Charlie, a small engine with a reputation for fun and mischief, and the Japanese engine Hiro. Joining them are Kevin the crane and Victor, an engine from the Sodor Steam Works. The characters were first unveiled in the feature-length special Thomas & Friends: Hero of the Rails, which aired on Discovery Kids on May 7.

Angelina Ballerina the Next Steps
is an extension of the original Angelina Ballerina books by author Katharine Holabird and illustrator Helen Craig. Each episode stars Angelina and consists of two 11-minute CG animated stories linked with a live-action segment featuring all types of young dancers and musicians.

Upper Deck, HIT Entertainment Release Thomas and Friends Trading Cards

The Upper Deck Company, in conjunction with HIT Entertainment, has released the first trading cards of long-running television show Thomas and Friends. The trading cards, Thomas and Friends Sodor Adventures Collectipak, is an 18-card set including stickers, tattoos, and pop-up cards features characters from the show.

The set is targeted to children ages 3 to 6, and is based on the travels of Thomas and the other characters around the Island of Sodor. Players journey around the islands and help the engines get back to Tidmouth Sheds.

Upper Deck plans to release additional trading card sets based on the series. The second set will launch in November.

HIT Entertainment and Dizzy Feet Partner for Youth Dance Program

HIT Entertainment is collaborating with the Dizzy Feet Foundation (DFF) to expand its youth dance program nationally. The Angelina Ballerina Stars of Tomorrow campaign successfully ended its pilot program in the Bronx earlier this year, and the organizations plan to expand into at least three other cities’ Boys & Girls Clubs outside of New York this fall.

The partnership with DFF includes a dance scholarship–four to be awarded locally and one nationally–as well as access to DFF choreographers and special appearances by celebrity members of the Foundation.

Board members for DFF include Nigel Lythgoe, producer of So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol, and Katie Holmes, who will help guide the program as it develops. These members, as well as others on the DFF steering committee, will make public service announcements promoting the program, to be aired during the Angelina Ballerina The Next Steps television show on PBS KIDS.

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HIT Entertainment Launches Dance Education Program

HIT Entertainment has launched a new pro-social campaign to increase accessibility to dance programs for children through the Angelina Ballerina brand, the Angelina Ballerina Stars of Tomorrow campaign. The company will be working with the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club, located in the Bronx, who will pilot the program.

The campaign will provide access to dance education for children ages 5 to 12 to raise awareness of the benefits of dance, including building confidence, inspiring creativity, and promoting physical health. The campaign will also feature a microsite on www.AngelinaBallerina.com, which will include the program’s mission, partners, local news, events, and ways to get involved. The site will also feature videos from the Stars of Tomorrow classes.

The pilot program at Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club will offer Angelina Ballerina dance classes in ballet, hip hop, latin, and African dance. Teachers will receive in class materials specific to the program, including an Angelina Ballerina Tip of the Week, posters, and nutritional information. Each class will begin with a warm-up routine based on the new PBS KIDS series, Angelina Ballerina the Next Steps.

HIT Entertainment plans for the campaign to be a multi-year endeavor.