Genius Brands International, Inc. through its WOW! Unlimited Media subsidiary, Frederator Network, announced that it has completed a deal with TOHO International, a subsidiary of a Japanese media company. TOHO International is making a multi-million dollar investment to acquire a 50 per cent stake in two of the company’s original productions, the critically-acclaimed series, Bee and PuppyCat, following its successful launch on Netflix, Frederator’s pop culture phenomenon Bravest Warriors, and the upcoming series Catbug, based on the popular character created in the Bravest Warriors’ series.
The deal provides a framework for Genius Brands’ Frederator Network and TOHO International to co-produce new content for the properties and cooperatively develop a global consumer products campaign. Genius Brands will oversee global distribution and consumer product development for the properties, excluding Asia, which will be handled by TOHO International. Additionally, a dedicated online store for Bee and PuppyCat was launched in September 2022 to coincide with the series’ release on Netflix.
Frederator Network’s parent company WOW! Unlimited Media CEO Michael Hirsh said, “Demand for quality animated content is greater than ever, and yet we recognize the importance of delivering productions that can stand out and provide enduring value. As illustration, I’m proud to report that the LA Times recently voted Bee and PuppyCat as one of the 20 shows our TV experts are most excited to watch this fall. In fact, the sneak peek trailer of Bee and PuppyCat achieved over two million views within 24 hours and has successfully launched on Netflix. At Frederator, our mission is to foster the creativity of content creators and give them a platform to get their projects seen. We are thrilled that our productions, Bravest Warriors, Bee and PuppyCat and Catbug, are now attracting a global audience. Our partnership with Toho will allow us to further expand the reach of these two series, both in terms of distribution and upcoming consumer products.”
TOHO president Hiro Matsuoka said, “This new deal aligns with our long-term strategy, as we build a more effective system for distribution and licensing of our own IP. We have seen the tremendous global popularity of Bravest Warriors and the growth of Bee and PuppyCat, as well as the growing popularity of Catbug along with the overall western anime genre. With our production resources and distribution capabilities across Asia, complementing Genius Brands and Frederators’ expansive network in key markets around the world, we anticipate these two properties will continue to develop a global fan base as we introduce new content and merchandise.”
Genius Brands chairman and CEO Andy Heyward commented, “This transaction is a huge privilege for us at Genius Brands to now partner with the pre-eminent media company in Japan and their visionary management. We believe it is further validation of our strategic acquisition of WOW! Unlimited Media and their impressive portfolio of original content, which we can then migrate to the streamers, our own Kartoon Channel! and media platforms around the world.”
From its start as a two-part, 10-minute short on Frederator Networks that became an immediate hit amassing millions of views on YouTube, to a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign to launch the new Bee and PuppyCat series on Netflix, fans and critics have driven the breakout success of Bee and PuppyCat, with over 2.5M fans across all social channels. Created by Natasha Allegri and produced by Frederator Network, the series’ first full season premiered on 6 September as a Netflix series. Bee and PuppyCat follows a 20-something temp worker named Bee and her mysterious companion PuppyCat as the two travel on fantastic adventures across space while taking on various intergalactic odd jobs to help make rent.
Created by Pendleton Ward and headed by showrunner Breehn Burns, Bravest Warriors tells the story of four teenage heroes-for-hire in the year 3085, as they warp through the universe to save adorable aliens and their worlds using the power of their emotions. Launched on YouTube in November 2012, the series rapidly grew an impressive and dedicated online fan base earning 250 million views, three million likes, and over a billion minutes watched. Bravest Warriors was the 2013 Shorty Award winner for Best Web Show and the Online Film and Video (Animation) Honoree at The Webby Awards in 2015.
The Catbug character was created by Breehn Burns and featured in the Frederator Network’s digital series Bravest Warriors. Catbug is growing rapidly into a viral, pop cultural phenomenon across social media platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with videos featuring Catbug achieving over 200 million views to date and counting. Additionally, over 200 million GIFs have been created for Catbug on Giphy.