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‘Bob the Builder' Quickly Constructing a Following in the United States

6 Jul, 2001 By: John Jimenez

Only months after the merger between HIT Entertainment and Lyrick Studios, Bob the Builder, the animated construction worker from the United Kingdom, is building a market for himself in America.

Bob's third home video installment, Pets in a Pickle, comes out Aug. 7(prebook July 10) on VHS at $14.99.

“Bob,” a longtime HIT property, was a key ingredient in the companies'merger because of his success in the United Kingdom and Lyrick's presence inthe United States.

“One of the things they thought would be very smart was to take advantage of our distribution system and our relationship with retailers,” says Debbie Ries, who was with Lyrick before the merger and is now HIT's senior v.p. of global sales.

The stop-frame animation series was born in the United Kingdom two years ago, starting as a 10-minute short running on the “telly” once a week. Since then, “Bob” has sold 2 million videos in the United Kingdom, roughly thesame number as preschoolers in the country.

The series, targeted to 3- to 7-year-olds, features a construction worker, his assistant and his machines as they encounter problems and use teamwork to fix them. The show's tagline: “Can we fix it? Yes we can!”

“It's a little more boy than girl, but not very much,” says Ries. “And it has really positive messages, so mom will like it too.”

Pets in a Pickle features four adventures in which the town's pets keepgetting into trouble. It also has four three-minute mini-adventures with educational themes that link the shows together.

“We anticipate we'll ship 350,000 units prior to street date,” Ries says. She notes that in the United States, the first two releases, which both came out May 22, have sold “just shy of 500,000 units in six weeks.”

Both titles, Can We Fix It? and To the Rescue, have been among the top 10 nontheatrical children's videos since their debut, according to VideoScandata.

The show has rolled out a little differently in the United States than overseas. Ries says HIT is probably one of the few companies that believes, “You don't necessarily need television to launch a series [as evidenced by “Barney,” “Veggie Tales” and “The Wiggles.”] That being said, TV makes things much bigger,” she says.

Bob's extremely popular daily show on Nick Jr. has served to drive a lot of domestic awareness, as have 35 to 40 licensees.

“Bob” will have one more release this year, Bob's White Christmas, for theholidays. He will make his DVD debut for Christmas 2002, the last of five scheduled releases next year.

“I think our audience will build quickly here,” Ries says. “We are being very careful about the amount of product we release. We want ‘Bob' to be around in 10 years, 20 years, 50 years.”

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