AN ANIMATION WIZARD WHO BRINGS BRANDS TO LIFE

How Obie Scott Wade Turns Icons Into Pop Entertainment

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Name: Obie Scott Wade, president of ObieCo Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based production company, that in addition to developing advertainment projects, has worked on Warner Bros.' animated Baby
One of Mr. Wade's current projects is the creation of a black-and-white animated feature starring insect characters that live in the dirt behind the world-famous 'Hollywood' sign. James Garner is one of the voices in the animated film noir takeoff that is being produced for Turner Classic Movies.

Looney Tunes
property and developed concepts for Walt Disney Co.

What he does: Brings to life brand icons as animated characters that can generate new revenue streams as licensed merchandise.

Credentials: In 1999, Mr. Wade secured the media rights to Paul Frank's t-shirt designs, then, together with the clothing designer, created the animated series Julius and Friends, made up of 26 "Webisodes" that featured the voice of Jason Schwartzman (I Heart Huckabees, Rushmore). In addition to airing online, the series was featured at the Sundance film festival in 2001 and 2002 and was used to promote and grow the brand in a grassroots fashion through the use at apparel trade shows, hip gallery exhibits, then later on TV and in Paul Frank stores.

His latest project: Representing the media and merchandise rights to Jel Sert's Otter Pops brand, a line of frozen deserts whose flavors are named after animal-like characters like Sir Isaac Lime, Little Orphan Orange, Strawberry Short Kook, Louie-Bloo Raspberry, Poncho Punch and Alexander the Grape. "We've expanded this adorable character-driven brand from freezer pops into media and merchandise," Mr. Wade explained. "Through recent licensing relationships, Otter Pops now have their own lines of apparel, including T-shirts, hats, socks, sweats and cycling gear. Each character has its own collectible Hot Wheels car, and a promotional music CD entitled Otter PopStars that launched the characters as music and animation [50,000 of the CDs were produced]. The next step is to produce a direct-to-video animated film starring Otter Pops, distribute it to the same chains that sell the freezer pops, and promote the film on every box of freezer pops sold."

Who's the target? "Kids and families of all ages and flavors."

How do you measure its success? "By watching the Otter Pops Hot Wheels sell for $35 on eBay. By the redemption rate on the Otter PopStars promotional CD [which ranked as the second-highest in Otter Pops' history]. By seeing Otter Pops featured on Will and Grace and
One of Mr. Wade's current projects is the creation of a black-and-white animated feature starring insect characters that live in the dirt behind the world-famous 'Hollywood' sign. James Garner is one of the voices in the animated film noir takeoff that is being produced for Turner Classic Movies.

by the number of calls we've received from producers and distributors interested in the rights."

Why bring a brand's characters to life? "I wouldn't bring just any brand's characters to life. They have to resonate in me and I can't explain how I know when they do. In general, I think it's a good idea for a company to animate its mascot or icon because it can help get their message across. However, the personality and voice given to the newly animated mascot must come from an extremely accurate interpretation of the brand."

What are some lessons you've learned when creating advertainment? "When creating entertainment based on a consumer product, the writing, design and attitude have to be exceptional. Otherwise people will simply look at it as a commercial or promotional tool and not care about it. It has to be better than average. If the stories are good, the audience forgets that the characters started as t-shirt designs or frozen treats and the entertainment stands on its own."

What are the biggest challenges you've faced? "Finding just the right brands to work with."

How did you get the idea to create advertainment: "In 1998, I was hired by BRC Imagination Arts to develop guest experiences for theme parks, museums and corporate identity centers. I was on the team that created the guest experience for an interactive visitor center in Dresden, Germany, built around a new high-end sedan being designed by Volkswagen. We were given the nearly impossible task of crafting the story, lore and pop culture of a product that did not yet exist. It caused me to think quite differently."

What keeps you awake at night? "Too many ideas."

What's next? "Following the same model, we recently signed our first licensing deal for an original character named Loopy. We will grow Loopy as a line of story-based collectibles intended to become media."