Too many chefs in the kitchen?

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Development of a new children's lifestyle brand centered on cooking is proving to be, well, not quite as easy as pie.

The founders of Gaspergoo, a creative concept they are endeavoring to turn into a full-scale media and licensing brand, initially expected to be on air by the end of last year. But the realities of the marketing business-and of show business-endanger its first-mover advantage.

The Gaspergoo TV series, the linchpin of the property, now is expected to launch in spring or fall of 2006 at the soonest. Twenty months into the project, "we've learned that this business takes more time than we originally anticipated," said Bill Bourdon, VP-business development of Gaspergoo parent Zoup-ah.

AHEAD OF CURVE

Currently, there are talks with at least two TV networks and a number of publishers. But what's keeping Eric Stangvik, Gaspergoo CEO, awake in the night kitchen is concern about swifter-moving rivals stepping in with similar properties as the furor over childhood obesity mounts and corporate sponsors look to link social-responsibility messages with kids' nutrition brands.

"The concept is very good, so we haven't given up hope," said Stanley Cheng, CEO of Meyer Corp., which plans to spend as much as $1 million developing a line of Gaspergoo-branded pots and pans.

Gaspergoo, at the urging of its distribution and licensing partner, Corus Entertainment's Nelvana, is in careful development of its so-called bible, a book that describes and defines the characters and the brand. It's the reference point that will lay the groundwork for licensing deals with toy companies, promotions with major food companies, books, DVDs and the development of restaurants and cooking schools.

As a result Gaspergoo-originally conceived as a children's cooking show-now is calling itself "a culinary experience for children and families," with a heavy sprinkling of fun and entertainment and a de-emphasis on the mechanics of cooking.

Cliff Medney, senior VP-marketing and strategy at East West Creative, a promotion company working with Gaspergoo, said the process is working fairly quickly. "We don't get to this stage of organization on the non-creative side of a show until just before the show goes on air." Generally, it takes a year after a show airs to get toys in the market, six months after that for home-video and as long as two years before housewares and video games are available. "They are ahead of the curve."

It's an iron-chef competition, however. The Food Network plans a reprise of a series with its chefs featuring children in the kitchen. Its premier chef, Emeril, has a line of children's cooking products. Another contender is Doof, or food spelled backward, which is filming for this summer four episodes aimed at PBS and championed by famed chef Alice Waters. Moreover, key ingredients in the Gaspergoo show are similar to those of Doof and at least one other property circulating in Hollywood.

Also making the project feel like a watched pot is TV and cable networks, which adhere to a philosophy that putting a child in front of the tube needs to be a safe experience. Parents don't want to come home and find an inspired 6-year-old in the kitchen with fires blazing, knives in hand or just a big goopy mess.

Add to that a dash of irony: Interest groups fighting kids' obesity view TV-watching as part of the problem, not the solution.

Third installment in an occasional series following a startup kids' media and licensing brand Gaspergoo

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