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Marc brown, 51, had been writing and drawing "Arthur" books for children for 17 years when he was approached to create an animated TV show for Boston's PBS affiliate WGBH. Since then, "Arthur" has become a pint-size megabrand with 25 book or merchandise deals to his name, including Hasbro, Sara Lee Knit Products' Hanes unit and Microsoft Corp.

Since it made its debut in October 1996, the TV show has been sold to more than 100 countries, with licensing and publishing programs in many of the countries, says Mr. Brown. But again, before deals can roll out, the TV show and connected book sales must prove successful for Mr. Brown to sign off on any new retail products.

This month, he is bringing licensing in-house when his contract with a licensing agent expires. Mr. Brown has named neighbor and long-time assistant Sunny Macmillan to VP-licensing director for Marc Brown Studios. His son, Tolon, 25, will handle international licensing.

Mr. Brown approves all writing, animation and voice characterizations, and anything bearing Arthur's likeness, from books to sneakers to backpacks -- including advertising.

Continued success seems destined. Until the show hit the airwaves, 20 years of book sales had delivered five million copies sold. In two years, three publishers have moved 15 million copies, says Mr. Brown. Four-fifths of kids who watch the show want to read books about the show, forcing librarians to put limits on "Arthur" book checkouts, he says.

This is his definition of gratification, says Mr. Brown, who still draws 95% of all animation, and who won the 1998 Emmy award for Outstanding Childrens Animated Program, beating out Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros.

"It was like score one for the little guys," he enthused. "[Arthur's] almost had this charmed existence. It's been fun to sit back and watch this develop."

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