Natasha Khavin Gross, the director of TV sales, marketing and licensing at SUNRIGHTS, tells TV Kids about BEYBLADE BURST, the latest generation of the hit franchise.
Since the first generation of BEYBLADE launched in 2002, the franchise has gained traction both as an animated series and a brand centered on spinning tops. BEYBLADE has successfully launched three generations globally. New York-based IP management company SUNRIGHTS manages the property in the Western markets. “Each time the brand launches, the characters and storyline change and the toys are new and innovative,” Natasha Khavin Gross, the director of TV sales, marketing and licensing at SUNRIGHTS, tells TV Kids. “But the driving force remains the same: the kids aim to battle with the tops and master the skills necessary to rise to the top and be the best Blader in the world.”
According to Gross, “BEYBLADE is a highly enduring play pattern” that has its roots in Beigoma, which are traditional Japanese spinning tops. “Takara Tomy innovated the concept by creating customizable tops with different components that impact the gameplay, and thus BEYBLADE was born. It always launches first in Japan, grows and builds, and then the toys and animation are introduced to the Western markets.”
The second iteration of BEYBLADE rolled out in 2010 and “we were excited to introduce the third generation late last year in Canada and to the rest of the Western markets this year,” says Gross. The latest generation is BEYBLADE BURST, and the animated series centers on Valt Aoi and his group of Blader friends who follow their dreams on a quest to become the best Blader in the world. BEYBLADE BURST has a target audience of boys aged 6 to 12 and focuses on themes of friendship, sports and competition.
In the Western markets, the series has already launched on Disney XD in the U.S. and Canada, TELETOON in Canada, Boing in Spain, Panda Biggs in Portugal, Star Channel in Greece and Canal J in France. It recently debuted on Cartoon Network in Latin America and Turkey. In September, BEYBLADE BURST will air on Gulli in France and K2 in Italy. The show is also set for launch on such channels as Nickelodeon in Germany and Israel, and Kadet in North Belgium, with broadcasters soon to be revealed for the U.K. and CEE.
On the toy side this time around, Hasbro’s line of spinning tops features “a new way to win wherein a player can defeat their opponent by essentially ‘bursting’ their opponent’s spinning top,” Gross says. The “bursting” mechanism, which causes the tops to disassemble when they collide, “creates an explosive battle atmosphere where kids want to see those tops come apart.”
There is also an app to enhance the gameplay. Gross says the “integrated app mimics physical play and it is exciting for kids to share the experience of battle with their friends.” The BEYBLADE BURST app isn’t the only innovation for the brand in the digital arena. She notes: “It’s important to give kids additional touch points in the digital space.” Greeting cards and birthday invitations are a growing category that SUNRIGHTS is pursuing.
Gross believes that the BEYBLADE franchise translates across borders and is merchandisable because “there is a connection kids make to the human element of winning and competing against their friends while at the same time maintaining friendships and supporting one another. The animation creates a world in which the fans get to know and root for the characters in the series. The key is in that connection to the storyline and fantasy of play.
“The storyline builds in drama and excitement in season two, which we are now placing with another 51 episodes, called BEYBLADE BURST: Evolution, and the toys have added innovations with some awesome new features in the tops that impact gameplay,” Gross says. “We are thrilled to see this brand revive and thrive.”