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Deal Spotlight: Canada’s most famous red-headed orphan gets a merchandising revamp

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JanFeb_Frontmatter_Deals_AnneL.M. Montgomery’s classic story of CanLit’s most beloved – and precocious – East Coast preteen‚ Anne of Green Gables‚ was revitalized in 2016. CBC’s television adaptation was picked up by Netflix for global streaming later this year, and a TV movie from Breakthrough Entertainment‚ which aired on Corus Entertainment’s YTV last winter‚ has or will appear on PBS in the U.S.‚ ITV in the U.K.‚ ARD in Germany‚ and theatre screens in Australia and New Zealand.

Given the renewed interest in the adventures of Anne Shirley‚ Toronto-based Breakthrough signed a deal in October with the Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority for representation of the brand’s merchandising interests worldwide – including‚ but not limited to‚ the new film and its forthcoming sequels‚ due in 2017 and 2018‚ respectively.

Kate Macdonald Butler‚ Montgomery’s granddaughter‚ was an executive producer on the film adaptation – which starred Ella Ballentine‚ Martin Sheen‚ and Sara Botsford – and is a stakeholder in the licensing authority‚ along with her family and the Province of Prince Edward Island.

“I’ve been working on this property for 25 years,” Butler says. “Merchandise goes in cycles and does well when there’s an event to drive it. It’s been slow over the past decade‚ so I’m excited for another opportunity to merchandise Anne in a way that’s very tasteful. It also brings awareness to P.E.I., and tourism goes up. All kinds of wonderful things happen with a big event like this.”

Though the merchandising is in its very early stages‚ Butler says she envisions items like collector dolls‚ calendars‚ and book tie-ins that evoke the timeless feel of the movie and the brand as a whole. “We want to keep it as classic‚ traditional‚ and as true to the story as possible‚” says Nat Abraham, Breakthrough president and partner. “We’re only looking at [merchandise] proposals at this point‚ but we know there’s a tremendous demand for it.”

Both Abraham and Butler are confident that, with multiple territories showing interest‚ the new merchandise will sell worldwide. “[Interest in Anne] is really spreading because it’s an iconic brand with a unique following‚ and has been around for a long time,” says Abraham. “It really puts Canada on the map.”