There’s Gold in Them Thar Dragons

Dudley the Dragon’s merchandising potential was enticing.  Already, Breakthrough had seen its gross revenue rise from $100,000 in the mid-1980s to $5 million as of May 1994.

By June 1995, Breakthrough had signed 72 licensees—52 American, 20 Canadian—to market Dudley products.

The Canadian licensing agent, Art Kraus of Castle Licensing Inc., estimated that Dudley’s worth would reach CAN$200 million in the U.S. and CAN$40 million in Canada.  By October, Kraus projected CAN$100 million over the next two years.

Venture, a CBC news magazine akin to CBS’s 60 Minutes, devoted a segment to merchandising the dragon.  They showed Breakthrough’s Peter Williamson discussing the fall promotional strategy with U.S. licensing agent Fred Paprin and his associates.  “Remember,” Williamson said, “we talked about targeting critics that had kids, for example, that might be a little bit more interested in the show, rather than sort of hard-boiled, grizzled critics. It’s very important to have a sense of which journalists will be more interested than others. I mean, some people will just not get over the Barney thing.”

Barbara, an associate, replied, “The fact is, we don’t even bring that up in the same breath. And everybody’s been wonderful about the fact that we’re not Barney. The people aren’t talking about Barney and Dudley anymore in the same breath. Dudley stands on his own. Everybody said he was the next Barney, and that wasn’t the way that we wanted Dudley to be known. We wanted Dudley to be, you know, Dudley.”

Paprin wanted his sales rep to sell the show as hard as he could, to tell station managers, “We think Dudley is the next thing since sliced bread. All the previously well known big winners were years in the making, and nothing happens without a lot of effort, a lot of push, a lot of fighting, a lot of discussion between the various partners. It’s all part of the creative process, and if you’re not doing it, it won’t happen. So it’s my job to make sure that everybody’s getting pushed.”

The heavy sales approach must have worked.  By the fall, The Adventures of Dudley the Dragon reached a peak of 245 PBS stations.   14 new episodes were added to the package.  In October, Season Three began showing on YTV, a youth-specialty channel in Canada.

With more stations broadcasting the show, “there’ll be more recognition of the character, there’ll be more public relations on the character, and children will relate towards the character a lot more often,” said Joe Sutton of Happiness Express Inc.

“When you create a demand you develop a wave,” Sutton said, “and these are the things that took place over the years throughout the toy industry. And what we want kids to do is to want Dudley. We don’t want to give it to them, we want them to want it.”

Sources:  Gayle MacDonald, Financial Post, Toronto, Ontario, December 22, 1994, “Watch Out Barney, There’s a New Reptile in Town,” Sec. 1, p. 5; Dana Flavelle, “Dragon Set to Breathe Fire Into Licensing,” Toronto Star, May 11, 1995, Sec. B. p. 1; Howard Green, Venture – CBC Television, Toronto: October 15, 1995, “Dudley the Dragon,” with comments from Peter Williamson, Joe Sutton, Art Kraus, and Barbara [last name not provided].