Preschool Brand on Fast Track

LOS ANGELES Licensing industry vet Maureen Taxter has been appointed to the newly created position of svp, U.S. consumer products at London-based children’s entertainment company Ludorum. Taxter’s first priority will be developing a U.S. program around Chuggington, a CGI animated series for preschoolers set to air on Playhouse Disney in spring 2010.

New York-based Taxter (pictured above) has more than 25 years of experience building and managing entertainment brands including The Muppets, Playskool and SpongeBob SquarePants for Jim Henson Productions, Hasbro and Nickelodeon, respectively.

During her decade at Viacom, she led the development of Nick’s first major licensing programs for Rugrats and Blue’s Clues, and helped turn them into billion-dollar brands. Later, she oversaw a $4 billion licensing division that comprised the Nickelodeon, Noggin and Comedy Central brands.   “It’s exciting to take my experience from working with companies like Jim Henson Productions and Nickelodeon that not only have great content — but also a very strategic and thoughtful approach to how a brand is nurtured — to create a special place in a kids’ world over time,” said Taxter, who’s been consulting the past few years. “That’s my goal for Chuggington and future properties.”

Ludorum is the brainchild of Charlie Caminada and Rob Lawes, the former COO and CEO of kids IP company HIT Entertainment (Barney, Bob the Builder), which was acquired by Apax Partners in 2005. Dick Rothkopf, formerly of Learning Curve, is chairman of Ludorum.

Chuggington is about three vehicle friends and it aims to teach children positive life lessons. Created by the talent behind Bob the Builder and Thomas & Friends, it was designed to be a global brand that feels local. It has launched in 150 countries so far and is dubbed for different markets. In addition to the U.S. show and licensing program, Chuggington will also soon have a Web platform to serve as a virtual extension of the TV series.

Taxter said Ludorum is looking at new properties all the time as it sets its sights on the U.S., but the company is in no hurry to crowd the already oversaturated preschool playground. “We set out to create franchises and brands with long-term value,” Taxter said. “You have to be selective in this market.”

Nielsen Business Media