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Sep, 2019
A new Holly Hobbie for a new generation

If you take an interest in teen and tween TV trends, you’ve probably heard of Holly Hobbie, a charming and very popular live-action series about a 14-year-old girl from small-town America with a big heart and even bigger dreams. Holly Hobbie has been a hit in the US as a “Hulu Original” series (with Hulu recently commissioning two additional seasons) and is now performing strongly on CBBC in the UK. A number of other territories are planning to take the series and a licensing programme is already under way.

Holly Hobbie is clearly a hit property in the making. But this won’t be her first appearance at retail. Holly Hobbie’s earliest success was as a distinctive greetings card character in the late 1960s – although even this wasn’t the original Holly Hobbie. That was the artist, who used her own name for a rag-dress-wearing little girl in a giant bonnet. The character then took on a life of its own, inspiring first dolls and then multiple licensed products ranging from fabric and furniture to stationery and toy ovens.

Books and TV series followed and then, in 2016, Holly Hobbie was reimagined and updated for the latest, Hulu-released, live-action series. This modern revival of the classic girls’ character, hugely popular with the teens and tweens of the 1970s and 1980s, has undoubtedly struck a chord with the same generation in the second decade of this century, who have enthusiastically embraced the brand-new Holly Hobbie.

Holly, played by Ruby Jay, is a singer-songwriter who saves her grandmother’s Calico Café by starting open mic nights and performing her original songs that bring her community together and reinvent her family business. Holly’s world – and her songwriting – evolves throughout the season, with more music and new characters planned for seasons 2 and 3.

The new version also brings in modern elements, like social media and open-mic nights, but never loses the charm, humour and endearing eccentricity of the original.

It’s been a winning combination. The 10 x 22’ series has been showing since early July on CBBC, and the show’s witty, engaging script and storylines and the funny, likeable, guitar-playing country girl in rag dresses who is its central character, have proved popular with UK audiences.

But that’s far from all. The continuing appeal of Hollie Hobby to teens and tweens over many decades has once again inspired a licensing programme, which UK licensing agent Bulldog (stand A282) plans to highlight at BLE. The strategy for the brand neatly builds on the twin themes that underpin the character, combining the vintage look of the books and the classic artwork that inspired the show with themes and styles suggested by the new show itself.

The character and the brand lend themselves to a wide range of licensing categories including dolls, toys, publishing and stationery and, of course, music. In fact, Warner Music Group has already secured the rights to the original music from the first two seasons of the series and released the first (season album) featuring breakout singles from the show like “Be the Change”.

And Holly Hobbie certainly has changed – from a 20th century character on a range of greetings cards to a 21st century musician in a TV series. But the winning charm that made the original property a lasting hit many years ago is still very much in evidence.