By Leah Hochbaum Rosner

More than 25,000 people from 82 countries gathered to check out 6,000 properties and brands at the 28th annual Licensing International Expo, a three-day conference for merchandising rights holders that was be held June 10-12 at New York’s Jacob Javits Convention Center. Doug Schwalbe of Classic Media, an Entertainment Rights company, was on hand to discuss the latest trends in licensing and merchandising, whether the weakened dollar affected the Expo and why he, for one, may not attend next year’s conference, which will take place in Las Vegas, June 2-4, 2009.

VideoAge International: Why was it important for Classic Media to attend the Licensing Show this year? Was it a success?

Doug Schwalbe: It was very exciting. There was a lot more going on for us as a company this year than last year — just a lot more energy here. We’re celebrating the 60th anniversary of Casper the Friendly Ghost, as well as the 15th anniversary of VeggieTales. We’ve also been experiencing a lot of success with George of the Jungle, which is big with boys ages 6-11. We have two other shows in production: Guess with Jess, a British preschool show from Nelvana and Treehouse, and Casper’s Scare School, which we’re working on with MoonScoop in France and DQ Entertainment in India. We’re getting ready to present both to U.S. broadcasters soon. At Licensing Show, our people were taking folks through the licensing and merchandising of these and other shows, as well as through our revitalized style guides.

VAI: Have you noticed any new trends this year?

DS: The biggest trend I’ve noticed is that companies are trying to refresh classic characters. It’s a big issue for everyone involved in character licensing. We’re doing that with Casper, of course. We have the new CG Casper’s Scare School and at the same time, we’re re-launching classic Casper with a completely separate style guide. He’s living on as a hip, Halloween-themed retro property.

VAI: After last year’s safety scares with foreign-made toys, do you think things have been resolved?

DS: Absolutely. These concerns were so serious that every company worked at 110 percent to correct them. They had to do whatever they could to make sure everything was safe.

VAI: Has the weakened U.S. dollar affected the Show?

DS: It’s got to be weighing on people’s minds. The weakness of the dollar certainly doesn’t help. But prices for things that people want will still be driven by competition — not the dollar.

VAI: What do you think about the Licensing Show’s plan to relocate to Las Vegas next year?

DS: NATPE will also be in Vegas and I don’t know that two trips to Vegas are necessary for me. It’s nice to have the show in New York because you don’t have to make a big trip. You’re able to go back to your office. But as someone on the TV programming side, not the licensing side, I probably won’t travel to Vegas for a related business.