Big in Japan, but could America love Moomin?

Mon Oct 5, 2009 9:01pm EDT
 
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By Eva Lamppu

HELSINKI (Reuters) - In one of the quirkiest book cults America has never heard of, a round-snouted troll is hauling consumers' wallets from their pockets despite the worst recession in decades.

The license-holders for Moomin, who say license sales increased 35 percent this year, are contemplating expansion.

"We want to grow and be as profitable as we have been so far," said Sophia Jansson. "But in a way that increases the awareness of Moomin, starting from countries where books already are sold."

The artistic head and chairman of Moomin Characters, she is the niece of Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jansson, whose creation, the Moomintrolls, soon turn 65.

Moomins -- whose naive hero Moomintroll was the "nastiest creature" teenage Tove could imagine after a quarrel with her brother -- are a lucrative publishing and licensing niche mostly in Nordic countries, Japan and Britain.

Since the 1945 publication of "The Moomins and the Great Flood," adventures with Moomin and parents Moominmamma and Moominpappa have featured in 13 novels and picturebooks translated into 40 languages, and thousands of cartoon strips.

The characters have also been used to brand a wide range of products including kitchenware, diapers, DVDs and tinned candy.

"They made me feel peaceful," said Tokyo-based Hideyuki Masumoto, 40, describing the characters he called his childhood friends while eyeing gifts in the tiny Moomin shop in Helsinki.   Continued...

 
<p>A Moomin character meets visitors at Moomin World theme park in Naatali, July 9, 2008. In one of the quirkiest book cults America has never heard of, a round-snouted troll is hauling consumers' wallets from their pockets despite the worst recession in decades. The license-holders for Moomin, who say license sales increased 35 percent this year, are contemplating expansion. REUTERS/Bob Strong</p>