Mr Men invade US television

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What does a tickle look like? Could you describe or draw one? Roger Hargreaves could; when his son Adam asked him that very question he produced the little smiley man with long arms who always laughed in a gasping, out-of-breath sort of way. That man was Mr Tickle.

For 25 years the precocious personalities of the Mr Men and Little Misses have entertained millions of British children. Now, in a bold move for a British entertainment institution, they are about to try to do the same in the US.

This summer, life-sized Mr Men and Little Misses have been making public appearances in American shopping malls, trying to gain acceptance from children who already have a staple diet of cartoon characters and puppets. Few British children's programmes have been successful across the Atlantic, Thomas the Tank Engine being the most notable exception. But from 15 September the Mr Men and Little Misses, all 73 of them, will be hoping to change that with a 30-minute, five-mornings-a-week television show across the US.

Currently, in licensing and merchandising terms, they are worth about pounds 108m worldwide, twice their valuation in 1994/95. The television deal is expected at least to double that figure.

When Mr Hargreaves died in 1988 he left his wife just over pounds 4m, but he also left his family the Mr Men and Little Misses copyright. If all goes well with the television series, the estate stands to make a packet.

"We feel that all the pieces of the puzzle have finally come together," said Kirk Bloomgarden, marketing director of Copyright Promotions Licensing Group, the company set up 23 years ago to market and license Mr Men products.

"All the major factors are in place to make this launch successful. The publishers are ready with copies of the books, and we've got 90 per cent TV coverage in the United States."