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Elf Labs launches with re-imagined versions of fairy tale characters

Apr 23, 2024
An image of a robot version of Cinderella, Rapunzel and Snow White

Robotic versions of classic fairytale characters Cinderella, Rapunzel and Snow White. Photo courtesy of Elf Labs.

Elf Labs, a startup content studio, wants to turn zombie and teenage versions of famous fairy tale characters like Cinderella into billion dollar media franchises.

Why it matters: Until now, the company has mostly been using its IP for books aimed at YA audiences.

Zoom in: Elf Labs, which rebranded from Toon Studio last year, formally launched on Tuesday.

  • Elf Labs' CEO David Philips tells Axios the studio has multiple projects in the works, including short-form web series, AI-powered toys, animated and live-action feature films and augmented reality experiences.
  • Elf Labs wants to branch out from the YA demographic to reach toddlers and adults as well.
  • "We're going to really focus on a transmedia product; not just the content, but games, consumer products, online experiences, AR and VR experiences, and all of them interconnected," Philips says.

Catch up quick: The company was initially founded in 2006 by Billy Phillips, David's father, and David Shamouelian as Toon Studio.

  • In 2012, the company bought the entire IP of Junior Elf, a children's book imprint first started in 1913 that featured over 200 titles including versions of classic fairy tale characters including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Alice in Wonderland.
  • Toon Studio then spent the past 12 years developing different genre takes on those characters, such as zombie, robot and teenaged versions. Elf Labs has over 400 different copyrights and 140 different trademarks on its characters.
  • In 2023, the company rebranded to Elf Labs and partnered with tech firm Cosmic Wire to launch their next franchise, RoboStars. That partnership included an equity stake for Cosmic Wire, Philips says.

What's next: Elf Labs plans to fundraise "in the near future" Philips says.

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