Twofour54 puts Driver Dan in print

Twofour54 has signed a global publishing deal with Macmillan Children's Books to create a series of Driver Dan's Story Train books in Arabic and English.

Twofour54, Abu Dhabi's media zone, has signed a global publishing deal with Macmillan Children's Books to create a series of Driver Dan's Story Train books in Arabic and English. The books will be based on the stories in the Driver Dan's Story Train animated television series, which launched in the UK in English this year. It is now in production in Arabic at twofour54's studios.

"Driver Dan's Story Train was never just a television proposition, but a brand proposition," said Wayne Borg, the chief operating officer of twofour54. "The first step in developing that brand was making the TV platform, and now it is about ensuring that all the various aspects of the brand are developed. Publishing is part of that, as will be merchandising." The brand is the result of the first partnership signed by the media zone's business development arm, twofour54 ibtikar, with the British media company 3Line Media last year to make a bilingual animated series about reading for preschool-aged children. The English version made its debut on CBeebies, the BBC's UK children's channel, in January, and the Arabic version is scheduled to be ready in time for Ramadan, Mr Borg said.

The book series will launch in English this year and in Arabic next year. The English series will begin with six books in the first year, to be adjusted in future years. The size of the Arabic series will be determined through negotiations with publishing partners. Kate Mackenzie, the rights director of Pan Macmillan, the parent company of Macmillan Children's Books, said the Driver Dan deal would help the publishing company move further into the region's market.

"Driver Dan is the best licence that we could have found," she said. "We had a long history of publishing for preschool children, and we are also very interested in growing our business in the Middle East." Plans for the Driver Dan local editions include securing an Arabic publishing partner, mass market distribution, developing books for the educational market and an initiative to encourage literacy.

WPan Macmillan is the trade publishing arm of Macmillan Publishers, one of the largest international publishing groups in the world with more than 7,000 staff in at least 80 countries. Macmillan Publishing is owned by Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, the large international media company based in Germany. The publisher has an office for its educational books division in Dubai and has published several of its books in Arabic in the region through partnerships with local publishers.

The latest is The Gruffalo, which has sold more than 10 million copies and won several children's book awards and is soon to be published in Arabic by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing. Mr Borg said twofour54 was in talks with Macmillan about the possibility of the publisher opening up an office within the media zone. The publisher would join an array of publishing partners in the zone, including HarperCollins, Antiga Arabia and the publishers of Unfair magazine.

The deal will help twofour54 with one of its primary goals of filling the large gap for quality children's content in the region. "This plays to what we are trying to develop in terms of infrastructure around children's [intellectual property], which we see as a great opportunity, considering how little of it we have today," Mr Borg said.