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Heathcliff is getting into the fashion, lifestyle, & cat treat business for his 50th birthday

On his 50th birthday, Heathcliff is branching out

Image credit: Peter Gallagher

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People say cats have nine lives, but we know a cat that is about to have 50 years.

This September, the comic strip feline Heathcliff will celebrate his 50th birthday. Originally created by cartoonist George Gately and debuting September 3, 1973, Heathcliff has grown to become a franchise with the original comic strip, two animated series, a theatrical film, and even a comic book published by Marvel Comics, no less.

For Heathcliff's impending 50th birthday celebration, the licensing agency Licensing Haus has come onboard to get Heathcliff up and about around the whole world - and highlight his new best friend, Jimmy the Frog.

“Heathcliff is coming up on its 50th anniversary, so this is a really great time to be launching a more widespread licensing program, and it comes at a time when iconic cartoons are back on trend with consumers,” Licensing Haus CEO Maria Alcaide tells The Licensing Letter.

This all comes as, in the Heathcliff comic strip, the cat is grooming his friend Jimmy the Frog to be the 'next big thing' - although no one, to date, has caught on.

“He came out this past year, and the idea is that there’s this tiny little frog that Heathcliff is trying to promote as the next big thing, but nobody’s buying it; nobody likes Jimmy at all,” says current Heathcliff cartoonst Peter Gallagher, the nephew of the character's original creator. “But the weird thing is that on social media people love Jimmy."

Heathcliff as a cultural icon

Image credit: Peter Gallagher

According to Alcaide, there is a "very committed subculture of Heathcliff fanatics" they are aiming to target.

"There is this very deep Heathcliff universe, and we’re now finding out just on a pitching level that we’re really attracting those people to the program, and finding that the Heathcliff world is far bigger than you probably realize," sayd Alcaide.

Wheras comics' other famous cat Garfield is a domesticated house cat, Heathcliff is the definition of an alley cat - but don't call him a stray. But as the cat enters the half-century mark, it turns out other people are taking advantage of the cat's popularity, doing unlicensed merchandise that has given Heathcliff's owners more than just a furball.

“If you go on eBay, Amazon or (the customized gift site) Zazzle, you’ll see so many Heathcliff products that it’s kind of shocking,” Alcaide says. “Obviously there’s a lot of infringement that we’re going to get cleaned up, but it also goes to show that there’s already this bubbling appetite out there for Heathcliff, allowing us to replace these unauthorized goods with new, fresh licensed products."

Heathcliff is going to be readable, wearable, and edible

Image credit: Peter Gallagher

So what's first for Healthcliff's 50th birthday? Licensing Haus is aiming at fashion and lifestyle categories first, with a "head to toe approach with items that people have a lot of fun with, like headwear, socks, slippers, slides, shoes, and apparel."

But there's also the obvious products, like Heathcliff cat treats.

"As well, there’s so many exciting ways to incorporate this property into food and beverage products, so I think there will be a lot of cool stuff we can tease out of this brand."

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