Mr Flibble Talks To... Shopping USA
As the Red Dwarf USA store opens online, Mr Flibble talks to IMC senior licensing manager Christy Jarboe as the small rouge one strides across the Atlantic.
10 May, 2002
Christy Jarboe
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

Mr Flibble whispered to Andrew in a faux-American accent which sounded like like a penguin gargling. Andrew asked Christy about her job title - what is a SENIOR LICENSING MANAGER, and what does that mean you do for Red Dwarf?

First of all the 'Senior' title was bestowed upon me because of my advancing years. The Licensing Manager part means that I work with brands and entertainment properties to come up with nutty ideas for new products. For Red Dwarf, that means figuring out what the fans love about the show and developing merchandise that they would like to collect, from t-shirts and caps to Rimmer's Tool Kit. We're working on creating things that will be around for years to come.

Who else do IMC deal with?

Our other clients are based in the US but have broad worldwide appeal, like Tabasco, Sun-Maid raisins, Southern Comfort and the Discovery Channel. Other American icons we represent include Louisville Slugger (the famous baseball bat) and MoonPie (a very Southern marshmallow-cookie treat), pretty diverse really.

How did you become involved in all this - what's your background?

I actually came to this business from the drinks industry. I worked with a Kentucky Bourbon distiller called Maker's Mark where I helped develop marketing programs for licensed products like bourbon flavoured cigars, chocolate candies, accessories and apparel.

From that experience, as unlikely as it sounds, I worked in developing and licensing toys. From working on both sides of the licensing game I gained experience that has helped me build programs for our sizeable portfolio of clients. Not to mention it's really a lot of fun to be able to work in so many industries at once. I'm never bored.

Have you been revising RED DWARF?

Constantly. I am lucky enough to have every episode on tape, so I can watch my favourites over and over. I've become a bit odd about it really, I watch the tapes alone in my apartment so that I can laugh as loud as I like and watch as often as I want then I share them with friends and recite the lines. It drives 'em crazy! I am partial to series VIII, "Nicey" Ackerman's scenes just crack me up. Nothing quite like watching a sadistic prison warden with one eye swishing up and down the stairs to get you in a good mood.

Mr Flibble suggested catching up with series V's Quarantine. Possibly the best-ever episode, certainly from a performing penguin point of view. What's the first thing you did when the deal was done?

Well, I started watching the videos more closely. We watched for the first time here in our office. About half way through The End, we all looked at each other with silly grins on our faces and knew we were going to have a lot of fun with Red Dwarf. Each episode presents so many ideas for crazy products. But we work hard to focus on the really outstanding ideas, like "Lister's Curry Stain Remover" for instance. (Just kidding! Don't email me and ask me where you can get that!)

What kind of companies are you dealing with, making what kind of MERCHANDISE?

The first products were no-brainers, so many popular t-shirts had been available in the UK, we simply started there. But, as you can imagine, there is an extraordinary amount of material that would make for great apparel designs, so we're lucky enough to be working with a company in Colorado, Gavan-Burke Enterprises, who are coming up with many new ideas. They're also doing a line of coffee mugs and a deck of playing cards which use Red Dwarf images and quotes from the series.

Also from some of the more twisted minds at Gavan-Burke came "Rimmer's Tool Kit". The concept is very funny and functional too. Except for the condom. Apparently it's really small. I've been laughing all through the development of that item, and then, at Dimension Jump, I met Chris Barrie and I felt too sheepish to tell him about it. I have to say I am partial to Rimmer's Tool Kit. I've seen nothing like it. I just hope the fans like it as much as we do.

Beyond that, we have Rittenhouse Archive's first edition of a set of collectible trading cards. I am told they are doing amazingly well in their first weeks of availability (only 2002 sets were made).

What cool stuff are you planning to get done soon?

There's the upcoming Red Dwarf Role Playing Game by Deep7. The folks at Deep7 in Seattle are huge fans of the series and have conceptualised a game for fans to play as characters along with Rimmer, Lister and the rest of the crew. The hardcover edition is due out by October, this year. We're also working on a developing limited editions of Bobbleheads, we're really going to have fun with that line imagine the Dibbley family in Bobbleheads. We hope to be in development soon for classic figurines for both the TV series and the film.

What product would you love to see made that isn't in the works yet?

Food products. Just think of the noodles and curries and so many other delectable treats we could have freeze-dried and placed in vending machines. It's mind boggling! Actually, we're hoping to get a lot of feedback from fans about what they'd most like to have. I think computer accessories are a great idea. My mouse is resting on a Red Dwarf pad as we speak.

Inevitably, Mr Flibble suggests a full line of penguin puppets, with accessories, outfits and a miniature Oscar. Will you guys also be licensing for the movie?

Oh yes, it's very exciting. I've been meeting with people since the International Toy Fair in New York in 2001 about developing entire lines of products in support of the film. Not only action figures, but vehicles and the Red Dwarf ship itself. Maybe even a few electronic scutters!

All these are available in the American Red Dwarf SHOP - tell us about that...

The US based store was developed to breathe new life into Red Dwarf merchandise and provide accessibility to fans outside of the UK. It is our goal for the USA Store to provide the most comprehensive resource for fans to get their hands on the latest Red Dwarf gear. We are constantly reviewing new products and ideas, so keep checking in, chances are you'll find something new and unexpected. Sort of like tuning in to Red Dwarf.

Fans will want to know why things are only available in the US, not worldwide. Why is that? And are there plans in the works for more 'global' merchandise?

Good question! You see, Grant Naylor productions asked us to develop a US based store for e-commerce to better serve its US fans, who can now buy Red Dwarf products on-line without the delays or high shipping costs from overseas.

Fans may not find certain products available in US and UK retail stores. That relates to certain legal issues that are probably over Mr. Flibble's head. So yes, Red Dwarf is going global, with worldwide licenses being developed as we speak.

Mr Flibble is delirious at the thought of being an even bigger international star. Changing subject, you attended DIMENSION JUMP this year. What did you make of that? Was it what you were expecting?

What I was expecting?! Flibble honey, I am from Kentucky, I don't think I had any idea what to expect at Dimension Jump. It was so much fun though, everyone was wonderful to me, although they sure talk funny. (Laughs) Except for Mac McDonald, I had no problem understanding him...

Take for instance meeting up with you, Mr Flibble, and your faithful writing assistant in London at Euston Station. Since neither of you had any idea what I looked like and we were supposed to meet and take the train to Coventry, I told Andrew that I'd be wearing red pants. Well how was I to know that I should have said I was wearing red trousers? We call them pants where I come from! So then I run into Andrew here, walking around the station with a stick with a mirror attached to the end! I'll never make that mistake again!

Mr Flibble was appalled at his partner's actions... then asked for his mirror back. Finally Christy, give us some of your favourite moments from that weekend...

There are so many! First of all, I was incredibly impressed that everyone connected with Red Dwarf - from the management to the fans to the stars - were so hospitable. Everyone was nice to each other; and to me, which made for a very good first impression.

But then came the laughing and it really never stopped. By Monday morning, my face hurt from laughing! I loved listening to the cast members take questions, they obviously have real appreciation for their fans. Meeting Chris, Chloe, Mac, Graham, Danny and Robert was a real treat and they couldn't have been nicer, or funnier. These people are genuinely and quite effortlessly silly. And you really have to hand it to the Fan Club, I mean, how many fan clubs are presided over by a fabulous woman sporting permanent illustrations of the cast on her body?

I have to say that Saturday night was the best, from the official costume contest to the unofficial one later on the dance floor (and on the tops of tables), that certainly was the best time. I recall you had quite a lot of fans around you, what is it that these women love about you Flibble?! And let's not forget Andrew, I have photographic evidence of his popularity with female fans, not to mention his affinity for a pint or two...

Anyway, from the way we all looked on Sunday morning, I'd say a lot of other people shared my enthusiasm for the festivities. Finally, at the studios, I even got to share a few laughs with Doug. That was great too. It was a truly unforgettable experience. And next year, smoke me a kipper, I will be back! (I suppose you might take that as a threat, depending on your point of view)

Mr Flibble enjoyed talking to Christy, and now that it's over...Mr Flibble is very cross.

You can check out the new shop from the Merchandise section.

For websites relating to IMC, Deep7 and others, check out the Links section.