LOS ANGELES and TORONTO, Jan. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- The current Japanese phenomenon, Beyblade, is whirling its way to North America under a new agreement between d-rights, a subdivision of Mitsubishi, and Corus Entertainment's Nelvana (NYSE: CJR; Toronto: CJR.B), one of the world's largest animation companies. Nelvana has been granted rights that include broadcasting all 51 episodes, manufacturing home videos, acting as an exclusive agent to facilitate the importation and distribution of toys by Takara and Hasbro, Inc. (NYSE: HAS) and merchandise based on the series. (Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20020110/LATH025 ) Hasbro launched the Beyblade product line in December in Chicago and Los Angeles, in addition to toysrus.com, where it has enjoyed a strong initial reaction in stores where it has been sold. "We were excited about BEYBLADE from the first moment we saw the property and we are excited to work with Nelvana to launch the property in the U.S.," said Brian Goldner, President of Hasbro's U.S. toy group. "Kids have loved playing with tops for generations and BEYBLADE has brought this classic play to a new level. We are pleased to see, based on early results in L.A. and Chicago, that U.S. kids are catching on quickly." A wildly popular spinning top, Beyblade toys set the Japanese marketplace on fire in 2001, as high consumer demand for the toys, led to the creation of an action-adventure TV series that brings the game to life. Beyblade products have been a permanent part of Japan's top ten toys list since January 2000. Commercial tie-ins for Beyblade include Toyota, the world's largest automobile maker, adopting Beyblade as a main character for a campaign in Japan that began airing in November. National (Matsushita), the world's biggest electric household appliance maker, also used Beyblade as a main character for their summer campaign. The Asahi Shinbun reported on July 27, 2001 that kids and parents alike were uncovering the schedules of Beyblade delivery trucks, and lining up at local stores before daybreak. Beyblade has become such a phenomenon that the tops are hard to find in Japanese stores and shipments are often depleted the same day they arrive. Beyblade continues Nelvana's success story with anime brands. The company recently released "Medabots," the animated series that debuted on Fox Kids as #1 new-season program for fall 2001 and "Cardcaptors" one of the top Japanese anime series in the U.S. with impressive ratings on Kids' WB! in the U.S. and Teletoon in Canada. "We will implement a unique and comprehensive branding strategy to ensure the enduring success of Beyblade," said Michael Hirsh, President and CEO Nelvana. "Based on d-rights accomplishments with Beyblade in Japan, we now have all the elements in place to translate that success with American audiences." Under the terms of the agreement, Nelvana has acquired rights for television distribution, video and DVD manufacturing and distribution, merchandising and publishing rights. In addition, d-rights will appoint Nelvana as the exclusive agent to import game software by Hudson & Broccoli. Nelvana's territories for Beyblade include North and South America, Europe and Oceania (excluding Italy, Greece, Turkey and Arabic speaking countries). "Nelvana is the ideal company to extend the Beyblade phenomenon to new marketplaces," stated Tsuyoshi Kaji, Vice President International Division for d-rights. "We've entrusted Beyblade to them because of their proven success in anime and a track-record of staying true to the property." Beyblade Merchandise Nelvana recently granted Hasbro the rights to manufacture tops and other toys based on Beyblade. Voted the #1 toy at the World Hobby Fair in Tokyo, the tops are currently available at major toy stores and mass merchandisers in Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as through toysrus.com, and will expand to the rest of the United States this month. Hasbro offers a collection of the spinning tops that kids can build, customize and collect. The Hasbro line-up includes Beyblade Starter Sets, Deluxe Launchers and Beystadiums. With four parts needed for each Beyblade, there are literally hundreds of top-building combinations possible. The attack ring determines its aggressiveness, the weight disk determines balance, the spin gear determines spin direction and blade base determines movement patterns throughout the Beystadium, where competitions are held. The last Beyblade top spinning gets the glory. "We are extremely thrilled about the Beyblade toy brand which has extraordinary potential and we can't wait to help introduce this wonderful product in the market," said Warren Kornblum, Executive Vice President Worldwide Marketing and Branding, Toys 'R Us. "Beyblade" The Animated Series The "Beyblade" animated series spins in from Japan capturing kids six and older. The Japanese toy phenomenon is coming to life in an edgy anime cartoon that unites an international team of heroes on a globetrotting quest. The series acquired from d-rights, Inc. by Nelvana tells a story of a boy who learns to harness the power of his ancestors to perfect his technique in the sport of Beyblade. The heroes bond as they battle their way to the world championship. The series is packed with kid appeal as the play pattern of the show is directly emulated by this must-have toy of the year. Nelvana will spotlight the animated series at NATPE 2002. "The Japanese anime and toy figurine craze in the United States started with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, then moved to Pokemon -- now there is Beyblade," said Toper Taylor, President of Nelvana Communications. "If we can achieve the same success in North America and Europe that was achieved in Japan, then we've got ourselves a monster." Beyblade Battle Association The only sports entertainment brand where adrenaline meets strategy to create an experience where the fan becomes an active competitor, Nelvana will work with Hasbro to launch a fully integrated media blitz in 2002 including the Beyblade Battle Association (BBA), the American counterpart to Japan's wildly successful Beyblade live events. A recent nationwide championship sponsored by Takara in Japan attracted more than 6000 fans. CORUS ENTERTAINMENT'S NELVANA Corus Entertainment is a Canadian-based media and entertainment company. Corus is Canada's market leader in both specialty TV and Radio. Corus also owns Nelvana Limited, one of the world's largest international producers and distributors of children's programming and products. The company's other interests include music, television broadcasting and advertising services. A publicly traded company, Corus is listed on the Toronto (CJR.B) and New York (CJR) Exchanges. Corus' Web site can be found at corusentertainment.com. d-rights d-rights is 100% owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation handling entertainment content for a variety of media and currently focusing on production and licensing of animation. Mitsubishi Corporation is world biggest general trading company, whose turnover is US$130 billion and net profit is US$1 billion. d-rights is the company who produced the animated series of Beyblade and is taking care of all licensing related to the property, Beyblade.