Hugo (franchise)

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Hugo franchise logo.gif
Created byIvan Sølvason and Niels Krogh Mortensen[1]
Original workHugo (game show)
Print publications
Book(s)Hugo i de Afskyelige Labyrinter
Hugo: Troll Story (Poland)
Cadı Sila'ya Karşı (Turkey)
ComicsHugo (Israel)
Hugo Haftalık Çizgi Dergisi (Turkey)
A jugar con Hugo (Argentina)
Świat Przygód z Hugo (Poland)
Films and television
Film(s)Hugo and the Diamond Moon (cancelled)
Hugo – The World's Worst Comeback (cancelled)
Television seriesHugo Safari
Theatrical presentations
Musical(s)The Magical Kingdom of Hugo
TraditionalHugo (Sweden)
Video game(s)Hugo series
Other games
Original music"Hugo Rap!", "Hugo Er En Skærmtrold" (Denmark)
Various (Germany)
Toy(s)Figures, plushies

Hugo (Skærmtrolden Hugo in Danish, meaning "Hugo the Screen-Troll". Skærmtrold is a play on charmetrold (literally "charm-troll"), a word for a sweet and charming person or creature) is a media franchise.

The franchise was created by the Danish company Interactive Television Entertainment (ITE) in 1990 for the purpose of interactive television for children. It is based on the fictional character of Hugo, a friendly, small Scandinavian folklore troll fighting against evil, often to save his family.

Since its premiere in 1990, the Hugo game show has been aired in more than 40 countries, spawning dozens of video games for various platforms. Hugo spawned other merchandise, including dedicated magazines. As of 2012, the commercial parts of the franchise consist mostly of mobile games being published by the Danish company Hugo Games A/S, renamed 5th Planet Games A/S in 2018.


Hugo (on the coin in the center) and the franchise's other classic main characters (clockwise: Hugo's wife Hugolina, their kids Rut, Rit, Rat, and the villains Don Croco and Scylla).

The show is set in contemporary fantasy universe. The franchise's titular protagonist Hugo is a one-meter-tall troll living in "troll forest" located somewhere in Scandinavia.[2] Hugo's family includes his beloved wife Hugolina (Hugoline in the original Danish version) and their kids Rit (TrolleRit), Rat (TrolleRat) and Rut (TrolleRut). The main antagonist is the evil Scylla (Afskylia), an ancient and cruel witch who has had a grudge against the trolls for centuries. Scylla often kidnaps Hugo's family because she needs their presence to restore and keep her youth and beauty.[3] The later-added characters are mostly non-human cartoon-like creatures and anthropomorphic animals, including Hugo's friends (such as Fernando the toucan and Jean Paul the chimpanzee) and more of Hugo's enemies, including Scylla's minions (chiefly her henchman Don Croco, a humanoid crocodile).[4]

In 2001,[5] a beaver minor enemy character received its own spin-off show, titled Stinky & Stomper. In the 2005 science fiction reboot titled Agent Hugo, Hugo became a futuristic James Bond-parody special agent as an employee of the organization R.I.S.K. to fight against high-tech enemies such as mad scientists and robots.[6]


The idea for an interactive video game TV show was conceived in 1987 by Ivan Sølvason, founder of initially very small video game studio SilverRock Productions and former editor-in-chief of Oberoende Computer[7] who was creator of the interactive TV program OsWALD made for Nordisk Film's TV2 Denmark in 1988,[8] and Niels Krogh Mortensen, an animator. Sølvason's small company SilverRock Productions, which was later renamed as Interactive Television Entertainment (ITE) ApS in 1992,[9] developed the character of Hugo as well as the designated, custom-built computer hardware system that would convert telephone DTMF signals into remotely control the characters in the game and allow the interaction of the audience and the TV action without delay.[10] Sølvason and Krogh Mortensen created the concept of "Hugo the TV troll"[3] and the Hugo TV program targeted for the children audience between the ages of four to 14[11] was launched in September 1990.[12]

Hugo was invented by Krogh Mortensen while he was biking to his grandmother from Hellerup to Gladsaxe in the spring of 1990.[13] The character Hugo was originally supposed to be called Max, but the producer of Eleva2ren, John Berger, insisted on the name Hugo, forcing ITE to change the name and logo about one week before the premiere.[2] The new name caused trademark problems, because it was already registered in most European countries by Hugo Boss, while ITE A/S were first in Denmark and Portugal and could potentially stop Hugo Boss from launching any products in these markets. Eventually, both companies made a coexistence agreement with the help of the ITE in-house lawyer Nina Wium. ITE also fought hard against any attempt to abuse the Hugo's "good name and reputation", resulting in more than 170 lawsuits against Danish producers and advertisers.[8]

The programs were licensed for more than 40[14] (43 as of 2007[15]) TV shows around the world, tailored to individual markets. Many of more than half billion[16] viewers believed that the program is native to their countries, as Hugo spoke Danish only in Denmark.[17] By 1994, Sweden's Datormagazin compared the European popularity of Hugo, with its branching off into merchandising, to that of the Ninja Turtles.[7] On German-language kabel eins, there was also a spin-off show titled Hexana-Schloss ("Hexana's [Scylla's] Castle").[18] A more advanced show Hugo: Jungle Island[14] (Hugo Vulkanøen) premiered in January 1999.[19] Some Danish Hugo items were released exclusively[11] for the fanclub Den Faktyrlige Bogklub (Hugo's Book Club),[20] which was established in co-operation with the Danish publisher Carlsen Verlag in 1999.[21] A "giant" Hugo theme park also has been considered at one point circa 2000.[8]

At first, Niels Krogh Mortensen was doing all of the graphics and animation, using Deluxe Paint on an Amiga computer. His brother, Lars Krogh Mortensen, later assisted him. They were later joined by Torben B. Larsen,[22][23][24] Jonas Fromm,[25] Claus Friese,[26] Anders Morgenthaler,[27][28] Jakob Steffensen,[29] Jonas Raagaard,[30] Stephen Meldal Foged,[31] Martin Ciborowski,[32] Ulla Gram Larsen,[33] and many other 2D and 3D artists; eventually, over 100 people were working on developing Hugo for ITE. Niels Krogh Mortensen worked on Hugo between 1990 and 1998. During this time he usually directed and managed the projects; he also created storyboards and drew graphics. The Krogh Mortensen brothers and Jakob Steffensen left ITE in 1997 and founded their own company, Krogh Mortensen Animation A/S (KMA).[34] KMA was later contracted to animate several more Hugo games.

In 2002, Sølvason sold ITE to the venture capital company Olicom A/S;[15][35] Olicom then invested $22 million into the company,[1] reduced the staff of ITE by a third to 60 employees and attempted to expand more into the U.S., UK, and Asian markets.[36] Olicom in turn sold ITE in 2006, by then staffed by only 35 employees,[37] to NDS Group, where it became NDS Denmark.[38]

Hugo copyrights were acquired by the Danish game publisher Krea Medie A/S, a part of the media company Kraemedie.[39] New Hugo owner Henrik Kølle stated in October 2012 that Hugo Games A/S "is happy that the traditional Hugo countries, where Hugo was aired in the '90s, still love Hugo and seemingly can’t get enough of him. [...] Angry Birds have shown us the way here, so now we are hard at work on, among other things, a film project, exciting licensing deals for toys and finally we hope to release another Hugo game in time for summer 2013."[40] On 28 November 2012, Krea Medie was acquired by Egmont Group, but Hugo Games and the rights to Hugo were not part of the sale agreement with Egmont.[41][42] A possible new Hugo live show was hinted in July 2014.[43] Hugo Games is owned and managed by Henry Mallet, and was valued at DKK 56 million and generating an annual income of about DKK 10 million as estimated in September 2014 when the company was listed for investment as HUGO NewHold ApS.[44]

Video game adaptations[edit]

ITE games[edit]

Niels Krogh Mortensen and his brother Lars directed more than 30 Hugo games that sold more than 10 million copies,[12] including over three million in Germany alone. The games were released for multiple platforms, including personal computers, game consoles and mobile phones,[45] not counting numerous small browser games (first of which was released in 1996[21]). Most of the tiles are the platform games or minigame compilations, but there are also several educational games.[46] Distributors and partners included Egmont Interactive, Electronic Arts[8] and Namco.[47]

The first title in the long-running series of Hugo games was created in 1991 for the Commodore 64,[48] followed by the games for the Amiga, PC (DOS and Microsoft Windows), Game Boy and PlayStation. The first 3D platform game (Hugo: Quest for the Sunstones) was published in 2000.[49] In the early games Hugo attempts to free his family from the villainess Scylla in the same scenarios as the TV show. In the later games he usually foils her revenge plots and schemes to gain supreme powers. However, several of the games do not feature her at all. In some of them, Hugo's family members, friends or sometimes even enemies (in the multiplayer games) are featured as playable characters. In 2005, Hugo was rebranded as Agent Hugo for a new series of four 3D platform games.[50]

Krea Medie games[edit]

In 2009, the new publisher, Krea Medie, released a complete reboot game Hugo – Magic in the Trollwoods[51] (Hugo – Magi i Troldeskoven[52]) with no connection with neither any of the Hugo show characters or the Agent Hugo series, featuring Hugo as a troll magician-in-training. It became the only game listed on the games' official website, all the previous content having been entirely removed.

In 2010, however, Krea released a game-making program that featured an original version of Hugo and the other classic characters.[53] In 2011, the company's new owner[54] Henrik Kølle said he hopes that release of a new video game would be "one of many exciting steps towards the new Hugo rise as a global brand."[55][56] Krea has seemingly abandoned an idea of the reboot (which got removed from the official website) and successfully[57][58] returned to the original version of the franchise with Hugo Retro Mania, featuring the original version of Hugo and a classic scenario of rescuing his family captured by Scylla the witch (renamed as "Sculla" in the English version).[59] According to Krea's Henrik Kølle, "For the first time since acquiring Hugo, [Krea Medie] have developed a project tailored to Hugo".[55] The task of developing new games was given to the specially created studio Hugo Games A/S.[2] A 2015 game Ronaldo & Hugo: Superstar Skaters guest starred top footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.[60]

Feature film adaptation projects[edit]

Hugo and the Diamond Moon[edit]

A canceled CGI-animated film titled Hugo and the Diamond Moon was planned in 1999 to be released at the end of 2002. Its budget was set at around 100 million DKK[61] which at that time amounted to $12–20 million.[62][63] It was written and expected to be directed by the Disney and Pixar veteran animator and musician Jørgen Klubien,[21][61] and was storyboarded with over 8,000 sketches[64] by Frank Madsen, Jørgen Klubien, Mike Cachuela and Mads Themberg. David Filskov, who did sound effects for Hugo for years,[65] was on the film project as well. According to ITE's CEO, Jesper Helbrandt, they wanted to make a Hugo animated film for years.[66] It was planned that the release of the film would be accompanied by a range of tie-in products, including toys and video games.[61]

In the film, Hugo and his grandfather were supposed to "travel to a diamond moon"[67] and the storyboards showed Hugo battling Scylla in space.[68] The plot premise was described by Helbrandt as following: "Afskyelia [Scylla] have obtained a way to threaten Hugo and his forest friends. Therefore Hugo has to do something, and when he discovers a moon behind the moon we know today, he will set forth. Afskyelia chases after him. But I promise you, that unfortunately for her, the story is to end happily."[61] The movie's basic plot premise resembles the educational game Hugo in Space, which was released in 2003,[69] one year after the planned release of the movie. In this game, she plans to extract the rare magical black diamonds (first introduced in an action game Hugo: Black Diamond Fever in 2002[70]) from an asteroid's core and become the most powerful witch of all time.[63]

Hugo – The World's Worst Comeback[edit]

Another CGI film by Einstein Film (Ronal the Barbarian) and Anima Vitae (The Flight Before Christmas, Little Brother, Big Trouble: A Christmas Adventure) was officially announced when its teaser trailer was published on 20 February 2013.[71][72] It was to be produced by Petteri Pasanen and Trine Heidegaard, directed by Philip Einstein Lipski[73] and Mikko Pitkänen,[74] and written by Tim John and Timo Turunen.[75] Finnish film foundation SES gave 50,000 Euro for the project.[76] It was also given development support from Creative Europe.[77] The film was to start production in 2014 for a planned release in 2016.

Its plot premise was as follows: "A former TV-game show star, Hugo, now a hotel janitor and a single dad, gets lured into a comeback. His daughter, first enthralled by a celeb-dad, soon finds herself abandoned and to get her dad back home enters Hugo’s new show. Meanwhile Hugo’s old archenemy, the mountain troll Fredo, steals Hugo’s place in the show. Hugo’s daughter ends up fighting the raging mountain troll disguised as her dad on live TV, forcing Hugo to his ultimate quest: how to get rid of fame and save his daughter."[78] Scylla was also said to have a part in the movie.[79]

Theatrical and television spin-offs[edit]

Theatrical shows[edit]

In 1996, a theatrical musical The Magical Kingdom of Hugo (הממלכה הקסומה של הוגו) was played in Tel Aviv, Israel,[80] telling a story of a group of kids who were sucked into the television screen and summoned directly to Hugo's world, Trollandia, by the witch Griselda (גריזלדה, an Israeli name for Scylla). A recording of it was also commercially released on VHS in 1997,[81] and a CD with the songs from the musical was released too.

A Turkish interactive stage show adaptation for children ages 3–6[82] titled Hugo ve Tolga Abi Cadı Sila`ya Karşı ("Hugo and Tolga Against the Witch Scylla") was played in Istanbul in 2004-2005, directed by Recep Özgür Dereli.[83][84][85] In it, Scylla (Sila) played by Eda Özdemir[86] and Don Croco (Donkroko) make a new trap for Hugo and his family.

Hugo Safari[edit]

A children's animated documentary series Hugo Safari was produced in 1999–2000, directed by Elsa Søby. It consists of three seasons wherein each contains seven episodes. The series was aired in several countries[11] and was also released in home media by ITE on the DVD.[87] Krae later released some of the episodes for free on the Internet[88] and others for purchase as an iPhone/iPad application.[89]

Other media[edit]


The characters of Hugo were also a subject of dedicated periodical magazines, such as Hugo Magazin / Hugo News in Germany (1999–2003),[90] A jugar con Hugo in Argentina (1995–2006),[91] the weekly Haftalık Hugo in Turkey,[92][93] and the monthly Świat Przygód z Hugo in Poland (2003–2010, along with its coloring book offshoot magazine Baw Się i Koloruj z Hugo).[94][95][96]


Hugo music includes:

  • Two Danish dance and hip hop albums released in 1990–1991, Hugo Rap! and Hugo Er En Skærmtrold.[97]
  • Charity album by various artists, DJ Hugo, released in Finland in 1993; it included Ace of Base ("Young and Proud"), DJ Bobo's ("Keep on Dancing!") and Double You ("Who's Fooling Who").[98]
  • Polish album Hugo i Przyjaciele Śpiewają Piosenki released in 2002.[99] To promote Hugo video games, their Polish distributor Cenega Poland organized a concert tournee of Hugo together with Bartek Wrona of the boysband Just 5.[100]

Numerous music album compilations by various artists saw a release in Germany during the mid-1990s, including Hugo Rap: Der Song Zur Interaktiven Gameshow (pop rap, 1994) and Hoppla Hugo (euro house, 1995);[101][102] Hugo & The Witch – I Know It's Heaven (house, progressive trance, garage house, 1995);[103] Hugo feat. Judith: Show me the Way (euro house, 1996);[104] Hugo's Mega Dance (techno, euro house, euro pop, 1994),[105] Hugo's Mega Dance 2 (techno, euro house, happy hardcore, hip hop, 1995),[106] Hugo's Mega Dance '96 (techno, house, euro pop, 1996),[107] Hugo's Mega Dance '96 – Frühlings-Hits (techno, euro house, happy hardcore, hip hop, 1996),[108] Hugo's Mega Dance '96 – Die Dritte (techno, euro house, happy hardcore, hip hop, 1996),[109] Hugo's Mega Dance '97 (techno, euro house, hip hop, synth-pop, 1997),[110] and Hugo's Mega Dance '97 – Frühlings-Hits.[111]


There is an Israeli comic book series Hugo[112] and a Polish series of children's booklets Troll Story. There is also a Turkish audio story book (an audio book cassette released with an emulated children's book) Hugo: Cadı Sila'ya Karşı[113] and a Danish Christmas story audio book Hugo og det Fortryllede Agern ("Hugo and the Enchanted Acorn").


  • In the native country of the franchise, Denmark, the ITE-licensed merchandise included food products (such as ice-cream[114] and candy[115]),[11] as well as various other merchandise[116] like puzzles, watches, backpacks, sticker books and activity books.[11] The latter included the picture book Hugo i de afskyelige labyrinter (an adaptation of the original game)[117] and a puzzle book Hugo i de fantastiske labyrinter (a loose adaptation of the video game Hugo: Cannon Cruise).[118]
  • Hugo merchandise in Germany included clothing items (T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, socks),[119] plush dolls (of Hugo and his family),[120] PVC figures (of Hugo, his family, Fernando and Scylla),[121] and posters.[122]
  • Hugo merchandise in Poland included various food products (such as chocolate bars by Groupe Danone,[123] potato chips by Lorenz Snack-World,[124] and a line of juice drinks by SokPol[125][126]), activity book series Księga Labiryntów Hugo,[127][128] and various CD-ROMs (audio, graphics, minigames).
  • Hugo merchandise in other countries included the browser app Tamahugo,[129] student kits, and toys in Israel;[130] vitamin drinks, tea, T-shirts, pins, candy and puzzles in Slovenia;[131] a music cassette and sticker albums in Chile;[132][133] the board game Hugo in Sweden;[134] and so forth.[135]

In the first Krea Medie / Hugo Games merchandise, Adimex released a line of Hugo Troll Race themed bath products in 2013.[136] That same year, Hugo Games negotiated a new partnership with the Nordic games company Tactic for a full line of products including coloring books, activity books, sticker books and puzzles for Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden to come out in 2013 and 2014;[137][138] the line is based on classic Hugo artworks.[139] Also in 2014, Hugo themed biscuits were released by Danish company Karen Volf, based on the new games,[140] and YOUNiik launched a shop with Hugo cover and case designs.[141] The first Hugo themed slot game was released in 2016.[142]


Hugo exhibit at the Finnish Museum of Games.

The program won awards for a best entertainment show in eight countries,[55] including the Golden Cable award for the best children's program in 1995 in Germany, a title for best rated children's show of all time in 1996 in Sweden, a 1999 Troféu Nova Gente award in Portugal, the TV Presenter of the Year award in 2001 and the Oireachtas TV Personality of the Year in 2004 Ireland, and Argentine's Martín Fierro Awards' Best Kids Show 2003.[11][21][143] Hugo game sales exceeded 6 million copies by 2001[87] and 8.5 million copies by 2005.[144] In 2012, mobile game Hugo Troll Race "has beaten all records when it comes to Danish game sales" by selling more than 1 million copies worldwide in just three days as "the fastest selling Danish game on the App Store of all time, and currently the most downloaded app in 25 countries."[40]

Cultural impact[edit]

In 2001, a 20-meter high effigy of Afskylia (Scylla) entered the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest witch dummy ever burnt at Sankt Hans (Danish Midsummer festival).[145] In 2009, the Hugo franchise was selected to be a central part of the country's digital heritage exhibit at the Royal Danish Library.[146][147][148] Vietnam Idol contestant Đức Anh Hugo (born Lê Đức Anh) changed his name after Hugo,[149] as did the Vietnamese presenter, actress, singer and businesswoman Thanh Vân Hugo (born Thanh Vân),[150] while the singer Uyên Linh's nickname Simla came from the Vietnamese name of Scylla.[151][152]


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