Craig Herman joined Peanuts Worldwide on March 18 as executive director of publishing. He will be responsible for all editorial content for the Peanuts brand around the world, including physical books, e-books, apps, and other digital formats. He was most recently at Running Press, which has published Peanuts storybooks since 2007.
“Having worked on Peanuts at Running Press and knowing the brand well, I knew that it resonated with multiple generations and that there were opportunities for growth, including globally,” Herman says.
“Craig is the first hire I’ve made since I’ve been in this position, because publishing is such a critical component of the entire merchandising program,” says Leigh Anne Brodsky, formerly of Nickelodeon and Golden Books, who joined Peanuts Worldwide as managing director three months ago. “The editorial voice of Charles Schulz and each of the characters is so important.”
Brodsky notes that the wisdom and philosophy of the strip, along with the artwork and its pop culture significance, will be key to the company’s merchandising plans. “The Peanuts comic strip is a bite-size medium that is perfect for today's millennial and digital generation,” she says.
Peanuts graphic novels, which licensee BOOM! launched in 2011, are a good example of the property’s publishing and entertainment strategy, Brodsky explains. “We want to tell new stories that are grounded and have a foundation in the work that’s gone before, but that are just as breakthrough as what Schulz did when he was paving new paths. This is not about retro and looking back, it’s about looking forward.” She expects the comic books to be integrated into upcoming marketing programs involving other categories of merchandise. “It’s critical that these stories continue to be told and that the next generation continues to read them,” she says.
Herman and Brodsky report positive feedback from publishers since the news of Herman’s new position went out on social media, including inquiries on how they might be able to work with Peanuts. “There’s definitely trade interest at this point,” Brodsky says. She notes that Charlie Brown and the gang will celebrate the 65th anniversary of the comic strip and the 50th anniversary of the TV specials in 2015, and a feature film from Twentieth Century Fox is set for release that same year, all of which will help create awareness and excitement.
Publishing and merchandising will encompass various facets of the property, from Snoopy and Woodstock, to the “girls of Peanuts,” to secondary and tertiary characters. Recently, the company posted on Instagram the 1954 comic strip in which the character Pigpen appeared for the first time. “It was shared over and over again,” Brodsky says. “That really created a thought bubble for all of us.”
Iconix Brand Group, owner of fashion labels including Joe Boxer, Candie’s, Mossimo, Danskin, and London Fog, among many others, purchased a majority interest in Peanuts and United Media, the E.W. Scripps unit that served as the property’s longtime licensing agent—and where Brodsky worked in the late 1980s and early 1990s – for $175 million in 2010. The Peanuts merchandising business was valued at about $2 billion in retail sales worldwide at the time of the acquisition.
Peanuts Worldwide is looking at expanding the property in international markets as well as the U.S., and has a booth at the Bologna Book Fair.