Happiness Is a Peanuts Comic

After a decades-long hiatus, Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters will make their way back into comic book stores, thanks to a license between BOOM! Studios and Peanuts Worldwide. Last spring, all-ages imprint KaBOOM! published a print graphic novel, a downloadable digital version, and an iTunes app based on the new animated DVD/TV special, Happiness Is a Warm Blanket. That led to the monthly comic, which will launch in January after a preview issue in November.

"The world loves Peanuts," says Ross Richie, CEO and founder of BOOM! Studios. "People like the original animated material and they like the comics, which have some of the greatest creative content ever in that form. No matter what era you want to go back to, there’s lots of content that would lend itself to comic books. We’ll turn to that and take it as inspiration." The monthly comics will be collected and bound for bookstores, as well as available digitally through Comixology and through a branded Peanuts iTunes app.

"We’re focused on generating new content that appeals to young kids," reports April Heeren, Peanuts Worldwide v-p brand management. "Original graphic novels are a way to reach children 6-12." Other digital and print publishers on board for Peanuts include Barnes & Noble for Nook Color ebooks, Running Press for storybooks, Publications International for sound and look-and-find books, Hallmark for recordable storybooks, iVerse for digital comic strips and collections, and Dalmatian Press for coloring and activity books. One to two books per year (some animation-based and some rooted in publishing) will extend across all formats and publishers, Heeren says, as was the case with Happiness Is a Warm Blanket.

Other licenses held by KaBOOM! include the recently acquired WordGirl from Scholastic and several classic Disney character and TV properties, with more to come. "The content in the direct market [comic book shops] has become more serious and mature," Richie says. "Almost no one in the space is creating kid-friendly content."

Reader Rabbit, Meet Curious George

The Learning Company, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt known for its digital software under the Reader Rabbit, Carmen Sandiego, and Oregon Trail brands, is releasing a series of math and reading workbooks for pre-kindergarten through grade one. Half of the eight initial titles will feature Reader Rabbit and the other half Curious George, whose rights are controlled by HMH’s trade division.

"[George’s] sense of curiosity alone brings educational value," says TLC president Tony Bordon. "And he’s fun. Our products have to have educational value—we’re not SpongeBob, we’re The Learning Company—but the educational value has to be embedded in the fun." As for Reader Rabbit, the character appeared in some print workbooks in the early 2000s and their content has been updated for today’s world.

Parent HMH will handle most of the copy, design, and fulfillment on the print side, but the books will be sold under The Learning Company imprint. Each will have a code to allow readers to access a collection of free online games created by TLC that supplement the book’s concepts, as well as a downloadable version of the book and a reward certificate. "The quality of the learning experience, inside and outside the classroom, comes from both the online and the offline experience," Bordon says. "That combination is much more enriching."

Planned print formats include 64-page, $5.99 workbooks for the trade, 32-page, $3.99 versions for discount channels, and 320-page $19.95 titles for club stores. "As a division of HMH, we can leverage our ability to access a lot of retail stores serviced by our trade publishing group here," Bordon says. "And we have an extensive reseller network that sells into schools and some 5,000 independent teacher stores." Another key target will be the 2 million home-schooled students in the U.S.

Chapter Books to Feature Fanboy & Chum Chum

This coming February, Simon & Schuster is launching its first two chapter books tied to Nickelodeon’s Fanboy & Chum Chum, for boys 7-10. "Boys are reading, but you have to hit them with the right thing," says Valerie Garfield, v-p/publisher, novelty and licensed publishing. "We were looking for a chapter book series and this fit the bill. With this audience, the appeal has to be instantaneous, or it doesn’t work. You just look at these covers and you kind of giggle. You get it."

The property features superheroes that wear their tight-whiteys over their costumes and are pop-culture-obsessed superfans. "It struck us as having a great mix of the fun and silliness of SpongeBob, plus a little bit of Rugrats and Johnny Neutron," explains Garfield. "Some of the properties we see being pitched for this age group are a little edgier. This stands on its own on the humor, but it also has a sweetness and charm that’s age-appropriate."

The books are intended to appeal to all boys in the age range, from those who can read them easily all the way to reluctant readers, with pacing, chapter length, margins, and font size all carefully considered. "We really took our time with this one," Garfield says.

Big Red Plush Deal

The plush toy and bag license for Scholastic’s Clifford the Big Red Dog, set to celebrate its 50th birthday during the 2012-2013 school year, has moved to the Douglas Company. "They’re relatively new to the licensing arena, but we were impressed with their approach and positioning and their respect for Clifford," says Daisy Kline, Scholastic Media’s v-p marketing and brand management. Douglas will debut its Clifford products at the toy and gift shows early next year.

Other recent Clifford signings have included Twisterz for educational toys, Zoobies for Clifford-shaped pillow/blanket sets and The Canadian Group for games and jigsaw puzzles. Mills Entertainment will debut a live entertainment show, A BIG Family Musical, in 2012. Scholastic will support the anniversary with national advertising, new publishing, and promotional support in all of its retail and school channels.

In other Scholastic birthday news, The Magic School Bus is in the midst of celebrating its 25th anniversary. Its key licensee, The Young Scientist’s Club, is introducing five new products to its long-running product line, and new licensee Identity Games is selling a Magic School Bus version of its Living Game Board, a board game skin for the iPad. Scholastic’s interactive group is releasing The Magic School Bus: Oceans as its first game for the Nintendo DS platform, as well as a second iTunes app, Magic School Bus: Dinosaurs, while Scholastic Audio will debut additional Magic School Bus titles next year. Maximum Entertainment Productions is launching a 60-city live show this month. The TV series is in its 17th season, currently running on the Qubo block on NBC, ION, and Telemundo.

In Brief

Rights to The World of Beatrix Potter move from Chorion—which is selling off its assets as a result of being in receivership (bankruptcy)—to Silvergate Media, a company founded by Chorion’s former chairman. Separately, The Copyrights Group, recently a division of Chorion, was reacquired by its founders and will assume licensing rights to Paddington Bear, The Snowman and other properties.... AAA renewed its agreement with Cookie Jar Entertainment for a print and digital campaign starring Richard Scarry’s Busytown to teach children about vehicle safety.... Hachette Jeunesse is planning 50 to 60 titles tied to the new TV series Babar and the Adventures of Badou, licensed by Nelvana. In the U.S., Abrams released a new title, Babar’s Celesteville Games, and is reissuing classic titles in a new format throughout 2011. A number of new licensees also have been signed in Europe for Babar, celebrating its 80th birthday this year.... Imagine Publishing, an imprint of Charlesbridge, will publish a book featuring Sparky the Fire Dog, the National Fire Protection Association’s mascot for 60 years.... Where’s Wally? licensee Woodmansterne has sold over 1 million greeting cards based on the character, licensed by Classic Media, in the U.K. since January 2009. Classic also has signed a number of new U.K. licensees for Wally, including Character World, Sert-MST, Trans-Continental, and Little Star Creations.... Helen of Troy introduced a limited-edition collection of Twilight PRO Beauty Tools hair-styling appliances and accessories, licensed by Summit Entertainment, in advance of the release of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 in theaters this November.... U.K. licensing agent Metrostar will manage the licensing program for Oxford Univerity Press’s Winnie the Witch children’s books.... Romeo & Juliet Couture is marketing a high-end fashion line tied to the book-based TV series Gossip Girl, licensed by Warner Bros. Warner also licensed The Bridge Direct as the master toy licensee for its 2012 films The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again.... Atlantyca Entertainment partnered with grocery retailer Despar and environmental group Legambiente for a sticker promotion at Italian grocery stores to educate children about the rainforest.