Friday, December 9, 2022

Craig Herman talks about PEANUTS licensing in the attractions space

Craig Herman

Craig Herman is a specialist in cross-marketing initiatives for brands and intellectual property (IP). Since 2013, as VP Global Brand Experiences & Publishing at Peanuts Worldwide LLC, he’s been using that superpower to help create new adventures that feature Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Woodstock, the kite-eating tree, the Great Pumpkin and the rest of the Peanuts gang.

In the attractions and LBE space, Herman’s work has helped license many new Peanuts-themed collaborations around the world, bringing its characters, stories and themes to new platforms and audiences in a variety of outdoor and indoor settings. Peanuts will mark its 75th anniversary in 2025, and the brand remains globally beloved.

InPark editor Judith Rubin interviewed Herman about the special appeal of Peanuts in attractions and to get a taste of what’s next. He was preparing for IAAPA Expo 2022 in Orlando, a trade show he attends regularly to meet with clients and partners.

Courtesy Peanuts Hotel

You have been building out the Peanuts IP in the attractions and LBE space for 10 years now. How do these projects and partnerships come about?

I work very closely with a core network of developers and operators to help identify quality experience and partnerships to bring Peanuts to a wide audience. We are constantly on the lookout for exciting new attractions.

Peanuts carefully evaluates each potential project to ensure that the heart of the brand is well represented, including core storytelling components, solid character representation, and quality family entertainment.  

What’s new on the Peanuts horizon?

This is an exciting time as we continue to build on a solid base of quality experiences to introduce new and existing fans to the world of Peanuts.

This past summer, Peanuts and Kilburn Media proudly opened The Search for Snoopy Hawaii – a 30,000 square foot, immersive experience where guests are invited to step into the iconic world of Peanuts featuring Astronaut Snoopy, Beagle Scouts, Charlie Brown’s neighborhood, the Great Pumpkin patch, and much more. Fan engagement is key to a quality experience, and at Search for Snoopy guests are enlisted to help Charlie Brown find Snoopy through a series of clues cleverly “hidden” in each area throughout the experience, adding an element of surprise and delight.

And during IAAPA Expo 2022, Peanuts and acclaimed Montreal production company Monlove announced a unique, new project that is genuinely out-of-this-world: All Systems Are Go, at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Universe Theater, opening Spring 2023. The 20-minute experience will feature the Peanuts gang appearing as four to five-foot-tall articulated characters operated by puppeteers. The characters will narrate the iconic history of NASA, the Artemis missions, and future plans in an educational and imaginatively enlightening way for the whole family.

SLIDESHOW: The Search for Snoopy: A Peanuts Adventure. Courtesy Peanuts Worldwide.

Applying the brand globally, are there particular aspects, themes or characters that resonate more than others from one region to another?

Snoopy leads the gang as the most recognizable character across Asia, resonating with kids and adults. The Asia Pacific region is a big focus for Peanuts. In Japan, we’ve expanded hospitality with cafes and the popular Peanuts-themed boutique hotel in Kobe.

Are there new platforms that you’re targeting or considering for Snoopy and the gang?

We continue to explore opportunities in Location-Based Entertainment (LBE) that deliver quality family experiences. We keep an eye out for opportunities to complement our best-in-class consumer products program and exclusive streaming partnership with Apple TV+.

Coming soon: Peanuts and Rockefeller Productions will open a touring, mini-golf attraction in early 2023; stay tuned for more details!

In Thailand, Peanuts partnered with Index Creative on a pop-up immersive experience opened in July themed to space travel, demonstrating how the partners can use popular storylines from the strip to create exciting interactive attractions for all ages.

The immersive experience space is an exciting visual and textural medium with great potential to apply Peanuts characters to quality family experiences. As we get closer to our 75th anniversary in 2025, we are exploring immersive formats, as well as expanding into hospitality.

Why does the Peanuts IP lend itself so well to attractions?

Families are looking for quality experiences and the universal appeal of Peanuts hits the mark across all demographics. During the pandemic, consumers turned to Peanuts for comfort and familiarity, proving the lasting appeal of beloved characters.

Tell us about Peanuts holiday and seasonal celebrations, and theme park activations.

Peanuts is the perfect fit for making the holidays bright and cheerful, on TV, on Broadway, in live experiences and in the parks.

For more than 50 years, families have enjoyed the timeless themes of the beloved family holiday TV classics, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

A Charlie Brown Christmas Live. Courtesy Gershwin Entertainment.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas, Live,” the popular touring production, will once again begin performances in more than 40 cities this November, and will include a stop in NYC on Broadway for the second year running. In addition, Marriott’s Gaylord properties will bring back the full-scale production of their ICE Experience (after a two-year pandemic hiatus) featuring A Charlie Brown Christmas at their new Denver location this November. Centennial Mall will present the “Charlie Brown Christmas/Santa’s Village” experience in Chicago.

Cedar Fair continues to be our exclusive theme park partner in North America, and every year their Peanuts programming includes a host of in-park, seasonal activations – in addition to themed lands, stage shows, and character meet-and-greets. The new Peanuts retail expansion at Cedar Point which opened in June was also a resounding hit.

Snoopy and Universal Studios Japan (USJ) in Osaka have also enjoyed a longtime partnership since USJ opened in 2001.

Peanuts @ The Point. Courtesy Cedar Point.

How would you describe your role in the Peanuts project process – from the initial conversation/idea, through design and development, to opening day and beyond?

We are a small team and so I play a very central role in the sales process, straight on through to creative brainstorming, development, and on through coordinating marketing and PR strategy for opening. With a deep knowledge of story arcs from the 17,500 classic comic strips, my design and creative partners at Creative Associates (Schulz studio in Santa Rosa) work with the partner to develop a quality attraction that captures the essence of Peanuts and the beloved characters.

As the network of projects grows, how do you maintain quality control, brand authenticity, and relevance?

We carefully evaluate all aspects of the design process to ensure consistency and quality.

Brushing Up on Happiness with Snoopy: At Hospital Shriners Para Ninos in Mexico City, Guadalupe Lino and young patient Silvia paint the Snoopy and Woodstock mural donated to the hospital by Peanuts Worldwide and the nonprofit Foundation for Hospital Art. The mural is one of 70 donated to hospitals as part of the global “Take Care With Peanuts” initiative, launched October 2 in conjunction with the 70th anniversary of Peanuts. Courtesy Peanuts Worldwide.

Charles Schulz covered a wide range of topics in the 50 years he wrote the comic strip; touching on everything from sports to space travel, all through one group of neighborhood kids and, of course, the beloved beagle Snoopy. We often go back to the strip to build out new initiatives, such as Take Care with Peanuts which, among other things, incorporates environmental consciousness that Schulz included in strips he wrote 30+ years ago. The world and cast of characters that Schulz wrote also encapsulates the full spectrum of human emotions: optimism, anxiety, unrequited love, the excitement of new opportunities, and everything in between. Those moments of humanity keep the brand just as relevant today as when the first strip was published in 1950.

Who do you like to hear from and meet with regarding potential future business licensing Peanuts?

I am open to meeting potential partners in the hospitality, FEC, attractions sector but also developers with knowledge of future projects that would be ideal for a family brand like Peanuts. Please reach out by email to set up a meeting: [email protected].

ICE! Featuring A Charlie Brown Christmas. Courtesy Marriott.
Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin ([email protected]) is a leading journalist, publicist, strategist, blogger, content marketing specialist and connector in the international attractions industry. She excels at writing about all aspects of design and technical design, production and project management. Areas of special interest include AV integration and show control, lighting design and acoustics, specialty cinema, digital video and world’s fairs. Judith has ties to numerous industry organizations. From 2005-2020 she ran communications, publications and social media for the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). In 2013, she was honored with the TEA Service Award. She was development director of IMERSA, and co-chair of the 2014 IMERSA Summit. She was publicist for the Large Format Cinema Association in the 1990s, now part of the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) and has also contributed to the publications of PLASA, IAAPA and the International Planetarium Society. Already making her mark as a magazine and book editor, Judith joined World’s Fair magazine in 1987, which introduced her to the attractions industry. Launching as a freelancer in the mid 1990s she has contributed to dozens of publications and media outlets including Funworld, Lighting&Sound America, Sound & Communications, Urban Land, The Raconteur and The Planetarian. She joined InPark in 2010. Judith earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute. She has lived in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, and now makes her home in Saint Louis, where she is active in the local arts and theater community.

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