Friday, December 8, 2023

Enjoying Peanuts

The beloved global brand continues to grow on LBE platforms

by Wendy Grant and Judith Rubin

If you grew up following the adventures of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and their friends in the comics, it might surprise you to learn that Gen Zers — who have likely never held a physical newspaper — are sporting personalized Peanuts Swatch watches and coveting Peanuts x Marc Jacobs sweatshirts. On social media, Snoopy is hard to beat: Peanuts has over 17 million fans across its platforms, with high levels of engagement. More than 70 years after its debut, the brand born from Charles M. Schulz’s 1950 comic strip remains beloved around the world and true to its original spirit.

Every generation has embraced Peanuts. Its stories, themes, settings and the characters themselves readily lend themselves to licensing on a wide range of platforms, from merchandise and consumer products to media and live shows, holiday celebrations and hospitality, theme park lands, FECs, Chinese lantern festivals, pop-up experiences, and other forms of indoor and outdoor location-based entertainment (LBE).

“As we look to the brand’s 75th anniversary in 2025, LBE is a key category for us, helping to keep Peanuts the beloved family tradition that it has been for generations,” says Tim Erickson, EVP Peanuts Worldwide. “As a multi-generational family favorite, with innumerable themes from sports to holidays, outdoor adventures to space travel, Peanuts is a natural fit for a wide range of experience-based opportunities.”

Craig Herman

“The Peanuts characters are iconic and the stories are timeless. The Peanuts world is welcoming, comfortable and relatable,” says Craig Herman, Vice President of Global Brand Experiences and Publishing for Peanuts Worldwide LLC. “Peanuts gives our partners the opportunity to tell so many stories — from Charlie Brown pining for the Little Red-haired Girl to the gang playing sports like baseball and football to Snoopy’s adventures as Joe Cool and the World War I Flying Ace.”

Retailers, manufacturers and licensees seeking new LBE opportunities can meet with Herman at Licensing Expo 2022 (Las Vegas, May 26-24), where Peanuts is an exhibitor.

While Snoopy and the gang have become a global brand, licensing partnerships are selected and curated with care to avoid oversaturation. “We recognize that Peanuts has a special relationship with the fans, for whom in many ways, the Peanuts characters have become longtime friends,” says Herman. “We place a high value on that.”

“Peanuts is dedicated to long-term relationships,” says George Wade, President of Bay Laurel Advisors, who along with Herman helped set initial strategy and implementation for the Peanuts LBE expansion. “This is a brand that brings so much value to its partners. The brand is continuing to grow, while retaining its core values.”

Theme parks, FECs and more

Syracuse University professor Robert Thompson, founding director of The Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture, described Peanuts as “arguably the longest story told by a single artist in human history” on PBS NewsHour. From Schulz’s heartfelt and heartwarming story, told over five decades through nearly 18,000 comic strips, sprang its iconic characters and distinctive phrases such as “security blanket” and “Good grief!” that have become part of the global vernacular. Peanuts became a part of popular culture — and never left.

The characters are a key attractor for families with young children. People who grew up snuggling a Snoopy plush or carrying a Charlie Brown lunchbox are now taking their own kids to Snoopy-themed lands at Cedar Fair parks throughout North America. Peanuts began expanding into the LBE space in 1983, when Camp Snoopy first opened at Knott’s Berry Farm. In 2017, 20 years after Knott’s was acquired by operator Cedar Fair, the licensing agreement was extended, allowing the iconic characters to be featured exclusively throughout Cedar Fair’s 11 amusement parks in the US and Canada through 2030.

Cedar Fair expanded its Peanuts-themed Camp Snoopy children’s area at Carowinds with a new climb-and-play area and five rides shortly after the licensing extension was announced. In addition to the Camp Snoopy and Planet Snoopy children’s areas, there are value-added options: seasonal events such as The Great Pumpkin Fest, character breakfasts, etc.

Snoopy and Universal Studios Japan (USJ) in Osaka have also enjoyed a longtime partnership since USJ opened in 2001. Snoopy’s Sound Stage Adventure and The Flying Snoopy ride are key features in the Universal Wonderland family area.

Herman said, “The solidity and longevity of the partnerships with Cedar Fair and Universal Studios Japan are very telling of the strength of the Peanuts brand. Peanuts can help operators deliver great and unique guest experiences. It makes good business sense.”

Building further on the brand’s synergy with LBE platforms and leisure markets, for several years Peanuts has had a presence at the IAAPA Expo, the world’s largest amusement industry gathering, where in 2021 some 200 industry leaders attended an invitation-only Peanuts spotlight presentation by Herman.

“Peanuts is very popular around the world, particularly in Europe and Asia,” says Herman, “and the Middle East, too.” Just as Snoopy and friends are a proven draw for theme parks, there are opportunities in international markets for Peanuts to anchor family areas, including retail, dining and family entertainment centers (FECs).

The opportunities don’t stop there. “New models are waiting to be created, and the adaptability of Peanuts to a wide range of entertainment and educational experiences is proven,” says Herman. “We’re always looking for good partners and interesting collaborations.”

Kilburn Live’s new traveling LBE adventure, featuring Snoopy

The newest offering from the Peanuts gang is an immersive experience, “The Search for Snoopy: A Peanuts Adventure,” developed by Kilburn Live. The 20,000 square-foot experience will premiere in May in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the Ala Moana Center before traveling to the mainland for visits to cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. Mark Manuel, CEO of Kilburn Live, shares, “This is the creation of a fictional world in the real world.” It allows fans to enter the Peanuts neighborhood to explore iconic locations from the beloved comic strip as they uncover clues to help Charlie Brown find Snoopy. Visitors can look forward to visiting Snoopy’s doghouse and Lucy’s psychiatric help booth. But it’s not just an awesome, Instagrammable walk-through. “The Search for Snoopy is highly interactive,” says Manuel.

For instance, in the classroom are two microphones — one at a height for adults and one at a lower height for children. “If a child talks through the kid’s mic, it just sounds like their normal voice,” says Manuel. “But when an adult speaks into the adult mic, it sounds like, ‘Wah wah wah wah,’” he says, imitating the distinctive noise that Peanuts fans will instantly recognize as the sound of an adult talking in the Peanuts world. (That sound was created for the first Peanuts holiday special by playing a tuba muffled by a plunger, at composer Vince Guaraldi’s suggestion.)

Manuel shares that the experience of bringing the Peanuts world to life has been highly enjoyable. “Working with Peanuts has been great. They know and treasure the brand, as they should, but they’re adventurous, too,” he says. “That longevity of more than 70 years means this is a brand that’s multi-generational. And people all over the world love Snoopy.”

Peanuts-themed rooms are a popular choice at the Fame Hall Garden Hotel at Taiwan’s Baseball Hall of Fame.
In Asia, hospitality and the great outdoors

Hotels and attractions are finding that Charlie Brown and friends can increase bookings and sales. After all, would you rather book a standard hotel room or a Snoopy-themed hotel room? Guests are excited to choose Peanuts in Taiwan and Japan. Herman explains, “We can bring demonstrated value to the hospitality sector, specifically resorts and hotels. You can be confident that Peanuts is going to be able to deliver consumers to your front door.”

An entire hotel in Kobe, Japan — The Peanuts Hotel — is dedicated to Snoopy and crew. It spans three stories, with every room decorated to portray a different Peanuts comic. For instance, the comic that shows Snoopy dragging a typewriter atop his doghouse and typing the well-known line, “It was a dark and stormy night,” is brought to life in a room fit for a budding writer, complete with a typewriter and a corkboard wall featuring Schulz’s artwork. The hotel’s website invites guests to experience the world that Schulz created “which is enjoyable for anyone at any age.”

Although Charlie Brown’s dysfunctional baseball team were more lovable losers than homerun heroes, they are a key feature of Taiwan’s Baseball Hall of Fame & Fame Hall Garden Hotel, which opened in 2019. Interactive Peanuts-themed skills-building games are featured in the Hall of Fame, and the hotel offers 20 Peanuts-themed rooms. “Originally 10% of the rooms were planned to be Peanuts-themed,” says Herman, “but due to their popularity, that was expanded to 20%.”

In addition to drawing fans indoors, Peanuts can enhance an outdoor experience. Snoopy Garden opened on Jeju Island in South Korea in 2020. The characters fit seamlessly into the tranquil, 20-acre nature space. Visitors can sit on a dock with Snoopy at Warm Puppy Lake (because, after all, happiness is a warm puppy), await greatness at the Great Pumpkin Patch, or curse the kite-eating tree at the visitor center.

Herman says, “We’re looking for partners who are dedicated to good storytelling. Ultimately, we want the guest to have a great experience.”

Celebrating the holidays — and an anniversary

The Peanuts world continues to grow, evolve and thrive. The Emmy-winning TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas” premiered in 1965, and the resulting association with Peanuts and the holidays continues to this day. The popular Peanuts Christmas Experience with Santa has traveled to Centennial malls during the holiday season for the past three years, making a visit to Santa even more magical. The walk-through experience features life-size characters and interactive stops, including Lucy’s Holiday Help booth, a musical light-up Christmas tree lot, and an LED-activated dance floor. In December 2021, the touring stage show “A Charlie Brown Christmas Live!” debuted in New York City, setting the stage for a longer run in the future.

Peanuts celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2020 with special merchandise ranging from Hallmark figurines to Timex watches, and fashion collaborations with Scandinavian fashion house Soulland, French retailer Cyrillus, and Brazilian clothing company Mar Quente. Retro appliance maker Smeg even released 70 limited-edition refrigerators featuring Snoopy. North American dog daycare provider Dogtopia celebrated Snoopy throughout its more than 130 locations with a special Snoopy birthday party, a Snoopy lookalike contest and other fun activities.

The Peanuts Christmas Experience at Centennial malls
Apple TV+ and astronauts

On Apple TV+, the adventures continue with original new animated series. The Emmy-nominated “Snoopy in Space” began its second season in November 2021, and season two of “The Snoopy Show” began March 11, 2022. “‘The Snoopy Show’ and ‘Snoopy in Space’ are helping to reach new audiences and create new fans,” says Herman. “In addition, Apple TV+ will debut four new family specials alongside the family classics.”

Apple TV+ also features a playful, short documentary starring Ron Howard and Jeff Goldblum: “Peanuts in Space: Secrets of Apollo 10.” This Emmy-winner delves into the question: Was Snoopy a top-secret astronaut?

The relationship between NASA and Peanuts is of long standing: NASA used Schulz’s artwork in the 1960s when space exploration was a new and potentially scary topic. Connecting with the comforting Peanuts characters helped inspire excitement about America’s space program. Snoopy was used on internal material for NASA’s spaceflight safety initiative and for Apollo 10.

In the continuing collaboration between NASA and Peanuts, Snoopy soon will serve as the zero-gravity indicator on Artemis 1, slated to launch in the spring, which is NASA’s first big step toward returning astronauts to the Moon.

“All of these new adventures for Peanuts offer new entry points for fans and provide new opportunities for partnerships,” says Herman.

In his final Peanuts comic strip, Schulz wrote, “I have been grateful over the years for the… wonderful support and love expressed to me by fans of the comic strip.” There’s no doubt he would appreciate the joy Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang continue
to share with the world. Peanuts is looking ahead to celebrating 75 years of friendship in 2025 with exciting new partnerships and projects to come. • • •

For more information or to set up a meeting: [email protected]
At Licensing Expo 2022, visit Peanuts in Booth #G204

Wendy M. Grant has worked in marketing for more than 25 years. She served as Director of Marketing and Communications for San Diego’s Fleet Science Center, home to the world’s first IMAX Dome Theater, where she directed marketing for all exhibitions, films, shows and events for 13 years. She served on the Marketing Committee for the Giant Screen Cinema Association and she was a board member for the Giant Dome Theater Consortium. Prior to working in the museum field, she was Director of Marketing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar where she helped to produce the annual Miramar Air Show. Since 2019, Grant has worked as a communications consultant, writer and editor, with clients in the education and entertainment fields.

Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin ([email protected]) is a leading journalist, content marketing specialist and connector in the international attractions industry. She reports on design and technical design, production and project management, industry trends and company culture. From 2005-2020 she ran communications and publications for the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). In 2013, she was honored with the TEA Service Award. She was development director of IMERSA and publicist for the Large Format Cinema Association, and has contributed to the publications of PLASA, IAAPA and the International Planetarium Society. Judith joined World’s Fair magazine in 1987, which introduced her to the attractions industry. She joined InPark in 2010. Judith earned a BFA from Pratt Institute. She has lived in Detroit, New York, Oakland, and now Saint Louis, where she is active in the local arts community.

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