WHV holds ball for Charlie Brown

5:00 AM PST 10/04/2007 by Thomas K. Arnold, AP

Studio nabs 'Peanuts' rights; new features in works

It's your new studio, Charlie Brown.

Warner Home Video has signed an exclusive worldwide home video distribution deal for the "Peanuts" library of more than 50 TV specials, which has rested with Paramount Home Entertainment for more than a decade.

Warner also will create direct-to-video features based on the "Peanuts" comic strip for release under the Warner Premiere label, along with shortform original programming for digital distribution.

The multiyear deal was made with United Media, Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates and Lee Mendelson Film Prods.

"We think it is a perennial brand, and we see consistent sales throughout the year on it," said Jeff Brown, senior vp and GM of television and franchise product at Warner Home Video. "In addition, we have positioned ourselves as a leader in classic animation, from 'Looney Tunes' and DC Comics to our recent acquisition of Popeye."

Indeed, Warner is considered a leader in the field of classic animation, with a line of critically hailed collector sets of such classic cartoons as "Looney Tunes," "Huckleberry Hound," "Tom & Jerry," "Scooby-Doo," "Yogi Bear" and "The Flintstones."

Brown outlined a four-pronged initiative for the "Peanuts" brand.

The handful of popular classics long available on DVD and videocassette, mostly seasonal specials such ascq "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving," "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," will be remastered and released on DVD with new bonus features and new collectable packaging. First up is "Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown," set for Jan. 15, followed Feb. 26 by "It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown."

"We're applying the same strategy we did with 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas,' which yielded tremendous results at retail," Brown said.

Other "Peanuts" programs that aren't as familiar will be packaged in Golden Collection sets similar to what Warner has done with its "Looney Tunes" library.

"These will be for the core collector," Brown said. "Much of this content has never been out on DVD."

Warner also will produce original "Peanuts" features for home video release under the studio's Warner Premiere label, Brown said.

"We have no announcement date yet," he said, "but it's already been initiated. This will be a high priority."

Warner also will create original shortform content for digital distribution through wireless, electronic sell-through and VOD platforms.

"We believe that since this product originated in comic strip form, there are many applications for digital media," Brown said. "This was one of the key points in the deal -- the rights-holders felt there were some digital applications, particularly in shortform, that had yet to be exploited."

Jean Schulz, widow of the "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz, said she has high hopes for the distribution deal with Warner.

"As we continue our efforts to maintain the integrity of my husband Charles Schulz's work, partnership with Warner Home Video was the logical choice," she said. "After meeting the Warner creative team, it's clear that they have an understanding and respected dedication to classic animation, which we think will make them a great distribution home for 'Peanuts.' "

Doug Stern, president and CEO of United Media, praised the Warner video unit's "enormous global reach, creative foresight, marketing expertise, as well as its ability to understand classic properties."
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