WHV holds ball for Charlie Brown

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 that 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. "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 cartoon properties 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 as "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 collectible packaging. First up is "Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown," on Jan. 15, followed by "It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown" on Feb. 26.

"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."

In addition to the new releases, 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 "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz, said she has high hopes for the distribution deal.

"As we continue our efforts to maintain the integrity of my husband'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 (respectful) dedication to classic animation, which we think will make them a great distribution home for 'Peanuts.' "