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April 6, 2018
Jonathan Flom, president, Character Arts
Character Arts, the brand manager for holiday icons Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Spookley the Square Pumpkin, is spreading the franchises' core messaging through new positioning, content and platforms.
Character Arts exclusively manages the rights for the characters from the 1964 "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" television special. Together with author Joe Troiano, the company is expanding the brand to include a new T.E.A.M. Rudolph and the Reindeer Games illustrated storybook, which is written in verse and reveals new story elements about Rudolph's North Pole, growing the legendary tale.
"In the 10 years that we have managed this property, we have not embellished the content of the classic 1964 special, but we realized that people really relate to the message, and we saw an opportunity," says Jonathan Flom, president, Character Arts. "We envisioned a first chapter of the new book as the story of how Santa conceives of The Reindeer Games and uses them to find the original eight reindeer. "
Flom tapped Troiano, the author of Spookley the Square Pumpkin, to write T.E.A.M. Rudolph with an eye to the original special's characters and clues contained within that could be built upon for the book.
"We already know from the 1964 special that Comet is a coach and is Clarice's father and that Donner is Rudolph's father and one of Santa's lead reindeer," says Flom. "The book will reveal, among other things, that Blitzen is the father of Rudolph's friend Fireball and which two of Santa's eight original reindeer are female."
Flom and his team created a brand-new, three-chapter book, with two of those chapters acting as bookends to the classic Rudolph story from the 1964 special.
The first chapter sets up the premise for The Reindeer Games, which sees Santa inventing games that allow him to select the best reindeer for his team. In the second chapter, this elite team excludes Rudolph before they realize he too has something unique and important to offer, which is derivative of the classic story. The third chapter sets the stage for T.E.A.M. Rudolph and positions The Reindeer Games as the official games of the North Pole, while stressing that they are open to everyone and are a celebration of uniqueness and diversity.
"T.E.A.M. Rudolph is actually an acronym for 'Treat Everyone as Members.' Everyone plays on the same team and competes against themselves, and the snowflake serves as the perfect metaphor for uniqueness and diversity," says Flom.
The book will have a soft launch this holiday season exclusively through stage show, theme park and attraction venues where Rudolph is featured, including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Dollywood, Silver Dollar City, Gaylord Opryland and various museums and zoos where a new eight-minute Rudolph 4D film is also launching. The book will also be featured at Forest City malls, which has partnered with Rudolph for holiday appearances this year.
In 2017, the book will roll out for national retail distribution. Flom says a distribution partner is in the works, as is a toy partner for collectibles, plush and more.
"The book and merchandising program launch coincides with the marketing of the Winter Olympics, a nice parallel to our branding of The Reindeer Games as the 'Official Games of the North Pole,'" says Flom. "Licensees can opt into the tie-in and create customized products and programs that incorporate this positive messaging."
The Rudolph brand's focus on celebrating diversity is right on target for today's market, says Flom, and is a perfect fit with Character Arts' other key brand, Spookley the Square Pumpkin. Spookley is a picture book in which round pumpkins tease Spookley because he is square. Spookley eventually saves the residents of the farm during a storm.
"Stories are a powerful learning tool, and we have a great opportunity to leverage the power of this multi-generational franchise to model positive behaviors for people of all ages," says Flom.
Character Arts is making the most of the diversity message of both properties with a multi-platform program launching in fall 2016.
"The Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical" stage show, which debuted in 2012, has annual multi-city tours. Elements from the new T.E.A.M Rudolph book will likely be integrated into the show. This year, the "Spookley" and "Rudolph" stage shows will run back-to-back in Minneapolis, Minn., at Stages Theater Company, beginning in October under a Celebrating Diversity through the Holidays marketing umbrella.
There is also a philanthropical approach to the properties. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of T.E.A.M. Rudolph will be donated to the non-profit PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center, which is based in Minneapolis.
"We've worked with PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center since 2012 and Spookley is the official 'Spokes-Pumpkin' for National Bullying Prevention Month in October," says Flom.
Spookley appears on educational materials teachers use in class and online to further support the diversity message.
Licensees Commonwealth Toy & Novelty and License 2 Play have signed on to further expand the Spookley brand with plush and book sets that will launch at Halloween in mass and specialty outlets; while the "Spookley the Square Pumpkin" animated special has a multi-year renewal from broadcaster Disney Junior.
"With the renewal in place, we can move forward on moving product into the market timed to the special," says Flom.
Character Arts will seek other partnerships at this month's Licensing Expo in Las Vegas, Nev.
"These brands offer retailers an opportunity to work with a single partner from back-to-school to Christmas, and offers iconic, timely holiday brands that will really resonate with consumers," says Flom.
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