The release on November 6, 2015 The Peanuts Movie commemorates the 65th anniversary of the comic strip and the 50th anniversary of the “A Charlie Brown Christmas” TV special. “The Peanutize Me” campaign was introduced in September to help promote the release of the upcoming movie.
The iconic Peanuts comic was published by more than 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries 21 languages at its height. The brand itself boasts upwards to $1 billion a year in merchandising, product endorsements, and from syndication of the comic strips. The comic spawned countless shows, miniseries, video games, 45 television specials, five feature films including
The Peanuts Movie releasing November 6, 2015. The Peanuts Movie is the first film to be released since creator Charles M. Schulz, also known as “Sparky,” passed away in 2000. Over the 50 years of hand drawing the “Peanuts” comic Schulz drew nearly 18,000 strips before announcing his last comic which was published just after he passed away on February 12, 2000.
Over the past 30 years, many movie studios proposed a computer-animated “Peanuts,” but the Schulz family rejected proposals for another movie. Craig Schulz said echoing concerns voiced from fans regarding another installment of the franchise, “We always felt like the risk of doing a film and having it be done poorly was not worth the potential gain.” Both the movie and the social media campaign promoting that movie have a responsibility to the legacy of those iconic characters.
“Peanuts” started as a weekly, one-panel comic series entitled “Li’l Folks” published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press from 1947 until 1950. Schulz approached United Feature Syndicate with a four-panel version of the “Li’l Folks” comic who picked up the comic for syndication in seven newspapers in October of 1950. The title “Li’l Folks” was too close to the names of other comics like “Li’l Abner” so United Feature Syndicate called the comic “Peanuts” referencing a segment of the Howdy Doody TV show called the peanut gallery. Schulz never liked the title stating “It’s totally ridiculous, has no meaning, is simply confusing — and has no dignity. I think my humor has dignity.” The collections of comics are usually called, “Charlie Brown” or “Snoopy” due to this dislike of the title.
The comic started out much darker and cruel than the cute, loveable characters with which many grew up and came to know. The strip showed a side of the basic selfish desires prevailing in human behavior, which is much easier to identify in children. Readers were comforted as they related to conflict of social interaction of Lucy, Schroeder, Charlie Brown, Linus, and Snoopy.
Born out of the paradoxical nature of the mass culture of the 1950s which left little room for diversity; this alienation helped to create the recurring themes in the “Peanuts” comic. Charlie Brown is best-known for the line “My anxieties have anxieties.” A generation grew up self-identifying themselves as a member of “Peanuts,” but at the core everyone relates to the main protagonist Charlie Brown.
Though the themes have lightened over the years, these ideas maintain as the core philosophy driving “Peanuts” and building a faithful fan following. Presenting the difficulty and how each of the “Peanuts” characters individually coped with the struggle provided the audience with levity, union, and ultimately hope. These character archetypes became relatable and audience identified them as parts of their own identity.
Readers cheered the underdog in Charlie Brown and rooted him on as he again attempted to kick the football just to have Lucy pull it out of the way again. It became predictable, but the narrative held a deeply satisfy familiarity. The familiarity built on a half-a-century comic brand.
The apprehension towards a computer-animated “Peanuts” movie is understandable. Films like The Adventure of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Garfield: The Movie both attempted to update their franchises with live-action and computer-generated releases and were met with disappointed moviegoers and critical rejection alike. With a $76 million budget The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle film released in 2000 grossed $35 million worldwide.
Although in 2004 the Garfield: The Movie can be considered a financial success and even produced a sequel, but the film received generally unfavorable reviews online. The most notable criticism comes from a line in the movie Zombieland from 2009, where Bill Murray plays himself. In Zombieland as he is dying he is asked if he had any regrets and he answers with “Garfield, maybe.”
The Schulzes caution is definitely warranted, but director Steve Martino with 20th Century Fox-owned Blue Sky Studios were able to convince the family they are the dedicated team to bring a faithful animated “Peanuts” movie to the big screen. American animation studio Blue Sky Studios most well-known for the 2002 animated film Ice Age had the vision for making The Peanuts Movie a reality also created the “Peanutize Me” to help promote the film.
Fox Animation executive Ralph Millero had this to say regarding the endeavor of working this project, “It’s about preserving a legacy that has a tremendous history and not screwing it up. We see that kids meet characters today in feature films in the movie theater, so that’s the opportunity. The responsibility is to deliver the experience so that these characters don’t change so that they become a new presentation of what’s been wonderful about them for 50 years.” Millero also worked on another well-received animated film from beloved author and artist, Theodor Seuss Geisel, on the movie, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who.
Unlike many comic artists, Schulz never hired an assistant and crafted every comic himself using only an Esterbrook pen and India ink. The animation team visited The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa and watched 1000 of hours of video trying to capture Schulz’s style. The director Martino even visited Schulz’s childhood home in St. Paul, Minneapolis to help visualize the neighborhood that inspired the comic.
Martino explained that “It’s a little retro in a way, but in today’s world of animation it feels completely fresh. We’re not trying for photorealism or movement where you believe the characters are human. It’s a different palette. This is the most complicated creation, to put something up on the screen that looks so simple. I wanted to find that pen line, the wiggle in Charlie Brown’s smile.” The production team seemed well-tasked to maintain the creativity of the past while faithfully creating a modernly relevant film of the beloved franchise.
The Merchandising brand of “Peanuts” is well established. The “Peanuts” brand makes around $100 million yearly for the Iconix Brand Group, an American brand management company which licenses brands to retailers and manufacturers for apparel, footwear, and accessory. With a well-recognized brand, it is important to build on existing awareness. The Peanuts Movie had to create a campaign to capitalize on an easily recognizable brand. A generation that grew up watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on the holidays, some of whom might have learned to read from the “funny paper” or from the collected works of Schulz’s comics.
With the decline of the newspaper as a primary news media, there is an probably for many to have never seen comics in print and with a younger generation not as familiar with the “Peanuts” brand. This could translate into a missed opportunity to introduce a new age group to the comic’s specific brand of humor and wit. Iconix Chief Executive Neil Cole remarked that “The brand is amazing over 30, but I have a 9-year-old daughter. If we don’t get her to love us, it’s not gonna look good five years from now.”
S.W.O.T. Analysis Table
|Brand Recognition||Generational Gap||Introduce to a new generation||Veering off from the core values Charles M. Schulz the original
|Museum dedicated to the works of Charles M. Schulz||In syndication rather than publication||Generation X sharing the nostalgia of the brand with millennials and future generations||Release of family or child-friendly movies:
* Jem and the Holograms
* The Good Dinosaur* Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip* Star War: The Force Awakens
|Family dedicated legacy||Decline of newspapers as a primary media source||Renewed interest in merchandising and interest in reproductions of the comics||Oversaturation muddled character representation at core brand|
|Animated holiday special part of family traditions||Childhood cartoons/comics that have attempts to rejuvenate their brand around animated movies||Expansion into other media formats: Video games. Possible sequels and new tv series||Fails to engage younger generation|
The comic brought parents and children together through the years and if done correctly it was a way to capture a nostalgia sentiment and have one generation pass on a legacy on to the next. A medium that bridges the generation gap. Sky Blue Studios created interactive content website http://www.peanutizeme.com/, which also works through a mobile application on iPhone, iPad, or Android. Easily allowing users to share their “Peanuts” persona and share their experience through social media sources presents an opportunity to easily improve the brand and product reputation. Identifying social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ where a generation familiar with the brand are able to share an avatar representation they feel best represents them as a “Peanuts” character.
Users are able to choose from a relatively versatile and more importantly inclusively neutral palette of skin color, facial expressions, hair color, and hair type, as well a wide range of clothing and accessories they feel best options available. The user is able to choose the preset backgrounds and the options were even expanded around the Halloween season to allow users to update their avatars with costumes popularized in the comic and cartoons. The accuracy of the “Peanuts” avatar is not as important a factor because of the stylistic nature of the comic. This links identity and brand in a way that is simple, genuine, and most importantly fun-for-all-ages. This creates an easily relate social media in which to participate. A low-risk, high-reward scenario. Most importantly this social media marketing did not overreach for the hard-sell. Instead, it allowed the user to promote the movie themselves with a cute, stylized representation.
Each image is clearly branded with The Peanuts Movie and each post included the hashtag and familiar default text directly from the source material,
— John Combs (@johnwcombs) September 23, 2015
This unifies the online social marketing with the advertising materials easily building awareness of the upcoming movie. I found some difficulty finding celebrities that had directly “Peanutized” themselves, but instead many website, blogs, and individuals created their own renditions of celebrities.
Various blogs, news sources, and individuals engaged in posting their “Peanutized” results including Marie Osmond @therealmarieosmond https://instagram.com/p/8L9xzprbBC/.
The crew of @nbcdfw https://instagram.com/p/8BxPfzpL6n/.
A TV podcaster Grant Davis made popular televsion shows into their “Peanuts” equivalent.
A site also ‘Peanutized’ the presidential candidates http://www.sheknows.com/living/articles/1096423/peanutize-me-app.
Most attempt “Peanutize” individuals thankfully avoided traumatizing their target audience as much as NBC’s Today
The campaign also included an genuine and important human element which is always a positive way to reach an audience, Sky Blue Studios released video interviews on their blog from the crew in August which linked to Facebook videos. The videos included interviews that would normally go as extras on a DVD or Blu Ray, but have been instead released to help promote the movie.
“How Peanuts touched the lives of the Blue Sky Studio’s crew” http://blueskystudios.com/blog/entry/peanuts-movie-puts-spotlight-crew/.
“Decorating Blue Sky Studios office”
Interviews with Director Steve Martino
“Blue Sky on how they stayed true to the art” http://blueskystudios.com/blog/entry/blue-sky-stays-true-art-charles-schulz/
“The legacy of Charles ‘Sparky’ Schulz” http://blueskystudios.com/blog/entry/art-dreaming-big-schulzs-legacy/.
The honesty in the director’s approach and the individual stories on how Sky Blue Studios crew grew up with the “Peanuts” offers a touch of sincerity. Additionally, Blue Sky Studios also launched http://www.wahwahmachine.com/ which translates typed text into the famous trombone “wah wah” which represents how most the “Peanuts” characters hear adults. The site is fun but is far less engaging.
The sneak peak for the film was released in March of 2014 with the official movie trailer being released on June 17, 2015. The YouTube for the trailer has been viewed 1,200,650 to date. Around mid-September Sky Blue Studios launched http://www.peanutizeme.com/, along with the second official trailer. The second trailer has outperformed the previous trailer with 3,091,615 views. This is a good indicationn that the social media campaign of the “Peanutize Me” campaign succeeded in increasing awareness and interest in the upcoming film release.
On Twitter, tweetreach.com estimated #peanutized reach 215,229 accounts https://tweetreach.com/reports/15318001,
with #peanutize reaching 76,171 https://tweetreach.com/reports/15318031,
and peanutizeme 28,657 https://tweetreach.com/reports/15318039.
The overall for the #peanutsmovie tag was estimated to have reached accounts 1,646,133 https://tweetreach.com/reports/15318047.
Total engagement overall posts on Instagram reached 2,013,663, which peaked at the release of The Peanuts Movie according to https://freereports.simplymeasured.com/viewer/kjxpmye5clrlkazx39p7w2n4f626n8/2394470?id=1441946#.
Tags were much more varied with most people still using #peanutized, and #peanutizedme, but also more individual tags like #peanutizedmyself, #peanutizedcouple, and #peanutizefamily. When compared to the numbers just before the start of the “Peanutize Me” campaign between September 13 until September 19The Peanuts Movie Instagram only had an engagement of 16,730.
http://www.sharedcount.com/#url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.peanutizeme.com%2F Facebook had decent engagement with peanutizeme.com as well, receiving 200,731 likes, and 481,811 shares.
Interestingly enough Google+ had no engagement but 293 pins were added to Pinterest so this is definitely an area of opportunity. Once a social media source was determined to not perform effectively, the focus could be pivoted to a more effective channel has could be identified with additional analysis and tracking to develop a better way to reach a market demographics.
“Peanuts” did engage Snapchat by providing the first sponsored lens with Snoopy dancing across selfies. Using a diverse approach determined by the social media platform is an effective way to reach market segments, and Snapchat is projected to be the third most used social media site amongst millennials.
When compared to movies looking to capitalize on nostalgia in 2015, The Peanuts Movie has far better than Jem and the Holograms As of November 15, 2015 The Peanuts Movie has received positive reviews from critics and has earned over $90 million from the box office, so it seems to be faring at least as well as Goosebumps. Goosebumps has grossed $103 million with a sequel already in the planning stages.
The dedication of the production team to the original creative vision of the Schulz seems to have made a difference on the overall quality of the released animated film and the “Peanutize Me” campaign was exactly the right advertising campaign to reach a target audience that have had an underwhelming animated cinema experiences with movies like Mr. Peabody & Sherman from 2014, or the disappointing The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Similar to previous movies, the cast of voice actors are all children. After reviewing their IMDB pages, most all of the children are relatively unknown with three or fewer projects in each of their filmography. This attention to detail to enrich the legacy of a cherished franchised so far seems to be appreciated by moviegoers. Upcoming family friendly movies like The Good Dinosaur and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip could use the example of The Peanuts Movie of how to create aware and build brand awareness and maintain a positive film reception.
Utilizing engaging mobile apps and a well-planned social media campaign to promote a movie is a great way to maintain interest following the release of movie trailers. Star Wars also introduced an app to engage audiences to maintain the hype around The Force Awakens between the premier of their trailers.
Early this year the term “The Straight Outta Somewhere” popped up on everywhere on social media which helped to successfully promote the Straight Outta Compton movie by harnessing the inclusive power of the internet meme. A multimedia release plan built around informed sentiment analysis allows to plan a budget that can pay off big.
The words of Craig Schulz appropriately frame the hopes for movie and his father’s legacy, “It boils down to a thing my sister [Jill] said. She was talking to my dad a couple days before he died, and he mentioned to her, ‘I hope they remember me.’ He always felt something wasn’t great unless it could last 100 years.”
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