Dr. Seuss has been busy of late.
TV and movie projects tied to beloved characters from the inimitable children’s book author and illustrator have been popping up as frequently as Sneetches on the beaches at a time of heightened global demand for marquee content.
Susan Brandt, president and CEO of Dr. Seuss Enterprises, is in charge of the balancing act of making sure Dr. Seuss stays relevant to new generations. That requires fresh content that doesn’t tarnish the value of indelible works like “The Cat in the Hat,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Horton Hears a Who,” “Hop on Pop,” “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” and more. Dr. Seuss was the pen name of Theodor Geisel, who died in 1991 at age 87.
“We’re blessed with this beautiful IP, and we take that responsibility quite seriously,” Brandt explains on the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business.” “We also take really seriously the relationship that our fans have with this property. We’re so unique. Generations have grown up with Dr. Seuss. It really represents childhood. And as such, you have to be very careful with what you do with this content.”
Brandt is a former 20th Century Fox marketing executive who has been with San Diego-based Dr. Seuss Enterprises for nearly 25 years. She leads a team of about 15 core full-time staffers who focus on content development, licensing and merchandising and other opportunities. Dr. Seuss Enterprises is owned by a foundation, and its proceeds support a number of children and family-focused charities in the San Diego area.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises earlier this year unveiled a partnership with Netflix to develop a slate of series and specials that will anchor the streamer’s expanded pre-school slate. The company is working with Warner Bros., J.J. Abrams and Jon M. Chu on a “Horton Hears a Who” animated feature. And Brandt has championed a new initiative on the publishing side to allow emerging authors to take inspiration from unpublished Geisel stories and drawings to create a new line of children’s books for Random House.
For Brandt, keeping the Seuss canon vital and contemporary in appropriate ways requires keeping close watch on consumer behavior within its target kid and family demographics.
“We watch and we say, where are the places that we can further that relationship? Where can we take this beautiful IP? And where can we deliver it to where our fans are, in fact, consuming it,” Brandt says. “And that’s why you see us actively involved in things like streaming films, podcasts, stage shows, even cruise ships. If there’s an opportunity to reach our audience and deepen that bond, that’s what we’re looking at.”
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud, among other podcast platforms.