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Interview: Shannon Spisak On How Dr. Seuss Maintains Its Powerful Brand

By Gary Symons

TLL Editor in Chief

Dr. Seuss is one of those properties that everyone knows instantly. We all read the ridiculously funny rhymes of Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham, and as parents, read Horton Hears a Who and the classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas to our own children.

The author Theodor Seuss Geisel published more than 60 children’s books over his long career as a writer, starting in 1931. Dr. Seuss, as he’s universally known to fans, remains among the most popular authors of all time, and in 2000, when Publishers Weekly compiled their list of the best selling kids’ books of all time, 16 of the top 100 hardcover books were written by Dr. Seuss, with Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat in the top 10.

Dr. Seuss Expands Its Marketing and Licensing Teams

His books have sold more than 700 million copies, and are bestsellers in well over a hundred countries!

With such a rich treasure trove of content, it’s no surprise that today Dr. Seuss remains a licensing behemoth under the care of Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

Over the past year, we at TLL could not help but notice a huge surge in licensing announcements around the world, with new partnerships in dozens of countries. Even more interesting is that, for the first time, new Dr. Seuss books will be coming out, inspired by the author’s notes and sketches on stories that were never published!

We wanted to know, what is Dr. Seuss doing to increase its licensing presence, and what are the company’s plans for the future of the brand. This week, we spoke to Shannon Spisak, who was promoted to VP of Marketing and Communications.

Shannon Spisak, VP of Marketing & Communications at Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

TLL: Dr. Seuss has a lot of new films and series coming up: What has been the key to extending Dr. Seuss stories so effectively into on-screen entertainment?

 The key to extending Dr. Seuss stories so effectively into on-screen entertainment is that our characters, stories and messages are timeless. They are as relevant today as they were when first introduced decades ago. In addition to this timelessness, Dr. Seuss Enterprises partners with best-in-class creators who are passionate about Dr. Seuss. We seek creative teams that are excited about what they do and about our property, with teams who bring a fresh, contemporary point of view to the works. Our fans expect excellence from Dr. Seuss. We strive to over deliver on those expectations.

TLL: What are your plans and hopes for the new books coming out from Seuss Studios? How do you think these new stories will be received, as compared to the classic tales from Dr. Seuss?

Dr. Seuss has had a long history of mentoring emerging talent in the children’s book space. In fact, in 1957, Ted Geisel co-founded the Beginner Books imprint at Random House, which was formed not only to create a robust and enriching library for kids, but also to open new doors for creators who were either at the beginning of their publishing careers or who worked in other creative industries.

Dr. Seuss To Unveil Licensing Extravaganza

Seuss Studios is the next evolution in that tradition and will feature a new generation of talent who we know will bring their unique voices and style to the page, while also drawing inspiration from the creativity and imagination of Dr. Seuss’s unpublished archival drawings and notes.

Our hope is that the Seussian style and voice will reach an even broader audience and give a voice to talented creators from all backgrounds who may not otherwise get the opportunity to have their work showcased on a global scale. We are working with our publishing team at Penguin Random House to find the authors and illustrators who bring the most unexpected and interesting perspective to this project.

3. Can you give me some perspective on how much you’ve increased your global reach through various licensing partnerships? What is that going to mean for Dr. Seuss going forward?

Dr. Seuss is a global property with ever increasing reach in entertainment, product, and publishing. Dr. Seuss books have sold over 700M copies in more than 110 countries and have been translated into 50 languages. Last year we published our first set of books in China via our partner Jieli, which were well-received upon initial offering and continue to sell well.

There are 5 Dr. Seuss films grossing over $1.6B worldwide including the 2018 Grinch film which is the #1 holiday movie worldwide, and the 2000 live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas film starring Jim Carrey, which is the #3 holiday movie worldwide and the #10 most-downloaded film in the UK. Dr. Seuss has partnered with Netflix to develop a slate of animated preschool series with will include five animated series and specials and will bring Dr. Seuss to over 220M households in 190 countries. We work with partners across the globe including WBCPLG for Europe and the Middle East and Haven for Australia and New Zealand. Currently we have representation in 48 countries with 6 agencies.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises is keeping the brand strong with a variety of new content, including new series and films based on the author’s classic content.

4. Like many companies, Dr. Seuss has jumped into NFT licensing, but how is that going? Do you see NFTs as a short-term fad or a long-term trend? What does the NFT collectible market do for Dr. Seuss, and how has the response been so far?

We pride ourselves on prioritizing creativity and innovation, and we are always looking for the next opportunity to grow our brand. The NFT space was an opportunity for Dr. Seuss Enterprises to expand what we were already doing in the art space with traditional works of art sold in traditional galleries as well as expand what we were doing with collectibles. Dr. Seuss NFTs provides a new way for our fans to engage with the brand and the whimsical world of our characters.

While we don’t share specific sales numbers as a privately held company, our 2021 launch surpassed its forecast with strong performance across our portfolio or characters, not just our most iconic characters like The Cat in the Hat or The Grinch. As we move into 2022, we are still seeing forecast-beating numbers that indicate a strong year. It’s been interesting to see the “Crypto Native” crowd show their love for Dr. Seuss’s works in this new format, and we are excited to keep pushing into the digital space wherever the fans and our partners meet us.

We are currently working with our partner Dapper Labs to create a web release of our more than 600 collectibles that will bring these characters to an even wider audience.

5. If you could pick one primary goal to reach by 2023, what would it be and why is it important?

DSE is always looking wholistically at how we can continue to deliver the ethos and inspiration of our amazing works to both existing and new audiences. That remains our broad goal for 2023, and we look forward to achieving it via several major licensing, entertainment, and publishing deals around the world. If we had to pick one specific goal to reach for 2023 it would be Seuss Studios. We are excited to be working with our emerging artists as part of our Seuss Studios line, to bring their stories to life in a collaborative and Seussian way. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a child’s smile when they are discovering a Dr. Seuss book, and this collaborative program is another new, exciting way to achieve that end.

Big Week For Dr. Seuss: Three New Deals And An Anniversary

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