Italian Book Fair – Bologna, Italy
I visited Italy to meet with our agents and to see other agents and licensees at the Peanuts booth at the Italian Book Fair in Bologna, a long-running children’s book exposition where Peanuts traditionally hosts a booth.
The highlight of this part of the trip was a round table discussion Wednesday evening with Umberto Eco, two of the originators of Linus Magazine, and journalist Fulvia Serra, who moderated the event and who had visited Sparky [Charles Schulz’s nickname] in Santa Rosa several times. Fulvia Serra also was with us during the Fashion Doll Exhibition in Paris (1990) and Rome (1992), so she was well equipped to moderate the discussion.
What Umberto Eco said about Sparky’s language really struck me. Simply explained, he said that one reason Peanuts has stood the test of time is due to its language. He explained that Sparky used simple language, in contrast with cartoonists who use current jargon, which often make their comics outdated and even irrelevant to future readers.
Of course, we have always known that one of the secrets to Peanuts is its simplicity, but to have an intellectual of Umberto Eco’s status say it was particularly rewarding to me.
It is always a wonderful experience to visit other countries and see how they use the Peanuts property. What items do they produce? Do they rely heavily on Snoopy, or do they use all the characters?
This age of technoloy has made publishing so much easier for foreign markets because they can take Peanuts art work from digital files; that just leaves text translations for publishers to accomplish. This means that books are one of the first items to appear in a newly-licensed area, along with T-shirts, and other textiles.
Italy, of course, is a mature Peanuts market and has an abundance of products. On this visit we went to the Benneton store in an elegant shopping area of Milan. They have launched a new line of Peanuts childrens’ clothing in delicious colors. Here we are seeing a little fashion show…
After visiting the Benneton store we went for dinner in the offices of our agents, Oscar and Gabriella Massari, and their son Claudio of the Business International Company of Italy (BIC). They have made the ground floor of the office a dedication to Peanuts and a veritable museum. Upstairs are displays of books and clothing as well as the products from other characters they license (Miffy is the one I knew best). They are also working on the licensing for the original Pinnochio (quite a different story and character that the Disney version). The Massari dinner was an intimate one with family and two important, long-time associates who also had known Sparky and worked with him. It was a very warm ending to a wonderful week.