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Living Books, a Random House/Broderbund company and one of the leading producers of children’s multimedia storybooks, has acquired the world multimedia rights to the series of books written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel, universally known as Dr. Seuss.

The deal — brokered by Geisel’s longtime agency, International Creative Management — capped a bidding war that included such multimedia software powerhouses as Microsoft and Paramount Interactive.

The acquisition of the Seuss line, which includes such classics as “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Cat in the Hat,” was seen by Silicon Valley industry analysts as a major coup for Living Books.

Multimedia natural

Most notably, the Seuss titles, filled with richly textured and colorful characters, are a natural for the emerging multimedia interactive technologies. Additionally, children’s multimedia product is one of the fastest-growing segments of the new media arena and is seen as a potential cash cow, thanks to the international renown of the Seuss books.

Industry analysts also noted that the deal with Living Books underscores how the company has positioned itself as a front-runner in the children’s multi-media market. That was one of the reasons that Dr. Seuss Enterprises decided to make the deal with Living Books, although some competing companies offered richer financial packages.

“It was a creative decision first, and financial second,” said one source. “They obviously thought the quality of the Living Books line was far superior to the others.”

The first Seuss title will be released next year, although Broderbund and Random House execs would not say which project will be produced first.

Securing the multimedia rights to the Seuss books had been a top priority of Broderbund for some time, according to Susan Lee-Merrow, the company’s director of marketing.

“When Broderbund and Random House got together to form Living Books, discussions centered around which books would be the best, and the Dr. Seuss books were up front,” Lee-Merrow said. “When we found out the multimedia rights were available, we went after them aggressively.”

Lee-Morrow also said that Geisel’s widow, Audrey, will have approval rights on every stage of the product’s development.

Pulitzer past

Geisel received the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 “for his contribution over nearly half a century to the education and enjoyment of America’s children and their parents.” After his first children’s book, “And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street,” was published in 1937, he followed with a number of others, including such classics as “Horton Hatches the Egg” and “Green Eggs and Ham.”

Current titles in the Living Books line include “Just Grandma & Me,””Arthur’s Teacher Trouble, “The Tortoise and the Hare” and “The New Kid on the Block.”