In what should be a joyous holiday season, few things bring more dread to parents than the Elf on the Shelf. Keeping up the popular holiday tradition is often additional work and stress for maxed-out families. But a Bakersfield native has an adorable alternative ready just in time for Christmas: Reindeer in Here.
Adam Reed, a television producer turned children’s author, came up with the idea two years ago when looking to start a tradition with his daughter, Peyton, who was set to celebrate her first birthday.
Looking into the elf, which parents must move each night to mimic its mischievous nocturnal activities, Reed said he wasn't a fan.
"I saw how negative and creepy it was. There was no way in the world I was going to start that tradition with her."
Luckily, he had some ideas. Along with producing TV shows such as "Gene Simmons Family Jewels" and "Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars," Reed was also a children's author, having penned "Bee in the Sea" in 2015, which won Purple Dragonfly and Royal Dragonfly Book awards and was nominated for a Next Generation Indie Book Award.
He started brainstorming for a "brandable" character that represented the holiday season and was more approachable than an elf. Thus was born Reindeer in Here.
The story’s concept is akin to the popular elf tradition — Santa sends an emissary to check in on the child — but that’s where the similarities end. Instead of a troublemaking elf that must be moved by Mom or Dad each night, a plush reindeer sticks by the child’s side, learning about its young companion and sharing those details with Santa via nightly letters.
"In creating the story, I wanted to have something that the child could bond with. It spends the entire month of December with them."
Even the animal's design was intentional, with one antler smaller than the other.
"I wanted him to stand out. Rudolph stood out because he had a red nose."
In testing the product, Reed sent out many book-and-plush sets to bloggers and reviewers, receiving positive feedback about how the reindeer's difference supports a message of inclusiveness.
"It's unique and special to show them they can be. ... A physical difference, a personality difference, it’s very special to be different."
The 41-year-old said building a career in television while also hanging onto his hometown roots — mom Patti and other family still live in Bakersfield — helped prepare him for this creative opportunity.
"It's very strange for me in a way. I'll always be a small-town boy."
Based on the overwhelming response on the website (reindeerinhere.com) and Facebook page, Reed decided to launch Reindeer in Here for the 2017 holiday season. With a newborn son and a full work schedule, Reed finalized the book and illustrations about six months ago and self-published it.
In order to avoid having to ship the units himself, he secured a deal with Amazon to distribute. Reindeer in Here will be available to the public the morning of Black Friday on the website. Folks who sign up for the mailing list on the Reindeer website will be notified by Thursday afternoon what time the product will go live on amazon.com.
After this limited run, Reed said his goal is to go mass market, getting the product into stores by next Christmas.
Along with more projects for his production company Thinkfactory Media — including the A&E Network special "Dog and Beth: Fight of Their Lives," about famous bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman and his wife Beth's battle with throat cancer, airing Monday — Reed is cooking up more children's book ideas and managing the Reindeer social media (with help from an assistant).
"I feel like I have two full-time jobs. I'm doing it all. Luckily our newborn is sleeping through the night."
"I’ve already got the sequel ready for this. Four other brandable characters. I'm building this brand as big as possible. Everything else will fall in line after that."