Disney Looks to Popular Brands for
November 4, 2008
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co (DIS.N: Quote,
Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) is betting that toys
inspired by hit franchises like "Hannah Montana" and
"High School Musical" or linked to the Internet will
drive cash-strapped parents to its brands during the
crucial holiday season.
Disney is going to market this year with a crop of
holiday toys based on its popular brands at a wide range
of prices and with an emphasis on toys that offer online
and offline play.
"Toys that ... are part toy, part new technology, part
interactive hookup -- those are the things I think that
are going to be desirable," Andy Mooney, chairman of
Disney's Consumer Products division, told Reuters in an
Despite gloomy holiday sales predictions, Mooney is
"pretty optimistic about the holiday season," believing
the toy-buying public will gravitate toward brands they
associate with value.
Disney Consumer Products runs a $30 billion global
licensing business as well as 334 retail stores, and has
partnerships with mass-channel toy retailers worldwide.
Toy analyst Anita Frazier said consumers "will be
looking for more value -- not necessarily a lower price
but something that can deliver a big 'wow' factor."
Parents are more likely to work off a child's "wish
list" and to make fewer impulse purchases this season,
making early-season marketing more important than ever,
For instance, Disney has sold "huge" volumes of its
singing Hannah Montana holiday collectible doll, and
singing "High School Musical" dolls with karaoke
microphones are doing well, said Len Mazzocco, Disney
Consumer Products' creative director for toys.
A line of musical instruments ($79.99) and the Disney
Vocal Star Trainer ($99.99) also draw on the popularity
with "tweens" -- children age 9 to 12 -- of its
music-themed Disney Channel franchises, High School
Musical, Camp Rock and Hannah Montana.
'OFF THE CHARTS'
Early sales show that parents "are finding a way to go
out for ... the single big-ticket item," said Mazzocco.
"For the second and third purchase, they are searching
for that price point they are comfortable with."
Among Disney's hottest sellers so far is a new line of
toys based on its Club Penguin virtual world. The toys
start at $5.99 and include a code to unlock special
features on the Web site.
"The sales are off the charts. It's the biggest launch
of a new toy line we've seen so far," said Chris
Heatherly, vice president of technology and innovation
at Disney Consumer Products.
Another hit falls on the opposite end of the price
spectrum: a $249.99 robot based on the "WALL-E" movie
"We've sold every one of these things we could make,"
Disney has gone big this season for toys that connect
kids to its growing Internet and video game businesses,
hoping that their parents will view them as a good
In Disney UltiMotion games, selling for $79.99,
preschoolers use toys, such as hammers and wands, to
move characters around in video games based on its
Disney Fairies, Sleeping Beauty and Disney Channel
Disney Fairies Clickables, ranging from $5.99 to $29.99,
are wearable jewelry with computer chip sensors that
interface with the Pixie Hollow virtual world, allowing
little girls to trade online gifts for their fairy
avatars. The hybrids are Disney's first.
Frazier said Web-connected toys, such as the Webkinz
line, have generated $520 million in sales at retail
during the year ended August 2008.
"These have certainly been very hot," Frazier said of
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