Disney casts Lord of the Apes to swing a summer hit

The jungle has been good to Disney, as proven by such hits as The Lion King and George of the Jungle, and Disney hopes the third time around will be successful as well....
February 1, 1999

The jungle has been good to Disney, as proven by such hits as The Lion King and George of the Jungle, and Disney hopes the third time around will be successful as well.

Disney believes that Tarzan is one of the strongest aspirational boy characters it has created in a long time because he represents much of what a young boy would like to be. Accordingly, Tarzan master toy licensee Mattel has devised a toy line that makes kids participants in the Tarzan experience. ‘The goal of the line is to [have kids] play like they are Tarzan, because they are going to come out of the movie feeling like they want to be Tarzan,’ says Lisa Mittleman, director of marketing at Mattel.

Tarzan action figures, which can operate in the most flexible manner ever for a Mattel product, enable kids to play out every theme from the film, from swinging from trees to riding on top of animals. Another action figure, Rad-Repeatin’ Tarzan, comes with a talk-back feature that repeats anything you say into it in a deeper-pitched Tarzan-like voice, replicating the film experience in which Tarzan learns to speak English by mimicking Jane.

Another key item, the plush Jungle Beat Terk, features a character voiced by Rosie O’Donnell singing along to actual music from the film, a first for Mattel.

Tarzan’s younger demographic skew and the appeal of animal characters will make Tarzan more than just a survivor in a toy environment expected to be dominated by Star Wars. Mattel won’t disclose its promotion budget for toys based on the film, but says the budget will be minimally equivalent to that of Mulan and Hercules.

Property: Tarzan

Hot Buttons:

* High-profile Disney properties always draw attention from parents and kids.

* The animated movie is positioned to debut as the first family property in the wake of Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace.

* The Tarzan character has strong aspirational appeal to boys.

* Disney animal characters always have strong appeal with younger children.

* Toys will be designed to make kids feel like they are Tarzan or Jane.

* Master toy licensee Mattel is known for its fashion dolls; Tarzan toy line includes Jane fashion doll element for girls.

* The success of A Bug’s Life movie and toys builds excitement among retailers for Disney-related movie products.

* Star Wars will drive traffic into stores and bring attention to action figures overall.

* A likely McDonald’s promotional tie-in (contract pending at press time), which would increase visibility.

* The inclusion of Rosie O’Donnell as voice talent means promotion is guaranteed on her popular show.


Walt Disney Consumer Products

Toy Licensees:

Mattel: master toy licensee; producing more than 40 SKUs, including action

figures, doll sets, games, puzzles, play sets and plush

Thinkway Toys: interactive electronic toys

Disguise: costumes

Hedstrom: plastic and foam play balls

Rose Art: arts and crafts kits

Spin Master Toys: wall crawlers and other novelty toys

Target Audience for the Toys:

Primary: Boys ages three to six

Secondary: Girls ages three to six

Toy Availability:

May 28, in anticipation of a June movie release

Suggested Retail Price:

Range extends from US$2 to US$3 for collectible figures to US$34-plus for jumbo plush; action figures up to US$19.99.

Other Licensees:

To date, about 50 licensees, including:

Hanes: kids apparel

Johnson & Johnson: bath and toiletries

Thermos: lunch boxes

Springs Industries: bedding

Hallmark: cards and gifts

Licensing Do’s:

* Make sure products feel like Disney’s Tarzan (rather than previous versions of Tarzan).

* Show Tarzan interacting within the jungle


* Toddlers: emphasis on younger Tarzan, animal friends and fun.

* Older boys: emphasis on older Tarzan and action/adventure.

* Older girls: emphasis on Jane, romance and adventure.

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