Disney Consumer Products struck gold with its Disney Princess franchise, which grouped all of the studio’s princess characters past and present under one umbrella in 2002. Boasting a broad consumer products program, Princess now rakes in more than US$2 billion a year at retail and makes up 19% of DCP’s revenues. So it’s not surprising that the company is dipping back into its vault to come up with similar franchises.
The division rolled out its newest grouping, Disney Animal Friends, in Europe last month to gauge consumer reception before making the decision to take the property into more territories. Aimed at the under-six set, Animal Friends brings together characters from films such as The Lion King, 101 Dalmatians and Lady and the Tramp. Naturally, plush and toys are pivotal categories, and pre-existing DCP licensees on-board for the European program include Bandai (feature plush), Vivid Imaginations (basic plush) and Ravensburger (games).
But the red-carpet treatment is being reserved for the impending worldwide rollout of Disney Fairies. Disney Publishing mined the classics and selected Peter Pan’s mischievous companion Tinker Bell as the star of a new literary property with multimedia aspirations.
Joining Tink in her tiny magical world are fairy friends Rai, Vidia and Prilla, and Ella Enchanted author Gail Carson Levine is working on telling their stories in a series of books. The first title, Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, will hit bookstores this fall, and then six chapter books will roll out in spring 2006. Licensed merchandise should be out by fall 2006, and an animated movie (which may hit theaters or go direct-to-video) will follow in 2007.
DCP chairman Andy Mooney has said a franchise is sustainable when it reaches the US$1-billion mark at retail, and senior VP of global retail sales and marketing Jim Fielding reports that Fairies is receiving enough marketing and promo support to put it in that ballpark. Fairies is the next step for girls beyond Princess, and DCP is going wide with this one. Products for everything from apparel to personal care are currently in development with existing licensees and direct-to-retail partners.
One important lesson learned from DCP’s experience with the Princess franchise, says Fielding, is character groupings tend to get more retail space than one-offs and pack more punch with retailers and manufacturers alike.