Disney leverages characters with smaller-scale live tours

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Disney and Feld Entertainment, longtime partners for "Disney on Ice," have formed a new sub-brand-tentatively titled "Disney Live"-for live touring shows, and plan a summer 2004 overseas kickoff for performances that will cull characters from Disney's vault of entertainment properties.

Three independent agencies are in contention for the account, with anticipated billings of $15 million: Pedone & Partners, New York, agency for Disney on Ice; Creative Domain, Los Angeles; and Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners West, San Francisco.

The new touring shows, which will stop in mid-tier and smaller markets that might not normally see mass-scale Disney shows like the stage version of "The Lion King," are another attempt by the Mouse House to squeeze dollars out of its classic characters. In conjunction with Mickey Mouse's 75th birthday this year, Disney has spiffed up his image and spread it across a wide variety of licensed products, some faring better than others.

"Disney Live" is currently the front-runner as a brand name, but the partners plan to do testing before a final decision is made. The first of the new live stage shows, which will most likely launch in Asia before it lands in the U.S., will star Winnie the Pooh. Other highly recognizable characters will join the fold, and there could be more than one tour on the road at a time, a Feld spokeswoman said. Logistics are still in the works.

Disney and Feld executives are looking for the right international venues, and the Feld spokeswoman said the shows would have to be flexible enough to set up in arenas or community theaters. The live shows will be story-driven, with a strong musical element. The plan is that they will be less elaborate than Disney's Broadway shows, but will be considerably more involved than the now-ubiquitous mall tours that revolve around many non-Disney kid properties.

extension

The shows are part of a contract extension between Disney and Feld-the two have produced "Disney on Ice" since 1981. "Disney on Ice" shows have toured Asia and South America, and this year will go into China for the first time. The live shows will be able to travel to places where it is too difficult to take the ice shows, such as Africa. The division, which includes Broadway shows, has grown to bring in an estimated $450 million. Disney on Ice attendance was up to 10 million in 2002 from 8 million in 2001.

Feld produces Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus.

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