Make no mistake, there will be "Toy Story"-theme action figures, videogames, preschool playthings and kids' apparel. But for a film about toys, soaked with nostalgic references to toys of the baby boom generation (expected to see this movie with their kids), the list falls curiously short of some industry executives' expectations.
Many toy and licensing executives are baffled by Disney's "Toy Story" licensing strategy, suggesting the company isn't maximizing its opportunities.
"Most companies would give their right arm to create toys based on this film but, for some reason, Disney's playing it very lean and mean with this one," said C. Woody Browne, president of the licensing consultancy Building Q, Cherry Hill, N.J.
"They got a late start, it seems; our program was a late add-on," said Marc Rosenberg, public relations and promotions director for Tiger Electronics, which is creating a hand-held videogame based on "Toy Story."
"Toy Story" was "kind of slow in getting started" on the licensing front, said Irv Zakheim, president of longtime Disney licensee Zak Designs, maker of licensed "Toy Story"-theme children's dinnerware and dishes.
Apparently market research did not predict a rush on baby boomer classic toys and games mentioned in the film, such as Slinky Dog, Lite Brite and Candyland. Hasbro doesn't expect a sudden rekindling of interest in toys from yesteryear. Instead, it has created a single item, an updated version of its Mr. Potato Head toy
featured in "Toy Story." Hasbro isn't advertising the product.
Thinkway Toys, a medium-size manufacturer of kids' talking banks, is
using the film's major characters as inspiration for its line of action
figures, as are other licensees. Among them: Skybox for trading cards;
Mattel for a version of its See 'N Say preschool toy; and Colorforms,
which is designing a play set.
Hallmark Cards' Ambassador Cards Division is also drawing on the film's
characters for a line of party accessories to be sold in mass merchandiser
outlets. And there will be apparel from a variety of manufacturers, plus
wristwatches for adults from Fossil. None will get major ad support.
The most ambitious product tie-in comes from Disney Interactive, the
fledgling electronic entertainment unit that's created videogames for use
with Nintendo of America and Sega of America 16-bit systems, to be
released simultaneously with the film (an industry first).
Consumers will get to sample the videogame at demonstration kiosks in
more than 100 movie theater lobbies beginning Nov. 22; cross-promotions
include discounts on the $55 videogame with purchases of Skybox, Thinkway
and Frito-Lay's Doritos. Spot TV commercials for the videogame will break
Nov. 27 via Lord, Dentsu & Partners, Los Angeles.
"The film really lent itself to creating a great videogame, with toy
heroes in conflict and fights with mutant toys," said Hope Neiman,
VP-marketing of entertainment for Disney Interactive.