'Hunchback' does a bellyflop

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More bust than blockbuster for Disney tie-ins

Walt Disney Co.'s "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is looking like the entertainment king's first flop in recent history for tie-in partners.

Disney's latest annual "event" film has produced unspectacular box-office results to date and, as ticket sales continue to decelerate, toy industry insiders claim retailers and department stores are canceling big orders for "Hunchback" merchandise. No. 1 toy retailer Toys "R" Us, however, says its "Hunchback" sales are meeting expectations.

Some Burger King franchisees fault Disney for not promoting "Hunchback" as heavily as previous films. The burger chain forked out $20 million, including a heavy schedule of network TV spots via Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York; Disney has not revealed what it spent to promote the film, but industry estimates are between $10 million and $15 million.

"The distribution of [our] kids meal premiums for 'Hunchback of Notre Dame' has fallen slightly below our very ambitious expectations," said a spokeswoman for Burger King.

"Hunchback" marks Burger King's last tie-in with Disney before the latter's wide-ranging, 10-year promotional contract with McDonald's Corp. begins.

Analysts say disappointment with the movie is widespread because each Disney animated film has managed to top its predecessor in total merchandise sold.

Hallmark is offering a full line of social-expression products, partyware and decorations, along with a gift-with-purchase promotion. The company said it is "very pleased" with sales results so far.

Major toy licensee Mattel has more than 20 dolls, games, puzzles and playthings, including the Magic View Quasi Doll and Cathedral Playset.

"We shipped more 'Hunchback' product than 'Pocahontas,' and our sales expectations for 'Hunchback' are not turning out to be as strong as 'Pocahontas,' " said Glenn Bozarth, senior VP-corporate communications for Mattel.

On the retail side, Toys "R" Us had been more cautious, claiming it had ordered less "Hunchback" merchandise than it did for "Pocahontas." However, Mattel's Mr. Bozarth noted that "Hunchback" debuts "in the U.K. and Europe later this year, where we anticipate good results."

Copyright July 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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