Art of Classic Partnerships

From Pinocchio to the Indy 500 Thomas Kinkade has had a diverse career that spans decades in the art and licensing business. Over the last 15 years, Kinkade has sold over $1.7 billion of artwork at retail.

The artist is entering the next phase in a partnership forged last year with Disney Consumer Products. Just last February Kinkade released the second piece in the Disney Dream Collection, Pinocchio Wishes upon a Star. The collection debuted last summer with Snow White, which according to Linda Mariano, vice president of marketing and licensing at The Thomas Kinkade Company, sold through in 90 days, the fastest sell-through in the company's history. Early indications are that Pinocchio will see similar results, she says.

The Disney Dreams Collection ultimately will expand to a dozen images with such characters as Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Sleeping Beauty and even Princess Tiana, Disney's newest princess—all candidates for the collection. The plan is to release two images annually, with one more image to make its debut this year.

What helps to make this a strong partnership with room to grow is the access that Disney Consumer Products has given to Kinkade.

"The Disney folks literally have invited Tom into their archives. We go into their archive where Walt's and all of the studio's images are and really just pull out whatever we want, whether it was used for the movie or developed for the movie. We look at all of the drawings, graphics and ideas that all of those artists put together so long ago, and Tom gets his inspiration from that," says Mariano.

The company is now working to develop licensed product from Kinkade's interpretation of Pinocchio. Categories in the works include gifts, accessories, plaques, snow globes, fabric panels, fleece pieces, clocks, crafting items and collectibles. Product could be available as early as this fall and will be sold across retailers and channels including mass and specialty, Bradford Direct Response and Thomas Kinkade stores.

"We have been working with the folks at Disney Consumer Products and are just getting ready to launch a program where our and their licensees can use these images on collectibles and other products. I think it will give greater exposure and will play these images out in some interesting ways in terms of ancillary licensed products," says Mariano.

Aside from working with a bunch of characters, Kinkade has other partnerships in the works.

This year, Kinkade was named the Centennial Era artist for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's 100th anniversary celebration. This year is the 100th anniversary of the speedway, and 2011 is the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500. His masterwork for the speedway was unveiled at a gala in February that kicked off a three-year celebration.

Kinkade's studio masterwork will be featured on the program for the Indy 500, and he will be in the festival parade and festivities around the race on Memorial Day weekend. This image, Indy Excitement: 100 Years of Racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will be available for use by licensees. The company is looking to have a booth at Indy for trackside selling.

Last year, Kinkade worked with NASCAR as the commemorative artist for the 50th running of the Daytona 500. He is doing a second piece for NASCAR that will be released later this year and is planning a work depicting Tennessee's Bristol Speedway, one of the speedways most visited by NASCAR fans.

"Being involved with the folks at NASCAR has also been a wonderful relationship they are truly very supportive and at every turn try to find a way to maximize the opportunity for us, and I am sure they do that for all their licensees. I think that we have true partnerships—whether we're talking about Disney, Indy or NASCAR," says Mariano.

Kinkade also will be licensing product based on his Christmas at Graceland work. Categories range from puzzles to collectibles. And will be in the market for holiday 2009.

Last Christmas was the first release of a direct-to-DVD movie based on Kinkade's life that will air on Lifetime this Christmas. "It is the beginning of launching the Thomas Kinkade brand into media and entertainment. We feel that there is an opportunity to expand the brand that way as well as to take the message of the brand out further," says Marino.