Toy Story 3 Re-ignites Franchise

It's been 10 years since the last Toy Story film was released in theaters, but that hasn't slowed down a franchise that's become a Disney perennial. Merchandise from Toy Story and Toy Story 2 has generated $4 billion in sales and counting worldwide, and the films have reached a new generation of fans through the sale of more than 20 million DVDs.

So with that kind of staying power and pedigree, it's no surprise that Disney Consumer Products is excited about the the upcoming release of Toy Story 3 in June 2010, a film that will reunite Woody, Buzz and the gang and will introduce some new faces. "Toy Story never really went away because most kids today are familiar with the movies from seeing them on DVD," says Jessi Dunne, executive vice president of global licensing for Disney Consumer Products. "And one of the most exciting things about the new licensing program is that we'll be able to do things with the merchandise we couldn't do 10 years ago."

To give old fans and new arrivals an idea of what they'll be seeing in 2010, Disney is releasing new digital 3-D versions of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 in theaters on Oct. 2. Both films were digitally remastered and rendered in 3-D to give them an updated look. "It's a really clever way to bring back the original movies, especially for kids who never saw them in theaters or for people who did and want to see them again in 3-D," says Dunne.

The October double feature will pave the way for the rollout of a new wave of merchandise in a program that already has 200 licensees in more than a dozen categories, including apparel, food, health and beauty, publishing, collectibles and, of course, toys. Disney has more than 40 toy partners including Lego, which will get things rolling with the release of a dozen Toy Story and Toy Story 2 products in January 2010. That will set the table for Lego—and everyone else—to start releasing their Toy Story 3 products in spring 2010.

Director John Lasseter, who helmed the first two Toy Story movies, isn't directing Toy Story 3 (the job is being handled by Finding Nemo's Lee Unkrich). But he's taking an active role in developing the toy line. "John Lasseter is a toy nut, and he's been very involved in production of the toy line," says Dunne. "And advances in technology have allowed us to have the new toys replicate things the toys actually do in the movies, which either wasn't possible 10 years ago or was too cost-prohibitive."

Dunne says most of the buzz coming out of the toy line surrounds the Ultimate Buzz from Thinkway, a robotic toy with programmable movements and voice response that Disney believes will be one of its biggest hits. "It's a motorized robot, something along the lines of what we did with Wall-E last year," says Dunne.

A lot has changed in the licensing world since the 1999 release of Toy Story 2, and some of those changes will be reflected in the merchandise and the partners that Disney teams with. The toys will be more sophisticated, video games will include interactive online features (most people were just getting e-mail accounts in 1999), and Disney will produce consumer electronics from its in-house division Disney Electronics, which was founded in 2002. And movie fans won't see Toy Story 3 products at fast food outlets like McDonald's or Burger King, deals that were a part of the first two films.

"We walked away from those partnerships a few years ago because of concerns about childhood obesity and health," says Dunne. "Now, the emphasis is on healthy foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, and you'll see a lot of those products in the food aisle." Disney has signed with a number of food vendors, including National Raisin, to create small, kid-size packages of Toy Story 3 healthy snacks.

Disney also plans to share the wealth with retailers by providing them with exclusives, something it's been doing for several years. "We're going to partner with lots of retailers to give them exclusive products they can call their own," says Dunne.

The studio expects Toy Story 3 merchandise to appeal to a broad demographic, with the sweet spot in the 3-to 10-year-old range. But Disney-Pixar films have always appealed to teenagers and adults, as well, and that's expected to be the case in 2010. "There will be more product that appeals to older boys, especially in apparel," says Dunne. "And we've always had a strong adult fan base, and toys like Ultimate Buzz should be popular with kids and adults."

Tags:

Add new comment