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"Disney Fairies" franchise gets ready to take flight

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"Disney Fairies" franchise gets ready to take flight

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"Believing is just the beginning" …

... Or so say the folks at Disney Consumer Products. This is the over-arching catch phrase that DCP has attached to the "Disney Fairies" franchise. The brand-new brand that this branch of the Walt Disney Company is currently in the middle of launching. With the hope of someday turning Tinkerbell & her pixie pals into something that will eventually rival the "Disney Princesses" franchise in popularity & profitability. (That particular brand now earns over $3 billion annually for the Walt Disney Company).

When JHM last checked in on the "Disney Fairies," it was to cover the August 2005 event that effectively launched this franchise. Which was a reading at the Grand Californian Resort Hotel & Spa, where Newbury Award-winning author Gail Carson Levine signed copies of her yet-to-be-officially-released book, "Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg" - the novel that Disney Publishing hired Ms. Levine to write that would lay down the rules for the world of the "Disney Fairies."

Copyright 2005 Disney Press

This Disney Press book (Which was officially released to bookstores on September 20, 2005) went on to do quite well. With "Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg" becoming a New York Times bestseller, selling over a million copies worldwide.

But - then again - how could Ms. Levine's novel not be a success? Given that Disney Publishing Worldwide launched "Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg" in 51 countries and in 32 different languages and was backed by both a million dollar marketing campaign as well as Gail's global tour.

Since then … Well, Ms. Levine is already at work on a "Fairy Dust" sequel. Which is expected in bookstores in 2007.

But by then, the "Disney Fairies" franchise will hopefully be in full flower. Given the extremely elaborate campaign that Disney Consumer Products has mapped out for the launch of its new brand.

The first "Disney Fairies" products to officially hit the shelves were a series of 10-inch dolls, which were a Disney Store exclusive starting in January of this year. In addition to that, the first four volumes in a "Disney Fairies" chapter book series, "The Trouble With Tink" & "Beck and the Great Berry Battle" …

Copyright 2006 Random House

… as well as "Lily's Pesky Plant" & "Vidia and the Fairy Crown" …

Copyright 2006 Random House

... appeared on store shelves.

That same month, the first issue of a new "Disney Fairies" magazine was published in Germany. Targeted at girls ages 7-9, this 44-page publication supposedly sold quite well. The way I hear it, "Disney Fairies" magazine actually managed to sell most of its initial 140,000 press run.

Copyright 2006 Ehapa Verlag

This magazine - coupled with the elaborate "Disney Fairies" display at Seibu's flagship department store in Tokyo - quickly helped put this new Disney franchise on thousands of little girls' radar. Which is just what DCP had been hoping would happen.

Mind you, this is in addition to the official "Disney Fairies" website. Which went live last August. Which offers visitors to explore Pixie Hollow (I.E. The new "home world" of Tinkerbell & her friends), play games, sign up for a newsletter and even read excerpts from the five "Disney Fairies" -related books that have been printed to date.

Or should I say seven? Given that -- late last month -- the fifth installment of the "Disney Fairies" chapter books, "Rani and the Mermaid Lagoon" …

Copyright 2006 Random House

… was published by Random House. Which was quickly followed by Walter Foster's "Learn to Draw Disney Fairies" paperback.

To help keep consumer interest high in this brand-new brand, Random House is currently holding a "Disney Fairies" contest. Which will send one lucky family of four on an all-expenses-paid vacation to Walt Disney World.

Copyright 2006 Random House

Mind you, all entries for the "Tell-us-which-Disney-Fairy-you-are-most-like" contest must be received by July 31st. Which is just about the time that the Playmates Toys series of "Disney Fairies" -related items will start hitting store shelves.

And - in this case - we're talking about 3.5" small dolls, 8" fashion dolls, playsets & activity sets. Many of which will feature in-pack DVDs and collectible story cards.

Copyright 2006 Playmates Toys, Inc.

Then - come holiday season 2006 - the "Disney Fairies" deluge really begins. Working closely with a series of specialty stores & better department stores, DCP will launch a wide variety of DF branded items. Everything from apparel to stationary. With an even wider variety of product coming in 2007.

Of course, the reason we'll see even more "Disney Fairies" material in 2007 is … Well, that's when "The Tinkerbell Movie" (The first of four films that are deliberately being created to help support this new Disney brand) will debut.

Now as for "The Tinkerbell Movie" … All I can tell you is that the early buzz on this CG feature (Which is being animated in India at Prana Studios) is surprisingly good. So much so that there's actually been some talk about pushing back "TTM" 's DVD release by a few months and then releasing this film theatrically.

But - as you can see - there's a rather cold-blooded & deliberate plan at work here to carefully roll out the "Disney Fairies" franchise. To slowly raise consumers awareness of these characters, gradually get them interested in buying DF brand books, toys, apparel & DVDs.

And - so far - Disney Consumer Product's plan of the "Disney Fairies" brand appears to be wildly successful. Which is why DCP is already knocking around ideas for new Disney character-based franchises. Other new brands that wouldn't spring to life because of some animated feature and/or TV series that Disney Studios has in production. But - rather - just like "Disney Fairies" was, would be cooked up in-house by Disney Consumer Products.

Copyright 2006 Disney Publishing Worldwide

"What sort of brands?," you ask. Well, among the concepts that DCP is currently kicking around are:

  • Disney Bunnies
  • Disney Dwarves
  • Disney Horses
  • Disney Mermaids
  • Disney Trains

As for the projects that I've listed above … "Disney Bunnies" (Which will detail the world that Thumper of "Bambi" fame lives in with his brothers & sisters) is actually already a go. The book that will initially be used to launch this new Disney franchise is currently making its way through the Disney Publishing production pipeline.

As for "Disney Dwarves" … While touring the Frank Wells building back in March, I actually came across a beat board for the direct-to-DVD film that would be used to launch this new franchise. It actually proposed creating a "Lord of the Rings" -like back story for the world of the Seven Dwarfs. So that - in a prequel to Disney's "Snow White" - we'd actually learn how these seven characters became friends and eventually came to live together.

Now I know that this particular concept may sound like heresy to all you Disney purists out there. But having seen some of the "Disney Dwarves" concept art as well as read through the beat board (Which proposed some rather unique ideas like having Dopey being abandoned as a baby and then being raised by humans) … I have to say that this project actually has some real potential. Which is why - in spite of John Lasseter's edict that WDFA will produce no more unnecessary sequels - that I'm kind of hoping that Disney Toon Studios continues working on "Disney Dwarves." To see if something interesting can come out of this originated-by-Disney-Consumer-Products production.

After all, given the good buzz that currently surrounds "The Tinkerbell Movie" (Which will feature voicework by Brittany Murphy) … Well, maybe believing really is just the beginning. Maybe some of these DCP home-grown franchises can actually turn into launch platforms for compelling films & stories.

Copyright 2006 Disney Publishing Worldwide

But what do you folks think? Based on what you've read today, are you now willing to give the "Disney Fairies" franchise a try? Or are you still bothered that Disney Consumer Products plucked a key character out of the world of "Peter Pan" so that they could then use Tinkerbell as the leaping-off point for a brand-new line of toys, books and apparel?

Your thoughts?

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  • <<Based on what you've read today, are you now willing to give the "Disney Fairies" franchise a try? Or are you still bothered that Disney Consumer Products plucked a key character out of the world of "Peter Pan" so that they could then use Tinkerbell as the leaping-off point for a brand-new line of toys, books and apparel?>>

    I'm bothered that the the value of entertainment and story still means squat in Disney culture.  This is nothing more than a marketing effort to shove more Tink plush into the arms of girls ages four to ten.   This is the same vaccuous marketing stragegy that gave the world a bunch of animated Bratz direct-to-video DVDs.  

    But Jim, while I respect your level of criticism, I am confused that you seem to be coming down hard on John Lassiter (who has a rep of valuing story and quality animation), while at the same time you're pulling for more direct-to-video trash and saying give this faries nonsense a chance.  What gives?  
  • More retreads of material that should be left alone.  

    Childrens stories began with "Once upon a time..." and ended with "...And they lived happily ever after".  This denotes the story is finished and the listener/viewer may imagine what happens next to the character.  Instead Disney has decided to ruin childrens imagination, and supplant a financial attachment.

    This is wrong!
  • Three words:


    (No REALLY, what kind of Fairy are you?... the tee-shirt sells itslef)
  • On Disney's website, I read the first chapters of "Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg".  I liked it so much I got the book.  I'm shuddering to hear what Tink sounds like (apparently she sounds like Brittany Murphy).  I'm very upset that TTM is being outsourced to India.  Why does Disney even have their own animators?  They should just fire them, huh?  (kidding, duh).  But, I think it's so stupid for an ANIMATION company to outsource their ANIMATION. That makes me think that they just make their product for the money (Walt loved what he did and wouldn't make anything just to sell it).  Enough negativity, though.  Depending on which context I look at it in, the Fairy line seems good or bad.  I mean, I have the book, so I don't think it's that bad of an idea.  These fairies are independent women for the children's set.  If TTM does well, I'm wondering what other characters they'll take out of movies and give their own line.  Jiminy Cricket?  Timothy Mouse?  B.E.N.?  Who knows where it'll end.  Will Flora, Fauna, Merriweather, or even Maleficient make some appearances in the Fairy line?  Will Oswald have fun with the other Bunnies?  
    The idea of a prestory for the Dwarfs sounds interesting.  If that is made, Disney doesn't know what's coming to them.  Of course, parents will still buy it for their kids, but I predict a backlash like Disney's never seen.  That Dopey storyline sounds really interesting.  I'm excited to see all these new lines to come.  And, hasn't the Mermaids line already been done..."The Little Mermaid" TV show?  And, I know that Disney Heroes merchandise is out there...why aren't they expanding that line?  The one Disney Princess DVD I rented was quite awful overall, so it'd be more of that type of content, but I'm surprised they have only made action figures and Halloween costumes out of this line.  
  • Some things just happen naturally in the course of creating engaging and interesting new films and characters. Others are contrived efforts by "Marketing Departments" and "Consumer Products Divisions."

    Disney used to rely solely on the former, which is why the Princess brand took off (mostly on its own, I might add). This was a set of core characters that children were already in love with, because they had seen them in classic Disney animated features. Who the heck knows who Rani or Lily is? Who cares?

    Disney should stop wasting time trying to invent brands and instead get their Marketing Department to figure out a way to get some damn Little Einsteins merchandise in the stores! This is one of their most successful Disney Channel franchises in history and I can't even get a stupid Annie plush doll!!

    Four weeks before any of their other flops hit the theaters I had plush dolls falling out of the sky ... anyone wonder whatever happened to all the Treasure Planet plush they made?? I've got playsets for every conceiveable set of characters under the sun, but no Rocket, Leo, Quincy, Annie, and June one???

    Please ... Iger is doing some things 100% on target, but they need to get the Consumer Products division back in line with the rest of his business plan.
  • The suits will destroy it all.

    So what do I honestly think of all this?  One word, "GAK!"

    ((which is the sound you make when you start choking on your own vomit))
  • It just sounds all so "Masters of the Universe" to me. But with higher quality, which isn't hard. It seems like Consumer Products is taking over the company. Will they be dictating theme park attractions next, or have they already started?
  • My name is Andrew Hartman and I am a Peter Pan historian and owner of PeterPanFan.com.

    Originally when I heard about the Disney Fairies storyline, I was extremely upset - and hearing this news has affirmed those feelings.

    Peter Pan is one of the most treasured and famous stories in literature.  J.M. Barrie continuously revised the story and many versions of it exist by the author in form of stage play, screenplay, novel, and survived original notes.  He spent years on the story.

    When he died, he left the copyright to the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.  Ever since his death (and even before), royalties from anyone wishing to do film, stage, or book incarnations of Peter Pan had to give money to the hospital for royalties.  Brilliant idea.  And the hospital has excelled to become a leader in children's care.

    Other Peter Pan historians might be beefed that the hospital isn't being paid royalties for the Disney Fairies line, or more specifically, the Tinker Bell Movie and Return To Neverland (2002).

    Although this does upset me dearly, I am also frightened as to how the Tinker Bell character is being treated.  I don't think Barrie ever intended for the pixie to become a sex symbol.  He described her as a "white ball of light" that darts around the room.  Disney was the one who gave her large hips, a short skirt, and breasts.  Because of Disney (and I know this wasn't their intention), the character has inspired an adult fantasy equivilant.

    I actually am very open to artistic interpretation and revisioning.  However, if Disney is commissioning a Tinker Bell movie to specifically promote a Disney Fairies merchandise line, they are SICK.  A film should be created because there is a story to be told.  Disney doesn't care about the story - they just want to create a film that people will come to see.  A film that little girls will watch and when they see the fairies will make funny jokes and there will be some sort of pop song and all the girls in the audience will fall in love with it then when they go to the Disney store they'll get the costumes and dolls and books and other t(r)inkets.  Who is anyone to take Barrie's characters and change them?  Further develop them?  Write new adventures for them?

    Disney is not alone.  Fox has done this (Peter Pan & the Pirates - 1991).  Jim Hart has done this (Hook - 1991).  And others have written novels and such.

    Do I 100% disapprove?  No, I do not.  What I do feel strongly about is Disney's intentions on making the film and even the franchise.  They only want money (of course!).

    Whatever happened to art?  Why not create something new?  It's a gamble, yes.  But at least you're getting authors who have a desire for a story to be told.  Not authors who are commissioned to take pre-existing characters written by someone else and then make a story that is compelling to girls between the ages of 6 and 12.

    Disney's company is based off of an original character - a mouse - who has become internationally famous.  Now Walt was a visionary.  He adapted Snow White, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and many other fables into animated films.  Good for him.  He was a great storyteller.  A genius.  If he were alive today to witness how his company is being run... - well - I don't think the man would have let things get like this.  He had integrity.  He got permission from most authors (some stories didn't need rights approval) for film incarnations of their stories.  He got permission from GOSH to do Peter Pan.  And he worked with the author of MARY POPPINS on that film.  If Walt wanted to do a POPPINS sequel, he would work with the author again.  Now, if Walt were alive and P.L. Travers had died, do you think he would go ahead with a sequel if he bever got permission?  I certainly don't think so.  Again, I am one to believe he was a man of integrity and respect.

    Yes yes yes, I've been rambling.  The point is Disney's reasoning to make the Tinker Bell Movie is wrong.  In the end, if the film is great and gets a theatrical release and goes on to win the Oscar, it doesn't matter.  The screenwriters are pulling this out of their asses.  The intentions are wrong.

    At least Jim Hart had something to say.  He had the idea "What if Peter Pan grew up?"  And he was motivated to write a story about it.  The story became a book and a movie.  He's even writing a series of novels about the character Captain Hook before he encountered Peter Pan.  Do I approve?  Not entirely.  But at LEAST he is doing it because he has an artistic vision.  He has a story he wants to be told.  He isn't doing it because a billion dollar company is paying him thousands of dollars to create SOMETHING - ANYTHING - that little girls will fall in love with so it'll make them another $3 billion a year.

    Be creative.  Be original.  Be a visionary.
  • I think it's going to be an incredibly popular and profitable franchise. And there is just no stopping the merchandising machine at Disney. It's gonna happen, folks. All we can hope for is that the product lines will contain quality ingredients. Myself, I have no problem with Disney developing a backstory for Tinkerbell and creating new fairy characters. At least it's not "Peter Pan III" - another lame sequel off a Disney classic. At least it's not Disney telling the same story only not as effectively (as per the cheapquels). And Disney tapped an accomplished author to pen the Fairies series, so there is some indication that quality will be included in the merchandising blitz to come. Remember that Disney is competing with some high-profile companies these days - Nickelodeon and its schlocky toons (Fairly Oddparents, yeuchh) among them - and why shouldn't it draw from its rich heritage in order to win that competition? Better that than acquiring a new property (Muppets, Power Rangers) that has nothing to do with the Disney legacy. So bring on the Fairies. At least they have a bit of the Disney magic.
  • Come to find out all the dwarfs are in a minimum security halfway house. They all wear enchanted ankle braclets to make sure they only march between the cottage and the diamond mine - the mines they work to repay their debts to society.

    Doc - his constant stuttering and malaprops caused the death of one of his patients. Rather than face a drawn out malpractise trial, he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

    Happy - sold marijuana at schools where his height worked to his advantage. Always happy from the weed, but also constant munchies.

    Sleepy - his narcolepsy indirectly caused the death of a cocktail watress.

    Sneezy - a victim of volunteering for medical research, threatened a nurse at pick ax point when side effects ruined his life.

    Bashful - a misunderstood victim of rosacea, Bashful threatens to kill classmates after contiinuous taunting.

    Grumpy - he's a curmudgeon - what more do you need?

    Dopey - to work in a cameo for the possible sequal "Disney's Puppets" we learn Dopey was Gepetto's first "real boy."

  • I, too, am confused about your interests.  Pixar constantly gets the back of your hand here, and this crap is important enough to waste hours writing and laying out on the page?  Is this just a Disney owned site or what?  I'm confused.  Even Disney seems excited about Lassetter.  I don't get it.

    And, no.  I don't think that this creepy new Fairies thing is worth talking about.  I don't have a daughter, but if I did I'd try to limit her access to this kind of crap.
  • My $0.02, adjusted for inflation (oh, and Pan Fan?--Notice what makes your post different from everyone else's?...):
    - Disney wants a piece of Barbie Fairytopia.  (Just like "Barbie in Swan Lake" wanted a piece of Disney's Princesses.)
    - Gail Carson Levine wants "fantasy respectability" on her resume', to beef up the Newbery Honor she won for writing "Ella Enchanted", one of the snottiest and asinine Shrek-esque fairytale-snubs ever written.  (And yes, I'm talking about the book, not that hideous name-only movie mutation.)

    My opinion:  Harmless and well-meaning maybe--and it's not like Disney hasn't pumped out paperback book/marketing/magazine franchises before (anyone remember "Disney Girls"?...No?) but leave Tink out of this.  If Disney wants to do generic fairies, there's nothing that stops them, except for the brandname identification that Disney wants to use to make it look like it was *their* idea and not Mattel's.
    And yes, Gail writes in a few passing obligatory "Tink had had her heart broken once before..." Barrie nods in FD&QfE, but "our" Tink shouldn't quite so nice as to be a Neo-Barbie Smart Empowered Girl's Role Model--That just ain't fairy, and it sure as heck ain't Tink....Gail, you silly ass.  ^_^
  • Does Disney really want 2 fairy group franchises? Ok, so WITCH is part of the magical/totally spy girl genre coming out of Japan and Europe... but I think it's better to keep Tink as a solo character.

    Gotta say, as much as I like Gargoyles, this CP approach makes me quite relieved that they haven't touched it.

  • Well, Disney doesn't *have* 2 fairy franchises--They don't own WITCH, they just show it.  (Ditto with Baby Einstein, WDWacky.)

    As for getting all bent out of shape about the movie, guys, it's JUST the ritual February school-vacation Marketing-Ploy slot, an annual tradition we're all used to by now--It'll probably make more money than "Teacher's Pet" and not as much as "Piglet's Big Movie", and probably fool a few suckers into thinking it's "Return to Neverland" because, ooh, look, it's an iconic character...
    As for Disney trying to market Bunnies and Dwarves, take that as Thursday-morning pre-release Hubris ("We've got our sequel ready!") which tends to fade with the second-week grosses, and as for Jim pinning this one on Lasseter...uh, Jim, didn't *you* just tell us John's hands were corporately tied off of this one, because they thought he WOULD shut it down?  Seem to remember.
    (There--That should take care of everybody.)
  • Um, Disney does own W.I.T.C.H.  It was created by Disney Italia, the branch formed to handle Disney's publishing interests (mainly comic books) in Italy.  (Disney doesn't own all of their comic book providers/publishers.  They don't own  the giant Egmont in Denmark, for instance.  But they do own Disney Italia)

    And Disney does own Baby Einstein (and Young Einsteins),  They didn't just partner with Baby Einstein to market videos and make TV shows -- they bought Baby Einstein lock, stock and barrel.
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