"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
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" …
… 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.
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:
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.
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?