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"Disney Dragonkind" roars into stores & "Disney Bunnies" hops onto bookstore shelves in early 2007

Jim Hill

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"Disney Dragonkind" roars into stores & "Disney Bunnies" hops onto bookstore shelves in early 2007

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Well, the folks at Disney Consumer Products are nothing if not ambitious.

I mean, you'd think that they'd already have their hands full. What with having to keep the $3 billion Disney Princess franchise moving forward just as they get the Disney Fairies franchise underway. Never mind coming up with new product lines to support those old Disney stalwarts, Mickey Mouse & Winnie the Pooh.

But even with all that already on their plate, DCP staffers are always on the prowl. Always looking for new ways to expand Disney's retail empire. And -- just recently -- one of the concepts that this division of the Mouse House has been embracing passionately is the repurposing of old characters. As in: Finding memorable characters from older Disney films and then plucking them out of their original storylines and re-inventing them as stand-alone characters.

Case in point: Thumper from "Bambi." Once just the pal of the "Prince of the Forest," Thumper and his sisters ... Well, if all goes according to plan, this excessively cute family of rabbits will soon be the Walt Disney Company's next big brand. Ready or not, folks, here comes ...

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises

According to staffers that I've spoken with at Disney Consumer Products, the "Disney Bunnies" product line will get off to a rather modest start. With a trio of books (Which will hit store shelves on January 15, 2007) being sort of a trial balloon to see if there's any real interest in Thumper-themed products.

Out of these books, Laura Driscoll's "I Love You, My Bunnies" is probably the most ambitious. A 32-page hardcover that's aimed at kids 4-8, it tells the story of how Thumper & his sisters worked together to create the perfect gift for their mother. Which is a twig basket filled with flowers.

Copyright 2007 Disney Press

Given that you've got cute bunnies making a basket for their mother ... Disney Consumer Products hopes that they'll be able to get two bites out of the same apple next spring with "I Love You, My Bunnies." Meaning that this Laura Driscoll book (Which features illustrations by the Disney Storybook Artists) can be sold as both an item that can be stuffed in an Easter basket AND as a Mother's Day present.

As for the other two "Disney Bunnies" titles, "Thumper Counts to Ten" ...

Copyright 2007 Disney Press

... and "Goodnight, Thumper!" ...

Copyright 2007 Disney Press

Well, both of these books were written by Kitty Richards and are intended for babies & toddlers. Only 16 pages long and printed on sturdy cardboard, "Thumper Counts to Ten" and "Goodnight, Thumper!" will probably stand up to whatever abuse your infant can dish out.

Of course, Disney Consumer Products recognizes that not every consumer has children and/or really goes for the cuter characters in the Disney stable. That some Disneyana fans are actually drawn to some of the darker, edgier stuff that the studio has produced over the past 78 years (EX: "The Nightmare Before Christmas").

With this in mind, DCP turned its attention to all the dragons that have appeared in various Disney films over the years. Was there perhaps an opportunity here to reinvent these characters? Change them from cuddly animated creations to truly fearsome creatures?

With this idea in mind, Disney Consumer Products contacted the talented sculptors at Gentle Giant Studios. And the end result was ...

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises

Let me say that -- right from the start -- that "Disney Dragonkind" is a very different take on the characters that you know and love. The folks at Gentle Giant ... Well, they've imagined a world where dragons are actually real. More importantly, where dragons are now the dominant species.

I mean, take a look at the re-imagined Maleficent from Disney's "Sleeping Beauty."

Photo by Steve Gerding

That's one fierce looking creature, don't you think? Or -- better yet -- how about Mushu from "Mulan"?

Photo by Steve Gerding

Not exactly " ... travel-sized, for your convenience" anymore, is he? And wait 'til you get a look at Elliot from "Pete's Dragon."

Photo by Steve Gerding

He's still get that lovable lantern jaw. But check out Elliot's claws. Yikes!

Obviously, the "Disney Dragonkind" product line isn't for all your purists out there. Those folks who insist that Disney's characters can never change, that they must always look as they did in the very first film they appeared in.

But me? I gotta tell you that I really like what the folks at Gentle Giant Studios have done here. I mean, you can still see elements of the original characters in each of these sculptures ... But -- at the same time -- the artists have totally reimagined Disney's dragons, made these fantasy characters seem that much more real. Which is why I'm excited to see what the rest of the characters in this new product line will look like.

Speaking of which, the "Disney Dragonkind" Maleficent statue will be the first one in the series to reach store shelves. It's expected to pop up in the retail world sometime in January 2007, with the Mushu & Elliot statues not that far behind.

Depending on how these first three "Disney Dragonkind" statues are received, Gentle Giant Studios & DCP hope to expand this product line out into snowglobes & t-shirts. Maybe even a series of fine art prints.

But -- for now, anyway -- "Disney Dragonkind" will be concentrating on these statues. With Maleficent (Which stands 13.5 inches high, 16 inches to the top of the flag in the tower. While the draon's wingspan is an impressive 20 inches) being limited to an edition of 1000, which is expected to retail for $300.

So what do you folks think? Or you okay with these new DCP product lines? Did Gentle Giant go too far with its re-imagining of Disney's dragons? Or are you more concerned about Thumper being plucked out of "Bambi," only to become his own brand?

Your thoughts?


Special thanks to Steve Gerding of KungFuRodeo.com. Who first took photos of the first three Disney Dragonkind statues when they were on display at the Gentle Giant booth at Comic-Con International last month, then graciously allowed these images to be reproduced here at JHM

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  • Those Dragonkind statues will be mine!  Oh yes, THEY WILL BE MINE!  They are too cool looking to not have as part of my collection!  What other dragons I wonder?  Perhaps the Reluctant Dragon, the Hydra from Hercules, I am sure there are others.  They could easily work Chernabog into the mythology I am sure.  Sure, while I am a Purist I have nothing against this reimagining.  These are well done and should be a worthy addition to my collection.

    Tha Disney Bunnies is a cute idea but it might not have the longevity as say,the Faries, and the Princess line.  Aside from Dragonkind, are there any other lines being planned for boys?  
  • Pete's Dragon needs to be remade using this rendition of Elliot. In this version, the hillbilly Gorgon clan gets eaten in the first five minutes.

    Then Elliot can eat the Disney Bunny books.
  • "Which is a twig basket filled with flowers."

    Jeez - what happened to the spoiler alerts - whole story line - Ruined !

    Now that Disney Co owns the Muppets, does Bean Bunny qualify as a Disney bunny?
  • Yeah! Beans! And how about the March Hare, Roger Rabbit and Mr. Whiskers? They could be the Animaniacs of the animal world, barging in on any story that gets too cute!

    So, how long till we get Disney Ponies? They could use Phillipe and Buck and Pegasus and Snowball and Snowball and Snowball...
  • Lessee...Disney can't get the DL 50th Anniversary DVD out more than a year after it was supposed to be released, or the "Legends of Imagineering" book, or more of the classic episodes of "Walt Disney Presents" featuring DL or WDW out on DVD, or even release a "Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams" soundtrack CD at DL.

    But flood store shelves nationwide with product lines like Disney Bunnies, Disney Fairies, and the ubiquitous princess crap to sell by the truckload? No problem.
  • I like the idea of the Disney Bunnies; I had a storybook featuring Thumper & his sisters when I was little, and I liked it.  The toys will be cute and hopefully fly off the shelves.  I'm not so crazy about the Dragons, though...Elliot hanging out with Maleficent?  I like my Elliot to be more on the nice and cuddly side.  But, I'm glad that the Disney cast members have their thinking caps on!
  • Ugh....

    I think DCP now stands for Disney Consumer Pimps....
  • The dragons look great!  The bunnies - well they are ok for the market they are targeting, but not full family oriented anyway.

    This reminds me of the old books about Mickey and Pluto that I had as a child and Donals and the nephews (not Carl Barks comics).  Cute for kids for sure.

  • Just how detailed are those dragons? I mean for $300 a piece I'm expecting at least the same level of detail in the McFarlane dragons.
  • I just noticed on the picture of Elliot that there is a boy with him...is that Pete?  He's between his front paws.
  • "Disney Consumer Pimps"?

    How about Disney Character Pimps.  Seems a bit more fitting.

    What about the news about Disney getting Robert Zemeckis and (possibly) ImageMovers?  Along with 2-D animation coming back, that puts the best hand-drawn animation, Pixar, and motion-capture all under the Disney umbrella.

    And what's going on in the parks these days?
  • How about Disney Cats?  The whole Aristocats gang, among other assorted animated cats,  gets reborn for a new generation.  How about Disney Dogs then too --  101 Dalmations' third incarnation plus a mulititude of other lovable Disney movie muts.  Disney Fish -- Cleo finally meets up with Flounder and hijinks ensue.  

    I guess when you can't come up with anymore original characters on your own, you just go back and rehash what's already been established for you and pimp that out.  Nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but you can really see how the lack of memorable new Disney (not Pixar) characters has reformulated what Disney now markets.
  • Does Elliot still sing "I love you, too," when you push a button?
  • I've always thought that Maleficent is the coolest cinematic dragon, bar none. So that statue rocks with me. Mushu...I don't know. He's supposed to be a Chinese dragon, not a European one, and Chinese dragons are benign in nature and have all sorts of fins and frills. I don't care for him. But Elliott!!!!! Oddly enough, he's my fave of the three. Too cool! I'll be on the look out for these!
  • I would love to see the Dragons line take off, if only for the fact it could be an enticement to get Beastly Kingdom at DAK off the drawing board!
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