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Monday Mouse Watch : Disney's $500 million Tinkerbell problem

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Monday Mouse Watch : Disney's $500 million Tinkerbell problem

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With Christmas Day now just a week away, retailers & toymakers are already turning their attention toward the 2007 holiday season. With some of these folks already fretting about the disturbing news that's begun leaking out of Disney Consumer Products.

"What disturbing news?," you ask. Well, due to some rather serious story problems, it now appears that "The Tinkerbell Movie" won't be able to meet its original Fall 2007 release date. In fact, there's even been some talk that the release date of this DisneyToon Studios production could wind up being pushed back as far as 2008 or 2009.


Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises

"So what's so terrible about that?," you continue. You have to understand that "The Tinkerbell Movie" is a key component of the long-in-the-planning successful launch of the Walt Disney Company's latest franchise, Disney Fairies. It was the release of this all-new CG film on DVD that was supposed to provide the flashpoint for this franchise. Make hundreds of millions of people worldwide aware of this new set of Disney characters. Which would -- in turn -- compel tens of thousands of consumers to go out and buy "Disney Fairies" merchandise. All of those toys, t-shirts, games and dolls that are (even as you read this) being produced at factories around the globe.

Of course, the reason that all of these "Disney Fairies" products are being produced is that DCP representatives had promised retailers & toymakers that the DVD of "The Tinkerbell Movie" would definitely be going on sale in October of 2007. And that this new Disney home premiere would be supported by an unprecedented promotional campaign. One that would virtually guaranteed that girls 2-11 everywhere would be aware of these new characters and would then move quickly to snatch up any "Disney Fairies" -related merchandise they could lay their hands on.


Photo by Jeff Lange

But now that "The Tinkerbell Movie" 's release date has seriously begun to slide ... Disney Consumer Products have begun calculating the possible financial impact that that the delayed release of this home premiere might have. And would you believe that some $500 million in revenue from "Disney Fairies" toy sales could be lost?

Which (I know) may seem like a ridiculously high amount of money for a fledgling franchise to generate for the corporation. But let's remember that -- all by its lonesome -- the "Disney Princess" product line was projected to earn over $3.4 billion for the Walt Disney Company in fiscal 2006. So -- when you take that figure into consideration -- for the "Disney Fairies" franchise to have originally been projected to make some $500 million in toy sales revenue in fiscal 2007 doesn't seem all that unlikely now, does it?

Anyway ... Given the huge amount of money that we're talking about here ... Well, any problems relating to "The Tinkerbell Movie" are now of enormous concern to Andy Mooney, Chairman of Disney Consumer Products. He's already reportedly reaching out to Disney's retailer partners, making them aware of the now-quite-likely delay in releasing "The Tinkerbell Movie." More importantly, what the Mouse now plans to do in order to fill this huge gap in its "Disney Fairies" promotional plan.

 


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Among the ideas that are allegedly being considered as stop-gap maneuvers that could potentially support the "Disney Fairies" franchise 'til "The Tinkerbell Movie" is actually ready to for release is some exclusive web content as well as aggressive use of the Disney Channel. Which -- in this post - "High School Musical" environment -- is still viewed as a pretty wondrous promotional tool by retailers. Given the direct access that this basic cable channel now provides to that oh-so-desired tween demographic.

So for the Walt Disney Company to potentially be offering promotional access to the Disney Channel as a make-good to the toymakers & retailers who will be significantly impacted by the postponed release date of "The Tinkerbell Movie" ... That's a pretty huge gesture on Mickey's part. Mind you, it won't make all of Disney's retailer partners happy. But -- hey -- it's a start.

As to why the release of "The Tinkerbell Movie" is being pushed back in the first place ... I'm told that the basic problem with this home premiere is that the current storyline for the film isn't all that compelling. More importantly, that it skews far too young right now. Which could have potentially far-reaching consequences for the Walt Disney Company if its newest franchise is viewed as something that only appeals to children 4-6.

You see, Disney is looking to aggressively target the tween girl audience for its "Disney Fairies" franchise. More to the point, "The Tinkerbell Movie" is supposed to be the first of a planned quartet of home premieres. With "The Tinkerbell Movie" (Which is also known as "Tinker Bell and the Ring of Belief") basically serving as the audience's introduction to the world of Pixie Hollow. According to the original "Disney Fairies" promotional plan, that home premiere's release in October of 2007 would then be followed a trilogy of new "Disney Fairies" films which would tell one epic tale involving this new set of characters over a three year period beginning in 2008 and ending in 2010.


Photo by Jeff Lange

Of course, if "The Tinkerbell Movie" stinks ... No one's going to be interested in buying any of the future installments in the "Disney Fairies" home premiere series. Which is why it's crucial that this introductory film be as good as possible.

"Well, if it's so crucial that 'The Tinkerbell Movie' has to be great, then why don't the folks at Disney Consumer Products just ask John Lasseter & the guys from Pixar to come over & consult on their 'Disney Fairies' movie?," you query ... Well, John & Ed Catmull kind of have their hands full at the moment. You see, they've taking a very close look at all of the movies that WDFA currently has in its production pipeline. Which explains that story that's currently making the rounds about how John & Ed are supposedly thinking of putting "American Dog" (Disney's 2008 release) to sleep.

For more details on that story -- as well as the possible new path for Disney Feature Animation -- come on back tomorrow for JHM's "Toon Tuesday" column.

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  • >>"Well, if it's so crucial that 'The Tinkerbell Movie' has to be great, then why don't the folks at Disney Consumer Products just ask John Lasseter & the guys from Pixar to come over & consult on their 'Disney Fairies' movie?," you query ... Well, John & Ed Catmull kind of have their hands full at the moment. You see, they've taking a very close look at all of the movies that WDFA currently has in its production pipeline.<<

    And, of course, if John -weren't- such a Nice Guy in the first place, I could envision a perfect response something along the lines of, "Well, gosh, guys, I'd like to help consult, but SOMEONE TOLD ME I WASN'T ALLOWED TO..."  >;)

    (...Do I sound somewhat less than sympathetic to Disney's mounting Tink-franchise problems?--Oh, dear, could end up to be more trouble than it's worth.)  :)

  • >>Which explains that story that's currently making the rounds about how John & Ed are seriously putting "American Dog" (Disney's 2008 release) to sleep.

    Not sure if you are implying that they are putting the breaks on this film cause last i heard from people working on AD....its moving along just fine...story changes..sure...dead....mmmmm no...

    Tink movie....story was a mess and changed on a regular basis; like hourly.  Not to mention that the animation quality (being done by a studio in India) was an even bigger mess.  So they put the brakes on the flick....sent it back to story and yanked it away from the studio an India, in hopes of making a better product.....wow who would've thunk it possible....

  • "Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg" was the first in the line of Fairies books, and there are other books in the Fairies line, too. So, at least the books and the merchandise make people aware of the Fairies line, and that will make them even more excited for the release of the first film.

    "how John & Ed are seriously putting "American Dog" (Disney's 2008 release) to sleep"

    *gasp*  

    Somepirate guy mentioned: India.

    Is that animation place in India considered to be a real Disney animation studio?  Is it Disney Animation India?  Or just some random studio?  I understand that outsourcing is cheaper, but, if you're going to outsource, then at least make the outsourcing place an official part of the company with actual Disney animators (just keep them on board)...*sigh*

    Interesting artcile, Jim- I had no idea that TTBM was being delayed.  

    I've read that some people thought that "Peter Pan"'s Platinum Edition release was to coincide with TTBM...but maybe not now.  It shouldn't anyway- PP is such an amazing movie on it's own.

  • Well, that's what happens when you make movies for the sole purpose of selling stuff. Not because it's a good idea to make the movie. One advantage of the Princess line vs. the Fairy line is that the Princesses are based on established Disney history going back nearly 70 years. Every little girl since then has dreamed of being a Disney Princess. The Fairies are a manufactured market -- kind of like The Beatles and The Monkees.

  • *Tink movie....story was a mess and changed on a regular basis; like hourly.  Not to mention that the animation quality (being done by a studio in India) was an even bigger mess.  So they put the brakes on the flick....sent it back to story and yanked it away from the studio an India, in hopes of making a better product.....wow who would've thunk it possible....*

    Now if that's true, that gives me some hope. I for one think the Fairies line fits right in with the Disney legacy, and it could be a great new franchise that is GOOD for kids, as opposed to, oh, Bratz. (yech) I have read one of the Tinkerbell books (bought one for my niece) and it's a surprisingly well-written story. Anyway I'm glad the film's apparently been held back for a little Uncle-Walt-type tinkering. If the final film emerges as an enjoyable, well-made direct-to-video (like "Three Musketeers" and "Fox and Hound 2") then more power to Disney.

  • i'll disagree, rogerrmjet, tinkerbell goes all the way back to 1953, which i'd say is a long time.  yes, all the new characters will be new, but, tinkerbell, in my opinion, is very popular among the female population.  

    so, i'd agree if tink wasn't around before, but, since she's still been so popular for such a long time, i don't see a problem with making more fairies become popular.

  • Three Words:  Boo Hoo Hoo

    Can't state it any better than RogerRmjet: "that's what happens when you make movies for the sole purpose of selling stuff."

    Disney Co is too slick to guarantee a video release to vendors -it may have been implied or suggested, but I'm willing to bet not guaranteed - so Disney's not sweating. The vendors had to agree to produce Fairies garbage anyway, or they wouldn't be allowed rights to produce Pooh and Princess garbage.

    As for John, this isn't John's mess so he shouldn't have to clean it up. He can't state it publicy, but he seems like he'd be ok to let a direct-to-dvd-toy-ad twist in the wind.

    The hardest thing to swallow is that there's someone there concerned about story. How'd they get in the building? Sounds more like an April Fool's Day article.

  • What, you mean they DIDN'T get the greatest results by sending the work out to the cheapest,, least experienced animators on the planet? There was something actually WRONG with the Eisner/Stainton formula for success? They must be congratulating themselves right now at the house of mouse that it only cost them hundreds of millions of dollars and the loss of a few hundred trained artists to find this out. Excuse me as I wipe away a tear.

    Don't get me wrong,I have no problem with the Disney Fairies idea, this is a concept that the studio has been kicking around for almost ten years now, and I thought it was a good idea then too. Most of the concept art was so good, I remember thinking that it would take a real idiot to screw this one up.

  • Oh, and for your information, If you check over on Cartoon Brew, Jim, you'll see that American Dog has not been shelved, just postponed, although creator/ director Chris Sanders has been let go during the most recent set of layoffs.

  • To wit:  "Update! (12/18/2006) According to Cartoon Brew, Chris Sanders was removed from American Dog last Wednesday, December 13, when Disney also laid off approximately 160 members of Feature Animation. The site further suggests that the division’s Chief Creative Officer, John Lasseter, and president, Ed Catmull, were concerned that the film may not be as critically and commercially successful as what they wanted from the true first movie under their creative supervision at Feature Animation. Hence, American Dog experienced a move similar to what happened with Pixar’s Ratatouille, when Brad Bird took over directorial duties for Jan Pinkava."

    (Still, if Sanders is now considered expendable for unmarketable projects, this would be the second time in a row that a hoped-for breakout "name" director--who got his promotion for catching a lucky "It's new, it's different!" wave with audiences during a dry spell--was given studio carte-blanche for his personal-project second film and couldn't deliver...Chris's high mark may have dwindled, but let's not start crying that the Sky Is Falling.)  :)

  • Maybe Disney should have had the media content ready to go BEFORE lining up all the marketing and licensing campaigns instead of the other way around. Yeah, I know that's not the way the studios actually arrange for marketing tie-ins these days - heck, these days having the marketing deals set before the movie even goes into production is about par for the course - but it would have saved them a lot of headaches.

    Of course, they could have saved themselves even more headaches by not finding another reason to strip-mine classic content for the sake of making a few more bucks, but since they're making kajillions of bucks off all the Princess junk, we knew that'd never happen.

  • The Chris Sanders news has been intriguing me all weekend, ever since I read about it Friday at Animated News.  I'm eager to hear more about the story.  Can't wait to hear some more of Hill's thoughts on the matter.

    Speaking of which, that's a pretty cool update, Derek J.  Where did you find it?

  • Animated-Views.com, but they were quoting Cartoon Brew, and BOTH were quoting Jim's earlier "Dog" article from last October....So let's hope Jim doesn't indirectly quote himself for sources too much.

    However, it also mentions insiders saying that Dog was a deep pet project for Chris Sanders; he's hurt that the studio was "against" him on it, but he's relieved to be off if the end project's not going to be "his".  (And frankly, I'm relieved too, if it isn't, but for different reasons.)

  • That's very interesting, Derek.  Thanks again for the update.

  • blackcauldron85 said:>>"I've read that some people thought that "Peter Pan"'s Platinum Edition release was to coincide with TTBM...but maybe not now.  It shouldn't anyway- PP is such an amazing movie on it's own."<<

    (Just FTR, it was--Chronologically, Jungle Book and 101D should've been the next Platinum titles after Mermaid, and PP and Fantasia(s) were later added to the end of the list for '08...Until a certain cross-marketed pixie helped Peter get a free pass ahead of the existing titles.  Still, who cares, as long as we've got the "real" Tink on Platinum, even if it wasn't in time to be one of the upcoming Blu-Ray restorations.)

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