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Monday Mouse Watch: How the "High School Musical 2" DVD will help Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment mend fences with the mega-retailers

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Monday Mouse Watch: How the "High School Musical 2" DVD will help Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment mend fences with the mega-retailers

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Never mind about all of Zac Efron's fancy footwork in "High School Musical 2." This morning, it's Mouse House executives who are dancing in the streets.

The way I hear it, the suits back in Burbank are positively giddy over the record ratings that this "High School Musical" sequel received. With over 17 million viewers tuning in on Friday night to catch this Disney Channel Original. Which makes "High School Musical 2" the most watched basic cable telecast in history.

 Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

But -- out of all of the departments & divisions at the Mouse House -- do you know who's happiest about "HSM2" 's astounding success ? Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.

And -- no -- it's not because WDSHE is already eagerly looking forward to those millions of "High School Musical 2" units that they'll be able to move in the coming months. But -- rather -- because this "High School Musical" sequel is now Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment's get-out-of-jail-free card. A way for Mickey to mend fences with mega-retailers like WalMart & Target.

"And why would the Mouse now be on the outs with the Big Boxes?," you ask. Four words. "The Tinker Bell Movie."

Photo by Jeff Lange

Let's remember that -- just 15 short months ago -- that Disney Consumer Products announced with much fanfare that "Tinker Bell and the Ring of Belief " (i.e. A WDSHE home premiere which was being produced by DisneyToon Studios) would be turning up on store shelves just in time for the 2007 holiday shopping season. And that this DVD -- along for the three "Tinker Bell" sequels that DTS already had in the works -- would help turn the "Disney Fairies" franchise into a "Disney Princess" -sized powerhouse.

Soooo ... Because the Walt Disney Company said that it was putting together an unprecedented promotional campaign for "The Tinker Bell Movie" (Which was to have featured planes, trains and buses with new "Powered by Pixie Dust" paint jobs ...

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

... as well as a cover story for "People" magazine. Where -- for the first time ever -- Tink was supposed to talk) ...

 Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

... dozens of retailers made commitments to the Walt Disney Company. Agreeing to be the Mouse's promotional partner on "The Tinker Bell Movie." Which virtually guaranteed that this home premiere would be one of the best selling DVDs of 2007.

Until -- of course -- John Lasseter saw a work-in-progress version of "Tinker Bell and the Ring of Belief" and then decided that this DisneyToon Studios production wasn't really up to snuff. Which was why John ordered that this direct-to-DVD project be completely reworked. Which effectively pushed back the release date of "The Tinker Bell Movie" until the Fall of 2008.

Now this decision may have won John lots of fans in the Disneyana community (Who see Pixar's Grand Pooh-Bah as a real champion of the return to quality at the Mouse House). But the pushing back of the "Tinker Bell Movie" 's release date was an absolute disaster for the folks at Disney Consumer Products. I mean, these folks had literally spent years mapping a massive promotional campaign for that "Disney Fairies" -related DVD. Doing everything from changing the release date of the Platinum Edition of "Peter Pan" from October of 2008 to March of 2007 ...

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

... to persuading the U.S. Postal Service to release a stamp with Tink's image on it in the weeks just prior to "The Tinker Bell Movie" appearing on store shelves in the Fall of this year.

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

What's that you say? You don't believe that the Walt Disney Company would actually resort to this level of planning, particularly in support of a "Disney Fairies" -related DVD. Okay. Then take a gander at the image below. Which is a slide that was shown at a Disney Consumer Products presentation at the 2006 Licensing Show. Which outlined for potential licensees the "Engage & Excite" portion of the "Disney Fairies" franchise launch. Which was originally supposed to have occurred from July 2006 to June of this year. And (if you'll read the slightly enlarged type) ...

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

... included the Tinker Bell stamp that I mentioned previously as well as a "Tinker Bell Movie" teaser that was to be tacked onto the 2-disc Platinum Edition of "Peter Pan."

Anyway ... All of Disney Consumer Product's carefully crafted plans got knocked into a cocked hat by Lasseter's decision to push back the release date of "The Tinker Bell Movie." And the way I hear it, the mega-retailers were furious that that best selling DVD that the Mouse had originally promised them for the 2007 holiday shopping season now wasn't going to show up 'til 2008.

Now add to this the fact that -- due to Walt Disney Studios significantly cutting back on the number of movies that it would be producing each year as well as DisneyToon Studios' output for the past year basically being reduced to nothing because of all the political in-fighting that was going on between Lasseter, Ed Catmull and former DTS head Sharon Morrill -- Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment was having trouble coming up with sufficient new titles to feed to the Big Boxes. Which meant that Mickey was now in danger of losing its primo shelf space at consumer electronics giants like Circuit City and Best Buy.

Which is why the folks at Disney Consumer Products are now said to be absolutely thrilled with the ratings that "High School Musical 2" received this past weekend. Given the record number of people who tuned in to watch this Disney Channel Original on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights ... Well, that virtually guarantees that a DVD version of "HSM2" will soon be able to move millions of units.

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Which (not-so-co-incidentally) was exactly the sorts of sales figures that WalMart, Target, Best Buy & Circuit City were hoping to get from offering their customers "The Tinker Bell Movie." But now that the DVD version of "High School Musical 2" can be dropped into that late November / early December sales slot that was left open when John Lasseter ordered that the release date of "The Tinker Bell Movie" be pushed back ... The people at Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment & Disney Consumer Products are suddenly breathing a lot easier.

Mind you, not everyone at the Mouse House is thrilled with how well "HSM2" did this past weekend. I'm told that the folks over at Walt Disney Pictures (Who have already begun preparing "High School Musical 3" for a Spring 2009 theatrical release) now figure that they're going have to spend millions in order to get Efron, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale to appear in the third & final film in the series. Which (according to the logline description of HSM3's plot that I've recently been shown) will feature both the senior prom as well as the high school graduation of everyone's favorite Wildcats.

But what do you folks think? Is swapping the DVD version of "High School Musical 2" for "The Tinker Bell Movie" really a fair trade? Which WDSHE title do you think will actually sell better at the Big Boxes?

Your thoughts?

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  • Hey friends.  I'm glad for the folks at HSM and DisChannel!

    I look forward to the continue efforts to own the tween market and develop new talent.  I wonder if the mouse house will be able to leverage the talent they have premiered through HSM.  Imagine if they could have profitted from the Britney,  Justin and the crew from new Mickey Mouse Club.   There is value to be gained for share holders in that.  I know that Hollywood Records is released albums and such for this stable of performers but will they be able to go the distance?

    I still say the HSM franchise should shift about Corbin Bleu.

  • So I take it they're moving away from the "Haunted High School Musical" idea that you mentioned previously?

  • HSM2 will sell better than Tinker Bell. Disney shareholders were beginning to get ticked off at lousy direct to video movies. Now that HSM2 has fortuitously got high rateings, and Disney has other projects in the pipeline, I wonder if Tinker Bell will be quietly canceled. (Possibly by the end of the day today)

  • It's always nice when the main guy promoting quality ahead of cheap knockoffs is presented as the villain. Where were all these well-thought-out promotional programs for Ratatouile?

    The big boxes don't care if it's a Disney or Dreamworks or Sony dvd - whatever the movie is, it will sell "X" number of units during each sales season. The big boxes are ticked that they have excess Fairies and even HSM dolls sitting on their shelves. The Cars and Rat merchandise run off the shelves as soon as they are stocked. The fairies junk is on the shelf, because if the retailers want to carry Pirates and Cars merchandise, they've got to take the Fairies too. It's how many product lines are sold - both giftlines and grocery items.

    The big boxes are not losing any sleep or getting giddy over what Disney's next dvd will be. All the merchandise is simply numbers on a spreadsheet. They do look forward to using the Fairies debacle as a bargaining chip against the next Disney Co rep that shows up promising the world. The problem is not Lasseter. The problem is a company that put a movie into production based solely on the idea that it would move toys, and the retailers that bought that pitch.

  • "High School Musical 2" will absolutely sell more than "The Tinker Bell Movie". Not only because it has been hyped to death already. The concept for the feature debut of the franchise sounds better than the stupid-sounding "Haunted HSM" story. Thank god for that. If Walt Disney Pictures can get all the cast to sign (because I'm guessing some don't want to be identified as a Disney musical star forever) they've got a hit movie on their hands.

  • Phew! This must make John Lasseter sleep a bit easier, after all of his missteps, according to Jim.

    Why, it was just two weeks ago that Jim shared with us the giddiness of the Disney suits over the performance of "The Simpsons Movie" versus "Ratatouille." If I recall, Jim the Numbers Guy, declared "this David Silverman film [is] on track to blow right past the $188.2 million that "Ratatouille" has earned to date during its stateside run sometime over the next three weeks."

    So what are Jim and his Disney suit friends doing this morning? It appears that "The Simpsons Movie" stalled, and will now wind up not even earning the $188.2 million Jim cited two weeks ago. This, while Lasseter's little rat movie earns about $20 million more.

    Always so impartial and insightful when it comes to Pixar, Jim empathized with the folks in Emeryville: "It's going be difficult for the folks who work at what is arguably the No. 1 animation studio in the world to have their latest feature length cartoon coming in third at the Summer 2007 box office race once Labor Day arrives."

    But wait ... it appears as if Jim can finally celebrate Pixar's terrific summer: Not only was it the best reviewed movie of the summer, it will come in second (among animated features) in the Summer 2007 box office race.

    The best news of all is that Lasseter's commitment to quality means that Disney has another classic in its bank, which will bring in significant additional revenue for decades to come, as new generations discover Remy and friends.

  • @Chip Winter: Uhm, and how does that relate to "High School Musical 2"? :P

    And even though "Ratatouille" is in front of "Simpsons" domestically, it has grossed almost $ 100 million more in international revenue. (And I know "Rat" hasn't opened in some countries like Germany and the UK, but really, even "Shrek the Third" has only nearly grossed $ 100 million if you combine those two countries. I'm expecting "Rat" will not. And (again with the 'and', sigh) "Simpsons" has yet to open in a few international markets too.)

  • "The big boxes are ticked that they have excess Fairies and even HSM dolls sitting on their shelves."

    You're just supporting Jim's point with this statement, you know.  Maybe they would sell more units of Fairy merchandise if the movie had come out at the right time?  Hmmm...

  • Well, if Zac Effron wasn't being so demanding, we would've gotten a better HSM which I would've seen, to be honest. I really do stay away from them because I'm afraid Ashley will be stuck in the blonde b---h role for a long time which, as Jane Sibbett has proven, is hard to shake off. Of course, if WB got her for the live-action American version of "Death Note" they're planning as the creepy but cute punk girl Aname, then I wouldn't mind that.

    Anyway, I would've rather seen "Faeries" and will still wait for it since I'd rather see Tink. That, and Kristin Chenowith is in it. :D Yayz.

  • @ LaDracul- Ashley Tisdale doesn't play a blonde b---h in "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody"...

    I am a huge HSM fan, and I loved the sequel, and I'll be buying the DVD when it comes out.  I hope that all the stars come out for HSM3- it'll more than likely be the last HSM movie with them in it (as I mentioned a while ago, I can see Disney pulling a "Saved By the Bell: The New Class").

    I'll also be buying "The Tinker Bell Movie", but I think that HSM2 has a broader fan base.  

  • curmudgeon - Couldn't have said it better.  Though I wouldn't be so quick to villify marketing, either.  They did that whole campaign when Disney Consumer Products had a lot of say in what movies the company made.  Thankfully, now that Disney is more selective in what they put out there, I'm sure marketing will follow suit.  As much as we like to say they didn't do a good job with Ratatouille, the movie still made close to $200M in a very competetive summer.  

    (If anything, DCP will probably be the division that will need to adjust even more as it seems like they'll be losing a lot of power with Lasseter in charge.  Which is fine by me.)

    empoor - The Simpsons and Ratatouille seem to be performing the same way overseas as they were domestically, meaning The Simpsons seem to have huge opening weekends then dropping off, while Ratatouille has been opening smaller (except in France, for obvious reasons) but catching great word of mouth and getting great legs.  The Simpsons still might end up making more internationally, but I think it'll be a lot closer than you think, and I wouldn't be shocked if Ratatouille ends up passing Homer and co. by the time all is said and done.

  • Well of course, BC85, that's one of the reasons I like her. I kinda relate to Maddy, only my family's not clueless. :)

  • lol!  I think that if Ashley wasn't on "Suite Life", that she could easily be pigeonholed as the blonde b---h, but, thanks to her playing Maddy, she has shown that she can play other types of roles.

  • For those interested, the DVD and Blu-ray release date for High School Musical 2 is set for December 11th.  See the article below:


  • My thoughts?

    Well do you want the truth or would you have the regular babble you regularly expect? I think you take the side of the  "Corporate Mega Stores" and "dumb-consumers" who eat up anything Disney puts out with disregard to quality here. When you describe or defend how these big dept stores feel about the whole Tink happenstance.

    Instead of portraying Lasseter as a man who tries to restore quality to an ever cheapening part of the company (while lowering the value of Disney's credibility hence lowering profits) you try to point the finger at him almost as though you're saying that he's an idiot for stopping the release of a really cheap (not unlike those Barbie Direct to Video movies) product brand and praising Disney Channel for giving us yet another sequel.

    As a consumer, I'm not an idiot and you can't just feed us anything. We notice crap when it comes out and clearly all the Disney straight to DVD sequels only want to squeeze the last buck out of classic Disney characters. The industry use the "F" word like it's a good thing (franchise I mean). But I for one defend Lasseter in this instance. Had he not taken steps to restore the dying credibility at Disney, then who know what crap we'd being seeing alongside the really horrible looking "Tink" movies... "The Aristocrats 7: Cats outta hell"..." The Jungle book 14: The Mowglis meet the Tarzans"...or even worse "Peter Pan 5: Tink does Dallas"

     He saved the company from years of embarrassment and clearly the Direct to DVD branch's intentions weren't to bring us quality entertainment (watch Cinderella 3 to vouch for that) but rather to make a quick dollar from the hard earned and beloved characters that innovators like Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Marc Davis and Walt Disney himself had striven so hard to successfully achieve. It's like Jurassic Park; they stood on the shoulders of Giants to grab what others had achieved and then they patented it and packaged it, wielding it like a kid who found his father's gun... I call it the rape of Classic animation.

    Bravo John Lasseter...I'll choose to have no DVD rather than a sub-par DVD... and bravo for HSM2... it'll give give the sharks something to chew on until you run out again... you know, scratch your back so you won't stab mine?

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