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Monday Mouse Watch: The road ahead for Disney·Pixar ‘s “Cars”

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Monday Mouse Watch: The road ahead for Disney·Pixar ‘s “Cars”

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First the good news: What Disney Princess is for little girls, Cars has become for little boys.

Disney/Pixar's Cars poster
Copyright Disney·Pixar. All Rights Reserved

As in: This John Lasseter film is now one of Disney Consumer Products’ fastest growing key franchises. Global retail sales of “Cars”-themed licensed merchandise has generated $5 billion for the Mouse House since this Disney·Pixar movie made its box office debut back in June of 2006.

Now the bad news: According to statements that DCP officials made at the Licensing International Expo earlier this year, global retail sales of “Cars” licensed merch peaked at $2.5 billion in fiscal 2008 and are now expected to decline.

Cars 2 Logo
Copyright Disney·Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Which is understandable. Given that we’re still 22 months out from the June 24, 2011 arrival of that eagerly anticipated “Cars” sequel (Which – according to the domain names that The Walt Disney Company registered just yesterday …


… this Brad Lewis film will be called “Cars 2: World Grand Prix,” or something to that effect).

So what can DCP do to keep gas in the tank of Disney's newest key franchise? Well, do you remember those “Cars" Toons that were presented on the Disney Channel, Toon Disney and ABC Family last Fall? Disney Consumer Product is now using “Rescue Squad Mater,” “Mater the Greater,” “El Matedor” and especially “Tokyo Mater” as the inspiration for new toys & apparel.

Mater the Greater Super Stunt Show
Copyright Disney·Pixar
. All Rights Reserved

The first "Cars" Toon-inspired items – that “Mater the Greater Super Stunt Show” playset as well as those “Rescue Squad Mater" diecast cars -- began appearing in stores earlier this month. As for the line of clothing that will draw its inspiration from “Tokyo Mater” … Those t-shirts aren’t expected to arrive at your local mall ‘til sometime in 2010.

Rescue Swuad Mater
Copyright Disney·Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, Disney Consumer Products officials had hoped that the World of Cars Online would be up and running by now. And that -- just like with Pixie Hollow (i.e. the online component of the Company’s highly successful Disney Fairies program) -- this massively multiplayer online game would then help build & sustain consumer interest in DCP’s new key franchise.

World of Cars Online
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Unfortunately, though Disney Interactive Media Group’s Disney Online division had previously announced that this MMO would be open for business by the Summer of 2009 … To date – with the exception of the site’s Test Track section (which has been operational since last October) as well as a contest or two – the World of Cars Online is basically still up on blocks.

Cars Land Overview
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

On the upside … Just last month, Walt Disney Imagineering officially broke ground on Cars Land, that 12-acre Disney’s California Adventure addition which is supposed to be open for business by the Summer of 2012. In a space that once provided parking for 2,226 cars, you’ll soon be able to explore Radiator Springs, the cutest little town in Carburetor County.

Which – the folks at Disney Consumer Products hope – will help maintain interest in this key franchise long after “Cars 2: World Grand Prix” has rolled out of theaters. Spurring global retail sales of additional “Cars” merchandise for years yet to come.

Cars Land Ride
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Here’s hoping that the “World of Cars” massively multiplayer online game actually makes it out of the garage sometime soon. So that this DCP’s new franchise can then begin firing on all cylinders.

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