Character merchandise posts strong advance sales

Disney already has a new star on its hands with Princess Tiana.

“The Princess and the Frog,” in which she’s featured, doesn’t bow until Dec. 11, but merchandise for the Disney toon is outselling other Disney Princess-branded items by double digits.

More than 45,000 of the character’s dolls have sold in less than a month, with 17,000 sold last week alone. Sales of bedding for the pic are triple that of other Disney Princess sets at some retailers and at the Disney Store, Princess Tiana dresses are selling better than other characters.

That’s good news for the Mouse House, as “Frog” introduces a brand-new princess — something the company hasn’t done since “Mulan” in 1998.

Tiana is the focal point of Disney’s campaign for the pic, and is unavoidable on the Mouse’s websites and TV channels. The company has also been introducing her to guests at its theme parks with the character performing three times a day in the riverboat musical “Tiana’s Showboat Jubilee” at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. There’s also character meet-and-greets in the parks.

Princess merchandise has been a major moneymaker for Disney, earning more than $4 billion for the company each year. With Tiana as Disney’s first African-American princess, the numbers could grow even more as the character attracts a new fanbase to the line.

Disney has been rolling out “Frog”-themed merchandise for weeks, which include toys, apparel, home decor, food, cosmetics, collectibles, stationery, cookbooks and wedding dresses.

“It is typical with any major Disney film to see movie-inspired product available as early as six weeks prior to the film’s release,” says Mary Beech, VP of franchise development and marketing for Disney Consumer Products. “However, the historic nature of the release of ‘The Princess and the Frog’ has generated tremendous consumer excitement well in advance of the film and sales thus far have been very strong, something that is remarkable for characters with which fans are not yet completely familiar.”

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