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View Full Version : DEBATE: Disney Merchandising - Plush, and the Man Who Started it All


DisneyKidds
09-26-2002, 12:10 AM
Yes, the tag line from the commercials that my 3 year old loves to quote (so cute :)). Very well used in relation to WDW. I love the advertising campaing. However, WDW is not the only thing for which this tag line is wholly appropriate.

Many lament the apparent current Disney focus to seperate us from our money. How often do we hear 'plush' referred to as a negative thing? However, it was Walt himself who created Disney merchandising. He was the Man Who Started it All when it comes to plush. Blasphemy you say? Bah! Walt started the ball rolling so long ago with the wholesale merchandising of Mickey Mouse. In fact, at one point it was the only thing that separated Disney from bankruptcy. Was it a knee jerk response to a desperate need for short term cash? Absolutely not. After all, the merchandising didn't stop once the bankruptcy clouds passed.

If you think about it, we owe much of what the Walt Disney Company has been to plush, to merchandising. Before Mickey was insanely popular as a feature character, he was a merchandising darling. Mickey Mouse made Disney, and Mickey Mouse, while a wonderful character and creation on his own, was made popular through merchandising.

So, what was so altruistic about Walts merchandising motives that seperates him from those who today are seen as groping for our wallets. Perhaps you could say that Walts use of merchandising was a vehicle to promote the name, the brand, and not just a way to open wallets. Perhaps, but I bet that when Disneyland opened it's doors there were just as many carts full of irresistable trinkets that served to separate parents from their greenbacks to keep the kiddies quiet.

So, is there a rose colored view of Disney merchandising in the early days, or was/is business simply business?

DVC-Landbaron
09-26-2002, 12:29 AM
but I bet that when Disneyland opened it's doors there were just as many carts full of irresistable trinkets that served to separate parents from their greenbacks to keep the kiddies quiet.
I don't have time now. It'll have to wait.... but...

YOU WOULD LOSE THAT BET!!!

It is #1 on my list!! :mad:

Thanks for playing!! :bounce:

Another Voice
09-26-2002, 12:42 AM
Again, a simple answer...

There's nothing wrong with merchandise that supports a creative project. But all too often these days it seems like the desire to sell merchandise is the driving factor behind the projects.

No one said "I have a fantastic idea, a story that I've just got to tell!!!!!" when they wrote the script for '102 Dalmations 2: The Animated Sequel'. It was all started by a desire to sell video cassettes; what they contained wasn't even a consideration.

Walt created the Mouse as a character; Walt wanted to make movies about him. The idea of merchandising wasn't even Walt's, someone approached him with the idea. And it was Roy who say a profitable idea when he saw it. And when Disneyland opened its doors, most of the shops were filled with non-Disney items. Gee, most of the shops weren't even owned by Disney - they were leased out to outside owners who sold what they wanted. Sure you could buy a postcard and a balloon, but it was no more than any other vacation destination offered in those days. And Walt never felt the need to open up shops in malls to sell those trinkets either.

I'm sorry Mr. Kid, but your comment just seems to be trying to distort the past in order to justify today's decisions.

P.S. - Funny, I remember that Michael Eisner went into a furry when he first started about how little Disney had merchandised its properties. He proclaimed that the characters were "unmined assets" simply waiting to be exploited. That hardly sounds like Eisner is simply following a trail blazzed by others.

hopemax
09-26-2002, 01:06 AM
2 years ago, one of the speakers at the NFFC convention was Milt Albright. Milt was one of the financial guys during Walt's era. He made a comment that he didn't think Walt would be too happy with what has happening to merchandising.

He mentioned that, of course, stores and merchandise were an important part of Disneyland. People would want a momento of their vacation, and of course they were happy to provide them with one. People would take things home, and they would become conversation pieces which would generate interest in others to visit the park. But they were always aware the people were there to ride the rides, to see Mickey. He commented that what is happening today is "overpowering."

Like everything there needs to be balance, there needs to be moderation. And along the way Disney lost it.

hopemax
09-26-2002, 01:12 AM
And something that I'm going to put out there, because I have a feeling that it might come up. During the 50's Disneyland had a catalog. Most of the things in the catalog were from the Art Corner, supplies and such, but there were park trinkets in it as well. I don't know how long it lasted, but people at home could order things from the park. You can see a picture of a cover on the Disneyland Paper Resource Center (http://disneypaper.tripod.com/dl58.htm) .

Luv2Roam
09-26-2002, 06:44 AM
Plushes
I don't think people have anything agianst plushes -- until it seems to become overpowering. The Disney Stores for example. There are few items that are not a plush or a kid's costume. :p

mjstaceyuofm
09-26-2002, 08:02 AM
overpoweringI'll second that.

Try a little variety too. It's one thing to provide the merchandise, it's another thing to rehash it over and over again at virtually every outlet across the 40,000+ acres that is WDW...

d-r
09-26-2002, 08:08 AM
I would just like to have more stuff. We were in the Disney store yesterday, and I wondered if Lilo and Stitch would have the same sort of deal that the preorders for monsters inc and batb had - buy $50 when you preoder, get a $10 discount card. If they do, I don't think we would be able to use the offer - there is only one thing - one thing! - in the store that I would buy right now - the schoo house rocks dvd. That is really a shame.

I don't mind merchandising at all - more of it please! I would really like to see more variety and more items and more adult stuff - I think that is why you see people complain about plush - plush is fine, but you don't need a whole store of it. Try having some other stuff, too.

I understand why the stores are full of children's costumes right now - last year, they ran out of stuff and people were disapointed, so this year they have packed it with costumes. That's fine with me. I think I even understand why they have gone to cheap toys and plush everywhere - stick with what is selling, and plus, they aren't as seasonal as clothes so you don't have to discount every couple of months, and people don't get into the habit of waiting for the discount. That said, I am really really disapointed with the disney stores right now, and I am hopeful that after halloween things will get better in there for the holidays. It really is a shame.

DR

DisneyKidds
09-26-2002, 08:32 AM
I'm sorry Mr. Kidd, but your comment just seems to be trying to distort the past in order to justify today's decisions.
Nope. No desire to distort. No desire to justify today's decisions. Simply a desire to talk and learn :). Not everyone has an agenda.

Actually, in another thread, our good friend Baron indicated that if the '1971 Walt Standard' had been maintained all these years there would be no Disney Stores to be dragging the company down. OK, so back in the 60's Walt didn't see a need for stores to sell merchandise. However, to think that if he were alive in the 90's he wouldn't - well, that doesn't seem very plausible.

I don't think people have anything agianst plushes -- until it seems to become overpowering.

So, some like it if it is just a Mickey balloon and a little stuffed Mickey doll, but draw the line at...........? Some people might actually like the variety of merchandise that is available today and would draw the line at.............? The posts on this thread already are bearing that out. A matter of degrees perhaps? Or should the oven never been turned on?

I'll agree that Disney merchandising is an out of control, overpowering monster. However, is it possible that that monster started out as an innocent little mouse? You see, there is so much talk around here about slippery slopes, perhaps it was Walt who wet the merchandising slope and started the ride. Not that he shouln't have, and those that have followed have lost that all important moderation, but who established the concept that selling Disney merchandise was an acceptable Disney practice? Sure, someone else floated the idea. Yes, Roy saw the money potential (he was the money man after all). However, Walt had the final say on all things Disney. I'm not trying to impeach Walt. I'm not trying to defend the current merchandising monster. I have no need to do either. I'm just trying to understand, on a philosophical level, if Walts thinking on every subject was so far removed from the thinking of some of the businessmen who followed him.

but I bet that when Disneyland opened it's doors there were just as many carts full of irresistable trinkets that served to separate parents from their greenbacks to keep the kiddies quiet.

I don't have time now. It'll have to wait.... but...

YOU WOULD LOSE THAT BET!!!

OK, guilty as charged - I got a little carried away ;). I guess I'll take your word that there weren't as many carts. One, one hundred, is there really a difference? And what about the 1971 opening of WDW? The World was still 'pure' then. The cement was just setting on the Standards. What was the merchandising status at that time?

This is a topic that I have not really seen much discussion on, lately at least, and I thought we could use something fresh to talk about. No other motivations here :).

cindyfan
09-26-2002, 10:22 AM
quote: "However, Walt had the final say on all things Disney"

:confused: I really don't believe so.

The Disney Company has been "publically" owned for a very, very long time. Walt was still alive when they were forced to sell shares to the public to keep it from going under.
So to say that he had the "...final say on all things..." is really giving him more power than he really may have had.

It seems in good times Walt always gets the "credit" by those that love him. AND..... in bad times....he gets the "blame" by those that don't.
It hasn't been a "one man show" for a very long time!!!

quote:......"There's nothing wrong with merchandise that supports a creative project. But all too often these days it seems like the desire to sell merchandise is the driving factor behind the projects. "......
Agree 100%........:)

IMHO...merchandising is a very good business decision. And the Disney Company is a business.
AND....it does make for good "guest service" to be able to provide that piece of Disney that you can make personnal and "take home".

But, at times, it does seem out of control!

As far as the PLUSH issue at the Disney Stores......:eek: Well, that is just way out of control!!!!
Since Pressler left the stores and went to the parks, the stores took a nose-dive!!!
The stores were lost with out him and he was out of his relm of expertise.

EVERYONE, I think, will admit the stores are horrible right now. They are grabbing at straws, hoping to salvage something.
PLUSH has the highest gross margin. It makes the biggest profit in the shortest time.....AND as someone else pointed out.....it is not "seasonal". With this in mind......it is their "quick fix"!!
That is, until they can really figure out how to save the stores.
Dont' blame Walt for the fact that the Disney Stores have turned into PLUSH stores!
Years ago the company made a good business decision to make Mickey available in your home by selling plush Mickeys.
The state of the stores in another issue. They need a boss that knows what he is doing.

DisneyKidds
09-26-2002, 10:35 AM
Originally posted by cindyfan
quote: "However, Walt had the final say on all things Disney"

:confused: I really don't believe so.



Yes, Disney did go public and Walt lost his final say on all things Disney at some point. However, back when Walt decided to merchandise Mickey, I think he was still the man and Disney had not yet gone public. I'll try and dig out the dates and confirm that.

cindyfan
09-26-2002, 11:24 AM
??:confused:
IMHO.....it doesn't matter that Walt may have been the one who had the very first plush Mickey......which...yes he was.....
The dates are irrelevant.
You still can't blame him for the "plush situation" in the stores :rolleyes:
Or the fact that TODAY the Disney Co is pushing the merchandise the way they are.

Do we blame the inventor of the wheel for the Firestone/Ford Explorer disaster!!:confused:

I don't think there is any question that merchandising is a good business decision.
It is the why, where and what!!! And those are controlled by the "here and now" !

Another Voice
09-26-2002, 12:12 PM
At Disneyland the primary focus of merchandise was to support the theme of the area. The first place you enter was a small town commercial district, so it makes sense that the place ought to be lined with stores. And since Walt didn’t have any background with retail (nor any interest in getting into the field), the stores were leased out to businesses that fit the turn-of-the-century theme. I’ll have to dig for the complete list, but they included a pharmacy (from Upjohn), a hat store, a small town dinner (from Carnation Diaries), a corner soda shop, a card and paper goods store (from Hallmark), a cigar & cigarette store* and others. Pendleton Clothing from Oregon set up a “general store” over in Frontierland to sell outdoor clothing and other “western” goods. The emphasis was as much on show as it was on hitting sales-per-square-foot numbers.

Sorcerer
09-26-2002, 01:43 PM
While the comments thus far have been extremely interesting, I feel compelled to point out that Disney Store has been one of the few divisions in the company to maintain positive numbers this year (which ends this Sat). I won't share my opinion of the current product in TDS, but I will say that it does seem to be working - at least according to the numbers. When the numbers start to fall, then perhaps the powers that be will re-evaluate the product. Until then, I think you can expect to see more of the same.

hopemax
09-26-2002, 02:08 PM
p.s. interesting note about outside vendors at DL. I never knew that. does anyone have any good resources that I can read on that issue. it truly astounds me that DL opened with outside vendors. they sure must have had iron-clad control leases.

Nickel Tour, E-Ticket Magazine have a few tibdits. You've never heard of Pendleton Woolen Mills and its relationship with Disneyland? Ah, East Coasters!

First point to remember is that the shops that opened in 1955 were there to support the theme. Thus Main Street was populated with stores that you could theoretically find on a Main Street. Aside from the Candy store, you could also find a children's shoe store and an intimate apparel shop (both of these were gone after the first year). Gibson & Hallmark ran a card shop off and on from 1955-1985. You could buy cards, wrapping paper just like any other card shop.

Whoops, gotta go...be back later.

raidermatt
09-26-2002, 02:10 PM
Nobody is saying there should be no merchandising. You see some comments about more variety, or fewer outlets, and those are important decisions. But the main point was made very well by AV. Its not so much the amount of merchandising that is in question, its allowing it to drive other areas of the business.

Walt didn't make a Mickey Mouse fireman cartoon because he wanted to sell fire trucks. He didn't make Lady and the Tramp so he could sell stuffed dogs.

He put the creation of the product first and foremost, and then made money off of merchandising. The idea that merchandising should dictate what films are made did not originate with him. He cannot be blamed for even starting that ball rolling...

DisneyKidds
09-26-2002, 02:29 PM
The idea that merchandising should dictate what films are made did not originate with him.

Is this truely and honestly what is happening? Lilo & Stitch, Treasure Planet, Atlantis - heck, Little Mermaid, Lion King, et. al. - were all made to sell plush? Lilo, TP and Atlantis are not even the types of films that lend themselves well to merchandising, IMHO. Who wants a Stitch doll? TP may sell well to older kids, but it's mass appeal for merchandising may be limited. Mermaid, Lion, Beauty - the modern classics - are great for merchandising, but I haven't seen many people criticize these 'last of the great' Disney animated features as being a sham to sell plush. OK, the DTV sequels are probably intended to try and keep some films/characters fresh that might otherwise lose their merchandising appeal, but I don't see the DTV sequels as being Disney's primary movie making strategy. A disappointing and overused distraction, but hardly what Disney intends to be considered their true film offerings.

raidermatt
09-26-2002, 02:53 PM
AV can probably speak better to your question, but IMHO, no, it is not ALWAYS what is happening in every decision. But its certainly the driver in some decisions, like the 102 Dalmations example, and it has impact on other decisions when really it shouldn't even be mentioned in such decisions.

And you're right a film like Atlantis (or TP) would not sell plush, but only if you think of plush as stuffed animals. (a mistake I made at one point...) Remember all of those Atlantis action figures and toys that were lined up in the same aisle as the Star Wars toys at Toys R Us? If you don't, you can actually still find a few, and they are at deep discounts...

Even if you don't believe that merchandise has become a driver in too many decisions, it should at least be obvious that the company's focus on merchandise far surpasses its focus on product. The proof is in the pudding on that one...

DisneyKidds
09-26-2002, 03:07 PM
Originally posted by raidermatt
a film like Atlantis (or TP) would not sell plush, but only if you think of plush as stuffed animals. (a mistake I made at one point...) Remember all of those Atlantis action figures and toys that were lined up in the same aisle as the Star Wars toys at Toys R Us? If you don't, you can actually still find a few, and they are at deep discounts...

FYI - I like to use 'Plush' to refer to the sad sack state of merchandising run amuck, and am really referring to all forms of merchandise and not just the soft, high margin stuff. :crazy: Your point about the Atlantis action figures and how they were piled (oh, did you say lined ;)) up in ToysRUs and can be had for a deep discount is just my point. Nobody wanted it, and I wonder if Disney even thought that they would be huge sellers.

Even if you don't believe that merchandise has become a driver in too many decisions, it should at least be obvious that the company's focus on merchandise far surpasses its focus on product. The proof is in the pudding on that one...

Granted ;).

Another Voice
09-26-2002, 04:05 PM
"Nobody wanted it ['Atlantis' action figures], and I wonder if Disney even thought that they would be huge sellers"

Well, Disney really thought they would sell like hot cakes. They really did.

Just because they are greedy dosen't mean they are smart too.

hopemax
09-26-2002, 04:07 PM
Back again,

A few years ago, I started working on a website about Disneyland's history. I was attempting to track down every shop, restaurant, attraction, exhibit that was ever in Disneyland. It was pretty time consuming, and I hit a wall where I didn't feel like finishing it (learning about the past and the motivations & philosophies that created and trying to enjoy the present, not such a good combination) Maybe I'll work on it some more.

However, what I did manage to accomplish may be some use. It would save AV some work, I'm sure he's got more important things to do.

Disneyland History (http://www.geocities.com/hopemax.geo/disneyland/disneyland.htm)

I'm trying to find which E-ticket has the story about Pendleton. Pendleton had a shop from 1955-1990 and the E-ticket had a farewell article. What eventually forced them out was Disneyland jacked up the rent to the point where it was no longer profitable for them to stay.

Found it...


The Pendleton Company did not pick up their option on the Disneyland lease in 1990. The new contract was deemed too expensive for the 2,000 sq. foot retail outlet. The annual rent had gradually increased to ovver twenty times the original 1955 agreement."


The rest of the article is a good read, I would love to be able to type the whole thing in.


The Pendleton Mills shop remained virtually unchanged during its long stay at the Magic Kingdom. It was a time capsule containing the essence of the Frontierland of our youth...the subdued lighting casting a warm glow on the polished wood of the interior fixtures...the sound of our shoes on the hardwood floors. There was no splash of day-glow colors on gaudy wall displays...no deaf\ening din of upbeat music as sales people pushed faddish merchandise. This was quality...an old fashioned haberdashery of understated taste.

DVC-Landbaron
09-26-2002, 05:46 PM
Actually, in another thread, our good friend Baron indicated that if the '1971 Walt Standard' had been maintained all these years there would be no Disney Stores to be dragging the company down.Well!! To be quoted out of context!! What a joy!!

I did not say it in quite that way or in that context. What I said was there were several things currently sinking the Disney company. One of them was the Disney Stores. I did NOT say that it didn’t fit within the philosophy. So with that thought in mind...

And what about the 1971 opening of WDW? The World was still 'pure' then. The cement was just setting on the Standards. What was the merchandising status at that time?The world was “PURE” and the marketing was “PURE”. Well, maybe not ‘pure’ but definitely “SUBTLE”. And that’s all the difference in the world!!

Did you know, for instance, that only one ride emptied into a shop. And that was the Pirates. Which was semi-open, street market type. Meaning that one small turn in any direction took you out of the shop.

There were NO carts selling cheap trinkets every ten to fifteen feet especially before the parade. In fact this is one of the “sharp practices” that Walt despised in other amusement parks and promised never to bring into Disneyland. Do you know what used to happen before the parade? Instead of selling cheap trinkets they brought out the characters to do some shtick!! Quite a difference, isn’t it?

Just a couple of thoughts to get you on track, Mr. Kidds.

Luv2Roam
09-26-2002, 07:34 PM
...I think you can expect to see more of the same.
That's what we are afraid of. ;) Of course, think of all the $ we save. If they had really good stuff, we would really be poor! ;)

Lesley
09-26-2002, 09:51 PM
you know, I wouldn't be nearly as offended at the kids' costumes at TDS if they weren't so badly made and cheap looking. The kids' costumes at the parks are much nicer....but I think I'll go the homemade route this year. My 2yo dd is a lover of all things "princess" and the costume patterns go on sale for .99 tomorrow....I bet the dress I make for a quarter of the price will be much nicer than either those scratchy ones that fall apart or the nicer ones at WDW!

Does the Disney Store even sell anything at full price anymore? I know I haven't bought anything there for less than 50% off in a long time.....dd has some dress ups she loves that I got for almost nothing! Amazing how many backpacks they still have a month after school has started.....

But enough of my Disney Store rant (gee, I'll give PP a hand for the fact that we loved what they had there when he was in charge...perhaps the Gap will do very well in his hands)

Actually I wanted to mention the fairly recent change of Main Street in the MK....from an attraction that was really very much a Main Street to nothing but a dressed up strip mall, with much of the same junk they sell everywhere else in WDW. Who else remembers the Penny Arcade (ah, some of my best childhood memories of WDW...) and when the Main St. Cinema was actually a cinema and not a stupid redundant store? It was so cool to go into the darkness of the theater and see the old Disney cartoons running. So what that hardly anyone set foot in there....that's what made it great! It was one of those little details that the average one time visitor will probably overlook or not care about....but its one of the things that helps inspire a repeat visitor to keep coming back.

There is a also a certain lack of imagination among the merchandise available at WDW these days. I used to plan for a larger shopping budget during my trips because there was so much all over WDW that was unique....now, the few things I actually want aren't a problem and my shopping budget has been able to shrink. And when there's so much of the same stuff all over, its easy to decide to wait for a lower price. Kind of nice for me in a way....but from a business standpoint, you have a company that's not meeting its potential as far as selling merchandise. I guess this applies to the parks and the stores...

PKS44
09-26-2002, 11:59 PM
Originally posted by DisneyKidds
OK, the DTV sequels are probably intended to try and keep some films/characters fresh that might otherwise lose their merchandising appeal, but I don't see the DTV sequels as being Disney's primary movie making strategy. A disappointing and overused distraction, but hardly what Disney intends to be considered their true film offerings.

Ok- I know I have harped on this movie before, but if you would just watch the last 15 minutes of Executive Suite (it will be on again on TCM in November) you would understand why this is a much more damaging thing than you seem to recognize...you sound like the beancounter in the film defending their lower end furniture-(he is the bad guy) It is the idea guy (good guy who basically makes the following point-

What do you think the people who turn out that garbage feel about the job they are doing? The people forced to sell it? you think they have pride in their work? What effect does this have on the morale of a company which USED TO BE synonymous with a certain level of quality...you think it inspires people to do their best and want to perform for Disney? To stay with Disney feeling like that? ...and what is the public to think of that brand's reputation when they find it is now content to turn out junk? The general public does not sit around and say well that is okay, it is Disney's cheaper line of work...they say I don't know if I really want to see anymore Disney crap after the last garbage they sold us...(same goes for more than just movies)\

Paul

Gagebre
09-28-2002, 10:12 AM
.
Actually I wanted to mention the fairly recent change of Main Street in the MK....from an attraction that was really very much a Main Street to nothing but a dressed up strip mall, with much of the same junk they sell everywhere else in WDW. Who else remembers the Penny Arcade (ah, some of my best childhood memories of WDW...) and when the Main St. Cinema was actually a cinema and not a stupid redundant store? It was so cool to go into the darkness of the theater and see the old Disney cartoons running. So what that hardly anyone set foot in there....that's what made it great! It was one of those little details that the average one time visitor will probably overlook or not care about....but its one of the things that helps inspire a repeat visitor to keep coming back.

I couldn't have said it any better. These are two things that I miss so much on Main Street. It always makes me so sad when I walk by them and see the gift shops in their place.

DVC-Landbaron
09-28-2002, 11:08 AM
This was on the WDWBLUES news group site. I was a little unsure where to post it so I did it twice!! Once one the Pre$$ler is leaving thread and once one the debate regarding merchandising.

Anyway, ParrotHead wrote it and rather then paraphrase it I’m going to re-print it exactly as written. After all he stated it soooo well!! Hope you don’t mind Mr. Head! (Oh-oh! Confusion.) I mean Parrot, not Frozen!! ;)

This was in the Wall Street Journal:
"In an interview, Mr. Pressler said Gap's stores could benefit from the marketing approach he learned at Disney. 'In some ways, our Disney theme parks are just gigantic retail locations,' said Mr. Pressler, who ran Disney's retail stores from 1992 to 1995."
Now, I don't think it's any secret that upper management at Disney views the theme parks as little more than giant shopping malls. It's just interesting to see Pressler admit this in public. Remember that Michael Eisner is the one who put Pressler in charge of the parks after he ran the Disney Stores, which made it pretty clear that Eisner viewed the parks as "gigantic retail locations."

Disney's mission statement says that the "Walt Disney Company's key objective is to be the world's premier family entertainment company." I hope that whomever is put in charge of the parks is more committed to that goal. Focus on entertaining guests, and the profits will follow. Focus on profits, and disappointments like DCA will follow.

I agree ParrotHead. I couldn’t agree more!