By Nicole Goodkind | Daily Ticker
This month marks Walt Disney Company's 90th anniversary. Over the last few years, the $42 billionempire that Mickey built acquired Marvel, Lucasfilms, and Pixar -- the company is now bigger than ever and doesn’t plan to stop expanding anytime soon.
Over the past century Disney (DIS) has created a plethora of memorable characters -- each unique in the way it inhabits the imagination of children and also in the way it carries its own franchising significance.
The Daily Ticker’s Lauren Lyster sat down with licensing analyst Ira Mayer to bring you the top three secrets of the Disney franchise.
1. Disney is the number one franchise in the United States
“For the first time Disney is over 50% of the market when you look at retail sales of licensed merchandise for those properties that do $100 million or more,” says Mayer. In 2012 alone, Disney Princesses made $1.5 billion in U.S. sales, Star Wars made $1.46 billion, Cars $931 million and Winnie the Pooh made $921 million.
2. Disney rotates its characters so they stay 'fresh'
"The genius was the way [Walt Disney] set up a system to rotate characters so they come in and out of favor over a series of years. One year Mickey is the focus and the next year it’s Minnie and then it’s the princesses,” says Mayer. Characters are deliberately recycled by the company so that they remain fresh and so that children don't burn out on them.
3. Disney mixes and matches characters to create new franchises
"What’s fascinating about the princesses is in Walt’s day it was absolutely verboten to take any of the characters out of the context of the films they were in, that was forbidden. And along came a gentleman named Andy Mooney…he said to the powers that be give me a chance and let’s see what happens when we put all these princesses together and lo and behold it became a billion dollar business in no time," says Mayer.
Mooney was recruited to run the failing Disney Consumer Products division in 2000 and immediately created the "Disney Princess" franchise -- lumping together a number of princesses and putting them in similar pink dresses. In order to ensure some sanctity remained to the princesses individual "mythologies" he made sure they never made eye contact with one another while grouped. Each princess stares into a different direction so that it remains possible that they're unaware of one another.
Without any major marketing plan or focus groups, Mooney managed to make Disney Consumer Products, a $300 million group in 2000, into a $3 billion revenue producer by 2006. ...more