Commentary

Disney Moves Its Princesses And 'Frozen' Girl's Lines From Mattel To Hasbro

Starting in 2016, G.I. Joe and Sleeping Beauty will be bunking under the same marketing roof as Hasbro takes the merchandising rights to Disney’s “Princesses” business — Cinderella and the Little Mermaid, too — along with the dolls such as Anna and Elsa from the hit movie “Frozen” from Mattel. 

The Pawtucket, R.I.-based company had been known more for its boy toys — it also owns the Transformers line of action figures — but has been coming on strong in the girl’s category following the resurgence of its My Little Pony property. Now this.

“We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue in Disney Princess going away [from Mattel] starting in 2016,” Needham & Co. analyst Sean McGowan tells Bloomberg’s Matt Townsend and Christopher Palmeri.

And “Frozen,” which ranks No. 5 all-time at the box office since its release over Thanksgiving 2013, has great potential. “If you’ve heard kids singing, ‘Let It Go,’ or caught yourself humming the tune from the Disney movie ‘Frozen’ yourself, you understand the power of the franchise,” writesUSA Today’s Matt Krantz.

“It has spawned a hugely successful soundtrack, won Oscars and sent children clamoring to their parents for any toys or other products tied to it,” reports the AP’s Michelle Chapman. “While Disney had trouble keeping up with product demand last year, the company has since ramped up efforts to ensure that plenty of items are available for 2014's holiday shopping season and beyond.”

Mattel CEO Bryan Stockton “called the Frozen brand ‘the star of the portfolio’ this summer,” reports Shan Li in the Los Angeles TImes. “We are naturally disappointed,” Mattel spokesman Alex Clark said, but he observed that the company “holds the licenses for another two holiday seasons during the ‘arc and apex’ of ‘Frozen’s popularity among children,” Li writes. “He also pointed to Mattel's other doll brands, including Barbie and Monster High.”

Indeed, Needham & Co. analyst Sean McGowan tells the New York Post’s Richard Morgan that such potential conflicts with Mattel’s own lineup, which also includes American Girl, “played into Disney’s decision to switch to Hasbro.”

“Disney probably thought, ‘Let’s just go where we can get some unadulterated love,’ ” says McGowan.

As for Clark’s “arc and apex” comment about the Frozen franchise, CNN Money’s Melvin Backman points out that “Disney's taking the film to Broadway and unveiling a new short film next year — not to mention any possible sequels to come — suggesting the dolls might be around for a while.”

Hasbro's Girls category revenues have exploded in the past decade from nearly $300 million to more than $1 billion in 2013, according to a release announcing the deal Wednesday.

“Our strategic thought leadership and innovation has led to the steady growth of our girls business over the past several years demonstrating that we have a true understanding of girls globally and how today's girls want to play,” Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner said in a statement. 

Goldner took his 5-year-old daughter on a tour of Hasbro headquarters when he first joined the company more than a decade ago, Bloomberg’s Townsend wrote in a February piece analyzing the company’s turnaround.

“She put her hands on her hips and said, ‘Dad, the way I see it, you don’t have any toys for girls,’” Goldner told Townsend, who writes that “her candor only reinforced what Goldner already knew: Hasbro didn’t understand how girls played and what they wanted.”

After the resurgence of My Little Pony, which was one of the most popular toys of the Eighties, Hasbro brought back Furby, which surpassed My Little Pony as the leading girl’s brand, Townsend reports. Last year it brought out Rebelle, a Nerf gun “outfitted in hot pink and aimed at girls who want to harness their inner Hunger Games,” as CNN Money’s Emily Jane Fox reported.

“We are excited about our collaboration with Hasbro on the Disney Princess and Frozen franchises and the expansion of a robust partnership that has already yielded tremendous result across our Star Wars and Marvel properties,” says Disney Consumer Products president Bob Chapek.

“Hasbro’s focus on quality, innovation and market-leading products designed for today’s consumer, makes them the best choice to grow one of the world’s most popular girls brands.”

It’s time to “see what it can do,” as Idina Menzel might sing

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