Wednesday, December 21, 2011

OCCUPY DISNEY! Examining how Disney is milking every penny out of its theme park fans, one parade at a time. PART 2: Merchandising

Disney loves to make money, and one of the most successful methods of making money for the Disney Company is their merchandising division. To be more formal it’s the Disney Consumer Products arm of the company. They produce toys, clothing, and other merchandising based upon Disney-owned properties. Disney is considered to be at the very top of the mountain when it comes to merchandising. They approach their merchandising with precision pin point accuracy that even Seal Team 6 would admire. Just think about the way they get your kids wrapped up into Disney characters. Lets take Disney/Pixar Cars for example. First your kids see the promotion for the movie on the Disney channel. Then you buy your kid the hat and shirt he sees in the apparel section of Wal Mart. Maybe your kid wears that hat or shirt to the movie. After seeing the movie your child is whipped into a Cars frenzy and tells you he wants MORE merchandise! Then you hear that there is a character meet and greet at Walt Disney World. Maybe you buy a Cars stroller to cart the kid around in while at WDW. While at WDW Disney hits you over the head with kiosk after kiosk of Cars hats, light up spinners, shirts, books, cups, etc… Bottom line Disney is focused on building great characters with lots of depth and dimension; for the sake of a good story, yes, but more so for the purposes of turning a good character into a merchandising, money making machine.   

While the money they make from theme park admission, hotels, and restaurants is big and important, one of the top priorities at Walt Disney World is selling merchandise. Merchandise reached more than 90 countries and generated an estimated $40 billion at retail in 2010. Over the last 88 years Disney has developed one of the most loyal and fanatic fan bases in all of corporate America. Disney fans will walk through a wall of fire to get the latest limited edition pin, or cut off their right arm just to get a chance to stand in line to buy their daughter a new dress from the latest Disney princess movie. On top of all of this madness there is one section of Disney fans who take it to a new level of extreme. Disneyana is a term for toys, books, animation, theme-park souvenirs, and other collectibles produced by the Disney Company. Disneyana collectors will stop at nothing to get the latest limited edition, must have Disney novelty. More importantly, to the Disney Company Disneyana fans will pay almost any price for these precious objects. It is a bit unfair to talk prices and value when it comes to Disneyana collectors. After all, they are in the business of collecting and reselling, and Disney has little to no responsibility for the inflated after market value of these products.


Often times Disney finds itself lacking fun, interesting, and lovable characters that they can pimp out to young children who beg their parents to go out and merchandise of said character. So, instead of pushing its writers and character developers to come up with new characters, Disney has chosen to buy other characters. Disney is like a hungry monster that likes to gobble up intellectual property and characters like Michael Moore likes to gobble jelly donuts. Pixar is a big example of this, but now many beloved Pixar characters have been created under the Disney umbrella so its one in the same. Other casualties include, Marvel Characters, Inc., The Muppets, The Baby Einstein Company, and to a smaller extent ESPN. On the $4 billion purchase of Marvel, Disney chief Bob Iger said that the deal, will “allow Disney to sell Marvel's vast array of characters and properties across different media platforms and in many more markets.”  Disney was hungry and a little desperate to bring more characters and content into the fold, but more importantly Disney saw an opportunity to make a truck load of money off of Spidey and pals merchandise.           

Greed does have its price. The first Disney Store (then titled "The Disney Store") opened in Glendale, California on March 18, 1987. As any kid from the 90’s would tell you, going to the Disney store was like going to Disney World without actually going to Orlando. During the 90’s and the 2000’s the Disney stores saw very strong sales, but in 2004 after seeing massive operating costs and the exit of key executives in Disney Consumer Products, Disney decided to convert most of its Disney Stores into a licensed operation. In 2008 Disney purchased back the stores and closed almost 40% of all Disney Stores. It was a massive failure and it put a huge spotlight on Disney’s greed. Disney stores were liquidated and closed faster than Chairman Mao closed churches and temples. Disney said that they believed a smaller chain "could add value to the Company in the promotion and monetization of its growing number of robust franchises". Today, with the exception of the massive World of Disney store in Downtown Disney, the Disney Store is literally a shell of what it used to be. You can still find what was a Disney Store in your local mall today; just look for a temporary Halloween costume shop or the newest Victoria Secret. Look closely, yup, that used to be a Disney Store.  

From watered down Disney stores in malls, to overpriced theme park princess makeovers Disney is making bank on selling crap to its fans. They have managed to homogenize their theme park merchandise under the much hated Disney Parks label. You can read a very passionate letter to the Disney Company from Ola Suddeth titled “Please Give us Quality Park Merchandise Again!”They have shoved worthless stuffed toys on end caps at Wal Mart and they have priced their in park merchandise into the stratosphere. As we “Occupy Disney”, there is a way to fight back against this monster mega evil corporation. is a site where Disneyana collectors can buy theme park and resort treasures. While most of the prices for the merchandise on is a bit hard to swallow, like a Disney Tomorrowland Transit Authority Attraction Door for $800, there are some really good deals on the site. has a decent guide to some discounted Disney merchandise. You too, can write your own letter to the head of Disney Consumer Products, Bob Chapek, and tell him how you feel about the overpriced, cheaply made, homogenized crap Disney is spitting out at its all too willing fans. In the end it is the responsibility of the Disney Company to make as much money for its shareholders as possible, but it  is also our responsibility, as consumers, to keep Disney in check.    

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