|The character Winnie the Pooh and friends are shown in more
vibrant colors in an effort to give the brand a makeover to prepare
for a yearlong marketing push to celebrate Pooh's 80th anniversary
Winnie the Pooh is getting a makeover as the Walt Disney Co presses its
second-largest franchise into play for a larger share of the $21 billion
preschool market, the company said on Wednesday.
Disney is readying a yearlong marketing push in 2006 to commemorate and
capitalize on the 80th anniversary of the
publication of "Winnie-the-Pooh" and expand the brand beyond The Forest
and infant toys, clothing and furniture.
The tubby yellow bear will appear in brighter colors and Disney will
emphasize the active side of Pooh's adventures as described in A.A.
Milne's 1926 book to appeal to activity loving preschoolers, said Preston
Kevin Lewis, global director of the Winnie the Pooh franchise.
"Trust, friendship and happiness -- Pooh doesn't lose any of those
things, it just changes how we talk about him," Lewis said.
Disney is still battling an appeal of a 14-year-old Los Angeles lawsuit
by heirs of Milne's agent, who claim they are owed millions in royalties.
The company won a dismissal of the lawsuit
last year but had warned investors that it could be on the hook for
"hundreds of millions" of dollars if it eventually loses the case.
In its December report on the U.S. market for infant, toddler and
preschool toys, Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, said the
sector has outperformed the general toy market.
"The single greatest reason for the overall toy market's decline has
been that kids now have access to many other amusements, especially video
and videogames," the report said. "The good news is that the
infant/toddler/preschooler population will trend higher in the long term,
unstoppable, forever and ever and ever..."
Pooh and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood generated $5.3 billion
in retail sales in 2004 -- topped only by Mickey Mouse among the Disney
stable. Disney gets a portion of those revenues through its licensing
Martin Brochstein, an analyst for EPM Communications, said the growing
preschool market is one of the most competitive and Disney will by
competitive only if it convinces retailers to feature the Pooh products
"Pooh has a wonderful thing going for it in that it is a heritage
brand. It's just a matter of them as marketers making it important enough
so that retailers will commit to it," Brochstein said.