New York – Disney Junior won’t premiere its new animated series Doc McStuffins until Mar. 23, when it launches its new 24-hour channel, but the network is already betting on the program’s success with an associated toy line.
Disney Consumer Products unveiled a line of toys inspired by Doc McStuffins as well as three other Disney Junior series – Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Minnie’s Bow-Toons – during the 2012 American International To Fair here Monday morning. Doc is about a six-year-old girl who heals stuffed animals out of her backyard clinic, and as such the toy line includes a doll version of Doc complete with medical kit.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever gone out this early with toys,” said Nancy Kanter, general manager of Disney Junior Worldwide. “Everyone saw the show and saw how beautiful it looks and then it had such a clear message for kids and that sort of play pattern, this idea of nurturing and taking care of things. It’s not the usual way that we do it, but everybody had tremendous support for it.”
While toys based on children’s’ series usually aren’t released until 18 to 24 months after a show premieres, Disney has fast-tracked the Doc McStuffins line to get in on shelves at Toys R Us this June. Kanter acknowledged the risk to go into production on toys before the series launches, but says the positive reaction from test audiences encouraged the decision.
“You’re always taking a risk, you’re always making a bet, but this one seemed a pretty good one,” she said.
The decision to fast track the toy line was also thanks to the breakout success of Jake and the Never Land Pirates, which saw moms clamoring for Jake merchandise within weeks of the series launch last February (the toys will hit stores in June).
“We were just so surprised how quickly Jake took off,” Kanter said. “For Doc we thought, you know what, we’re so bullish on this show we think it’s got all of these great attributes. You sort of make a bet that it’s going to work again.”
The Doc McStuffins toys will not be marketed prior to the launch of the series, instead the media plan for the new channel includes buys on other networks and print media, a Facebook page and online site, branded Band-Aids at pediatrician’s offices, and of course plenty of promotional spots on Disney Channe which Kanter calls “the best way that we reach a mass number of people.”
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