Disney: 'Cars' Has Crossed $8 Billion in Global Retail Sales

10:46 AM PST 02/14/2011 by Georg Szalai
Pixar

The Disney/Pixar franchise now brings in more than $2 billion in global retail sales annually, making it one of the company's biggest franchises.

NEW YORK -- Merchandise tied to the Cars franchise has generated global retail sales of more than $8 billion, Walt Disney said Monday.

That makes it one of the company's top franchises at what are now $2 billion in global retail sales annually.

Disney detailed the merchandise strength of Disney/Pixar hit Cars, which has grown its retail business since its launch in 2006, here on Monday as the entertainment giant unveiled what it expects to be its largest licensed film merchandise program ever for Cars 2.

In an event tied to Toy Fair, which opened here this weekend, Disney brought Cars 2 voice actors Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer to the stage to help unveil a line of more than 300 toys for the June 24 release.

Over 200 million die-cast cars tied to the franchise have sold to-date, the company said.

"I'm so excited about this movie," Pixar/Disney creative guru and Cars 2 director John Lasseter said in a video message. He said he couldn't be at Toy Fair, because "I got to finish the movie."

Discussing the inspiration for Cars 2, Lasseter said it came when he traveled on the original Cars promotion tour around the world. "I found myself looking out at these amazing cities and imagining 'What would Mater do?," he said.

Cain and Mortimer, who voice British agent Finn McMissile and his spy-in-training Holley Shiftwell, were presented with custom-built toys celebrating their characters.

Mortimer quipped that she has enjoyed the process behind the movie so much that her husband thinks she has a crush on Lasseter -- "and I think he might be right," she added to laughs. After every voice recording, "I just can't shut up about the whole world of Pixar and how the whole world should be run by Pixar," she said to more laughs. "I have completely converted to the ethos of Pixar."

She then expanded on her expression of love for Pixar on Valentine's Day. "If only everybody made movies the way they do," Mortimer said. "They are just total perfectionists. They love what they do. It's completely collaborative in the best way. And the process is just very organic and makes complete sense. You can build a performance together over time in a way that [makes you think] if only that was possible in real movies, because I think they would be much better. I think Pixar movies are some of the best movies around, and when you do one, you get to realize why."

Caine said he was excited to do something different in the form of animated fare and said he is happy that his grand children will be able to enjoy the film with his voice. "I would have played it just for the name" of his character, he said, earning laughs from the audience.

He also quipped about being impressed when visiting a Pixar/Disney animation studio and watching computer experts slowly animating a scene that after a week of work would lead to his character finally saying "hello."

Lasseter said Caine's Finn McMissile was part of a drive-in movie theater scene that didn't make it into the original Cars.

The ever-growing Cars 2 merchandise business is unusual for the consumer products business, which tends to spike briefly with new releases.

"We think we have the potential to make it even bigger," said Chris Heatherley, vp of toys for Disney Consumer Products. "We have a lot of headroom with the international and the spy component of the new movie and all the new product and technology, which takes it to the next level."

European audiences expressed a desire for Formula 1 cars after the first film, and the addition of Italian race car Francesco Bernoulli, voiced by John Turturro, in the sequel helps address that appetite, he added.

The Cars 2 toy program plays off the sequel's World Grand Prix race and espionage themes with product from Mattel, Lego and others. They include Lightning McQueen Alive, which uses touch sensors and micro technology to make the small car come alive with movements and speech, a Finn McMissile radio control vehicle, cars that can drive up cars and a Cars 2 edition of Hasbro classic Monopoly.

"Cars 2 not only has great racing, but it also has a spy twist that is pure toy bliss," said Vince Klaseus, senior vp of global toys at Disney Consumer Products.

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