Disney exec discusses 'Princess' toy line

Kathy Franklin also talks about recession at Toy Fair

Five questions with Kathy Franklin, vp global studio franchise development at Disney Consumer Products. The Hollywood Reporter's New York bureau chief Georg Szalai talked to her at Toy Fair.

THR: Tiana from "The Princess and the Frog" will be your first new Disney Princess in 11 years by the time the film comes out during the holiday season. How does she fit into your Disney Princess franchise, and how is she different -- other than being African-American?

Franklin:
Our hope is that she will fit in as all the other princesses have fit in. We hope that she is very inspirational for little girls and that little girls will want to play out her story.

THR: How do you keep the Disney Princess franchise going beyond adding characters?

Franklin:
This fall is a great example. We're bringing "Snow White" back (on Blu-ray Disc) in a fresh way to reintroduce her to girls who may not be as familiar with her story, and we have a brand-new princess, Tiana, for girls who are looking to add to what are, in some cases, gigantic Disney Princess collections.

THR: Should we expect more princesses to be unveiled and existing ones to make a comeback?

Franklin:
We have plans over the next several years to introduce more princess characters and to continue to refresh our existing characters. We've done this with "Cinderella," "Little Mermaid" and "Sleeping Beauty." "Snow White" will have that same treatment, and then "Beauty and the Beast" (in 3-D) next fall.

THR: How is the recession affecting your business?

Franklin:
We definitely have the kind of brand that can weather a recession better than many. But we have planned our toy line so that there is something at every price point. A little girl who falls in love with Princess Tiana can have Tiana items -- something very small or something as elaborate as the Disney Store deluxe role-play, depending on what is appropriate for her and her family.

THR: The Disney Princess franchise brought in retail sales of $4 billion last year. Is there room for growth?

Franklin: Disney Princess is now a 10-year franchise ... so it's more mature than in the early years when we had double-digit growth. We still see growth, but that will definitely be slower than in the past, especially in a recessionary period. But we also have Disney Fairies, Hannah Montana, High School Musical, our tween properties -- so we now have many, many offerings for girls.
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