Dis unveils 'Princess and Frog' toy line

Movie's star Anika Noni Rose on hand at Toy Fair

NEW YORK -- Walt Disney Co.'s consumer products unit had Tony Award-winning actress-singer Anika Noni Rose ("Dreamgirls") on hand Monday as it unveiled a toy line inspired by upcoming animated holiday feature "The Princess and the Frog."

Protagonist Princess Tiana, voiced by the Broadway star, is Disney's first new princess since Mulan in 1998 and its first black princess.

It is expected to inject new excitement into the 10-year-old Disney Princess franchise, which brought in $4 billion in retail sales last year, said Kathy Franklin, vp global studio franchise development at Disney Consumer Products.

Monday's sneak preview of toys created in collaboration with Mattel and Jakks Pacific unit CDI drew a large industry and press crowd at the American International Toy Fair here.

It also featured several minutes of unfinished and never-before-seen footage from the film that is set to bring back musicals and 2-D animation to the Disney family.

Rose said she has long been a fan of Disney's fairy tales, adding that it was "a major part" of her growing up and quipping that she is still upset about the death of Bambi's mother. She also said she loves Disney's return to 2-D animation.

With Hollywood franchises out in force at Toy Fair, Disney put the spotlight on the Disney Princess franchise, led by Tiana and the Blu-Ray debut of its first-ever princess -- introduced in 1937 -- "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in October. Disney said it's the most-requested title from its vault.

Franklin told The Hollywood Reporter that Disney Princess is a franchise older than most in the toy space. The company expects to continue to introduce new princesses and reintroduce older ones over the coming years to keep the franchise fresh, she said.

"Toy Story," whose first installment is re-released in 3-D in the fall, "Cars," "Hannah Montana," "High School Musical" and the growing Disney Fairies franchise are also among the featured brands at Toy Fair, which Monday drew camera crews from the likes of Fox News Channel and local NBC station WNBC.

Retail sales of Disney toys and other merchandise rose to a record $30 billion globally for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, making it the consumer-products leader among entertainment giants.