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1995 | 06 | 19 | Articles | The News & Observer | Features | Business | Marketing
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The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)
June 19, 1995
Page C1
I want it! And I want it now!
Parental warning: "Pocahontas" and "Batman" may be hazardous to your wallet.
By Stewart Ugelow
STAFF WRITER

With her father David in tow, Sarah Chappell looked across The Disney Store at Raleigh’s Crabtree Valley Mall, spied the Pocahontas birthday party set she had been searching for and smiled.

"Here it is. I want it," the 3-year-old girl announced in delight.

"Maybe we’ll get it when it is closer to your birthday," her father said.

"But I want it now!" insisted Sarah, who will turn 4 on Friday, the same day that "Pocahontas," Walt Disney’s latest animated movie, opens nationwide.

Like Sarah, children across the Triangle have discovered the Pocahontas merchandise that has been flowing into stores since the beginning of this month. Like David Chappell, weary parents have discovered how hard it is to withstand movie studios’ big-budget marketing campaigns as their children clamor for the Next Big Thing.

This summer, parents will have a particularly difficult time as Disney’s "Pocahontas" and Warner Bros.’ "Batman Forever" compete for their children’s hearts, minds and purchasing power.

The studios have thrown the full brunt of their marketing muscle behind the movies. Both are hawking merchandise through their in-house stores. Warner Bros. signed up McDonald’s for a "Batman Forever" promotion; Disney has a similar arrangement with Burger King.

While Batman merchandise is targeted primarily at boys and Pocahontas at girls, the two are competing for shelf and display space at toy stores, book stores, department stores and music stores.

In connection with "Batman Forever," which opened June 16, toy companies are selling five different lines of Batman action figures. For those of you keeping score at home, there’s "Batman Forever," "Batman" the animated series, "Batman Returns," "Legends of Batman" and "Mask of the Phantasm" from the animated movie.

From the new "Batman Forever" line alone, there’s "Manta Ray Batman," "Night Hunter Batman," "Transforming Bruce Wayne Batman," and… well, you get the idea. You can also buy the Batmobile, the Batcopter, the Batcycle and the Batplane. As always, kids are encouraged to collect them all.

The action figures start at $5.99; figures with vehicles at $14.99.

But while Batman may be forever, Pocahontas is a girl’s best friend.

If you thought your child’s craving for "Lion King" paraphernalia was bad, brace yourself. You haven’t seen anything yet. Here’s a small sample of what’s already in stores:

Pocahontas storybooks, songbooks, coloring books, coffee table books. Posters for kids to color and posters that have already been colored. Rubber stamp kits, sand art kits, stationary kits. Dresses, jackets, bracelets, backpacks. Necklaces, nightgowns, mugs and moccasins. The items range in price from a few dollars to $28.

The priciest Pocahontas item is a $248 pigskin leather jacket for adults at The Disney Store. But the hottest-selling is the $16.99 "Sun Colors Pocahontas" doll, which some stores say they have had trouble keeping in stock.

"I’m carrying similar stuff to what I did for ‘Lion King,’ " said Katherine Glascock, the manager of Toy Terminal in Raleigh. "If that’s any forecast, the Pocahontas mugs, stamps and stuffed animals will be real popular."

Their popularity will be no accident. Friday’s opening is the culmination of Disney’s carefully crafted marketing campaign.

Two weekends ago, Disney held a free "Pocahontas" premiere for 100,000 people in New York City’s Central Park. The company has also dispatched Pocahontas animators and an interactive exhibit on a 24-city tour. Disney Stores crank out songs from the soundtrack several times an hour. In addition, every copy of the "Lion King" video included a "Pocahontas" preview.

"Everybody in the world probably has the ‘Lion King’ video," said John Lamiell, a self-described Disney-ite from Sacramento visiting the Triangle. Yes, he owns one of the 26 million copies of the "Lion King" sold so far.

Since last year Disney has aggressively licensed rights to produce Pocahontas merchandise. Burger King alone will distribute 55 million Pocahontas figurines. Stores of all kinds have set up Pocahontas displays, all hoping for a piece of the Disney marketing magic.

"I think it’s great that kids have this to look forward to," David Chappell said. "What I don’t appreciate is how a lot of stores put these advertising displays out in the open, at kid level."

Analysts say Disney could make between $700 million and $900 million in profits from the movie.

Disney has done its marketing so well that other toy companies are seeking to cash in on the Pocahontas craze too.

There’s "Li’l Indian Princess," a palm-sized doll. Or the larger "Native American Doll." Or the "Native American Princess Play Wear Dress and Fun Set," which includes barrette, bracelet and shoulder pouch.

Even Mattel, one of the largest producers of Pocahontas toys, is cross marketing. Prominently displayed in some Triangle stores is its "Native American Barbie." For a mere $149.99, you can purchase a version of the doll that’s almost as tall as your child.

At least that’s an easy one for a parent to say no to. Birthday parties are much harder. Just ask David Chappell whether Sarah will have a Pocahontas birthday party. He pauses and then smiles.

"Probably," he admitted.