If you have a young daughter like I do, you may have noticed that the Disney Princesses merchandising is everywhere. My 3-year-old now knows the names of many of the princesses through the dresses, puzzles, dolls, board games and other branding she’s been exposed to. Yet she’s seen very few of the movies Disney had made about these princesses because Disney is clinging to its practice of keeping its classic movies in the “vault” for years on end, re-releasing them for limited periods of time and then making them unavailable again.
I understand the original reasoning for this practice: Creating scarcity of your product can create a buying frenzy when it is finally released. This appears to have worked well for a famous company like Disney, with famous movies like “Snow White.” Parents have seen it at some point in their own childhoods, so when the vault is finally opened to release “Snow White” for a short period of time, parents will snap up their copies for their kids.
But this strategy completely ignores the success Disney’s been having with the Disney Princesses merchandising. Snow White’s image is emblazoned upon countless products that millions of children are playing with right now, yet their families don’t have a way to pay Disney to obtain the movie. Now, they could get a used copy of a videotape or DVD (legal), or worse, a pirated copy (not so legal), but there’s no way to officially get the movie. Now that iTunes and Netflix are legitimate channels of digital distribution, this could only be a winning proposition for Disney to unchain its way of doing business from the past.
What if Walt Disney himself had been unwilling to break away from the old ways of animating and never took the leap into celluloid animation? What if Disney never teamed up with Steve Jobs to create those dazzling Pixar movies? Disney as a family and as a company are known for innovating new and exciting means of family entertainment. Keeping its most beloved works in a vault while marketing the characters contained in those films serves only an old tradition, not families and apparently not Disney’s potential for deeper reach into the living rooms of the world.
My perspective comes from being a dad and a co-owner of an independent mom-and-pop children’s entertainment operation, and I can’t imagine keeping a song unavailable for years (other than pirating) while merchandise related to that song is selling like hotcakes. But hey, maybe that’s just me… What do you think, fellow parents? Kids? Please feel free to join in the discussion in the comments below.