Disney designs new products to keep in touch with fans

One of the company’s Christmas season must-haves will likely be Playmation, a new system of wearable devices intertwined with a storytelling app that encourages children to be active.

Clothes by Open Ceremony and Marc Jacobs inspired by Disney character Mickey Mouse showcased in Los Angeles. Véronique Dupont / AFP
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Designer clothing, interactive high-tech toys and new TV programming for children: the Disney juggernaut is churning out a slew of new products, including some targeted at the key holiday season.

The global entertainment giant did not disclose exactly how much of its annual US$48.8billion (Dh179.24bn) revenue its product lines bring in, but one top executive said they are vital to staying in touch with the company’s legion of fans.

“Our consumer products continue to tell the Disney stories after the movies,” said Josh Silverman, Disney’s executive vice president for global licensing in the consumer products division.

“They’re key to keeping the link with the consumers.”

One of the company’s Christmas-season must-haves will be Playmation, a new system of wearable devices linked to a storytelling app that encourages children to be active.

The first Playmation series, due to hit stores in October, is a tie-in to Disney-owned Marvel's blockbuster Avengers superhero franchise, with a gadget that slips over a child's hand and forearm and lets him or her pretend to be Iron Man.

The US$119 (Dh437) device makes noises, vibrates, shines lights and gives children instructions to hide, fire, shoot and more.

Disney is hoping that the new-generation play set, made in partnership with toy company Hasbro, will stimulate more active play time, a step beyond sedentary videogames. In addition to Marvel, Disney also owns the Star Wars franchise, and with the long-awaited sequel – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, which was partly filmed in Abu Dhabi – due for release in December, the stars of the space saga, past and present, will be on toy shelves next year.

"We don't only do princesses," says Sean Cocchia, executive vice president and general manager of Disney Channels Worldwide. Of course, the Disney princesses – especially Elsa and Anna, the wildly popular stars of the animated Frozen franchise – are not disappearing anytime soon, with the next round of toys based on the characters due in 2017 ahead of the release of the film's sequel.

The original 2013 movie was one of the top-earning films in box-office history, earning about $1.3 billion.

Disney is not only about toys, however. The company is also delving into the world of high fashion, joining forces with trendy retailers such as Vans, speciality shops Opening Ceremony, and star labels Comme des Garçons and Marc Jacobs.

After a first collaboration based on a simple Mickey Mouse sweater, Jacobs’ autumn-winter 2015 collection included a series of items inspired by Snow White, with price tags ranging from $2,000 to $5,000.

To mark this year's live-action remake of the animated classic Cinderella, Disney worked with shoe designers Jimmy Choo and Stuart Weitzman to reinvent the iconic glass slipper.

Catering to a more mainstream audience with a smaller pocketbook, Japanese label D Style is launching a line of Disney clothing targeting young women, featuring images of classic characters such as Mickey, Minnie and Donald Duck. The line is due to arrive in the United States in October. Disney will also continue its partnership with Japanese company Uniqlo that began in April. The store will roll out, over the next 18 months, a line of T-shirts featuring Mickey’s silhouette in unusual prints, including patchwork denim.

Following the success of Star Wars: Rebels, a cartoon series targeting young boys, Disney is also adapting its wacky Marvel superhero movie Guardians of the Galaxy, one of the biggest box-office successes of last year, into an animated television show.

Tangled, based on the 2010 film inspired by the fairy tale of Rapunzel, is also being adapted for the small screen.