Disney EchoEar Grand Mouseter
Joined: April 1992
||Posted: Oct. 19, 2010, 6:34 pm
I used to follow Disneyland quite a bit on alt.fan.disneyland on Usenet and various Disneyland-centric fan sites. After Jack Lundquist retired as park president over there in the 1990s there came to the office who had been president of Disney Stores, Paul Pressler. All this was in the middle of Michael Eisner's term as Disney CEO. I guess they internally assumed that if you've been with the company for a period of years you automatically "got it" about what Disney was about and as a top division president could easily be transferred from doing mostly one thing to doing something new. So I guess they "assumed" at the time that someone who made a success of the Disney Stores could take the next step up career-wise and be president of the smaller of the American Disney theme parks.
Pressler mainly knew retailing, not theme parks. He ran Disneyland like a glorified Disney Store with rides and shows. he ran the place as if to think what people did in theme parks which made lucrative money was shop, not an overall experience of enjoying a day out doing rides, seeing shows, dining on some good theme park food, buying a few souvenirs, more rides and shows, some snacks, then home. He never saw Disneyland as an overall experience that included retailing, he saw it as retailing first, everything else second.
So granted: One never knows what might click with park guests and be a big surprise hit that people love and want to seek out.
With that said: Unwittingly Disney has done a lot of multigeneration education since "Steamboat Willie" and the opening of Disneyland in 1955. Even with the new Marvel Comics and movies' memorabilia and characters at Disney parks since Disney bought Marvel, I think still people "expect" overtly Disney or Disney-Pixar stuff going on at the parks.
With Vinylmation, and some other toys, and now Duffy, Disney is trying to expand merchandise and collectibles and put Disney cuteness and personality into enticing people in a 9.6% unemployment rate economy to open the wallet a little more and take home a plush toy and get an autograph and a photo. Later on at home the family might ask "Who the heck is Duffy, what Disney movie or show or cartoon or direct-to-DVD is Duffy from?" and the toy ends up in the plush pile in the bin or corner. Disney gets to keep the money.
It's cute, but looks like something you'd get at Build A Bear, or Toys R Us, or wherever people get a mass supply of teddy bears going on. Teddy bears are inherently cute. This one, again, doesn't have "Disney" identity that is distinctive to the Disney "brand".
It just seems to me "Let's do a teddy bear in a sailor suit, create a little backstory for it, even get a meet and greet costumed character going, it'll sell units especially impulse buy units, trust me" and that's all the thought that went into it. In other words, in the spirit of now long gone Paul Pressler, Duffy seems to me to be a teddy bear to make the cash registers ring, and that's about it.
Once upon a time Annette Funicello (the 1950's "Mickey Mouse Club" Mouseketeer beloved actress-singer-dancer) designed a series of teddy bears for Disney that Disney would promote in its parks. If Duffy were designed by beloved Annette, that would be a different story.
For a few years I developed an interest in teddy bears, bought some books on the subject. I really like the Steiff German teddy bears best, BTW, and I hope the shop in Germany at Epcot's World Showcase still sells some. I'd rather buy a Steiff teddy bear from Epcot's Germany shop than Duffy, frankly. I think it would mean more to me, and be even cuter than contrived Duffy. But that's just me.....
Winnie the Pooh already is a Disney character and much beloved.... and also oversaturated as a plush toy merchandise item, but still very universally beloved. In a Disney Store when my sone was just turning age 1 he grabbed onto a really soft and lovely Pooh bear and would not let go so we bought it. Son slept with and cuddled Pooh for years! I'd rather have a Pooh bear, even though son's a teen now and outgrown all that, than Duffy.