‘Frozen’ heats up Disney, as Dublin store hits Europe top five

The $45bn-revenue company is building up to launch of ‘Star Wars Rebels’ later in 2014

The Disney Store on Grafton Street, Dublin. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh / The Irish Times

The Disney Store on Grafton Street, Dublin. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh / The Irish Times

 

The Disney Store on Dublin’s Grafton Street is one of the family entertainment giant’s top five retail stores in Europe, according to a company executive.

Mike Stagg, vice-president and general manager of retail for the Walt Disney Company in the UK and Ireland, said the company was “really, really pleased with the performance” of the store, which opened in May 2011.

The company has a total of 88 retail stores across Europe and licensing partnerships with other chains, including Penneys in Ireland, through which it sells Monsters University merchandise and Marvel-branded products. It also does joint advertising on Disney Junior toy lines with the Irish chain Smyth’s Toys.

Despite the success of the Grafton Street unit, Mr Stagg said there were “no foreseeable plans right now” to open another retail outlet in Ireland and he declined to specify the turnover recorded by the Dublin store.

Disney’s “evergreen franchises” - Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, “and to some extent Toy Story” - are among its top-selling product lines, Mr Stagg said. “But when we have a movie out, we do see a spike, not surprisingly, in the sales of those products.”

At the moment, these sales spikes are coming from animated super-hit Frozen, which has just been released on DVD, and the two Disney films that are currently topping the Irish box office, Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Muppets Most Wanted.

Disney invited around 100 of its licensees and partner retailers to Dublin today for a briefing on its upcoming plans.

A trio of Stormtroopers were on hand to remind everyone that the Star Wars franchise will soon be taking centre stage. The company’s first product lines from the Dark Side following its acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012 will hit shops in late summer, ahead of the launch of the animated series Star Wars Rebels.

Merchandising will also intensify in the build-up to the cinema release of Star Wars Episode 7 in December 2015. “There is a constant demand for Star Wars product,” Mr Stagg said.

Walt Disney, who founded the company with his brother in 1923, had Irish ancestry, with his great-grandfather, Arundel Elias Disney, born in Kilkenny in 1801. Today, the company’s links to Ireland are more of the business variety, with two Irish animation studios, Brown Bag Films and Boulder Media, creating series for its children’s television channels.

Brown Bag’s Doc McStuffins, a series featuring a six-year-old girl caring for stuffed animals in her playhouse clinic, is “a key driver” of Disney Junior ratings, according to the company.

Globally, the Walt Disney Company recorded revenues of $45 billion in the year to the end of September, up 7 per cent and net profit of $6.1 billion, up 8 per cent. The multinational has since been boosted by the box office success of Frozen, which has become the highest-grossing animated movie of all time.

The tale of two heroic princess sisters, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel), has taken $1.072 billion globally, overtaking the previous record-holder, Toy Story 3, which was made by Disney subsidiary Pixar.

Frozen took €5 million at Irish cinemas, making it the third biggest Disney release of all-time in Ireland, and the spin-off revenues are pouring in. Toy sales of Olaf the Snowman, a comedy character from the film, are “neck and neck” with those of the princess dolls, Mr Stagg said.

Frozen is undoubtedly our most popular franchise at the moment. It is off the Richter scale.”