An Interview with the Director of Walt Disney Art Classics - Lee Zoppa
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Walt Disney Art Classics is the department of Disney that produces the figurines, fina art, posters and collectibles that Disney collectors have come to love. In the past year Walt Disney Art Classics has gone through some major changes that have left many collectors confused over its future. LaughingPlace.com recently had the opportunity to talk with Lee Zoppa, the new Director of Walt Disney Art Classics, to discuss these changes, bring some clarity to the situation and talk about some upcoming pieces and events.
LaughingPlace.com: From a business perspective what has been happening at WDAC over the past year?
Lee Zoppa: Last summer, it was decided that all of the portfolios of Walt Disney Art Classics would be licensed out. In other words, we would have a licensing program as opposed to a vertical business model where The Walt Disney Company creates and produces its own collectibles and art. In the vertical business model, we manufacture, distribute, market and sell the art. Under a licensed program, other companies do this under the direction of Walt Disney Art Classics.
However, after much review and discussion, the company decided to keep the Walt Disney Classics Collection, which is our main line of fine porcelain animation sculptures, as a vertical business run by Walt Disney Art Classics.
On February 1, 2001, the official announcement was made that we would keep the Walt Disney Classics Collection as a vertical business, and that we would continue to try to license out the other art and figurine portfolios. We have an organization of approximately 25 people that runs as a hybrid model (both vertical and licensed), this structure is similar to the structure that existed in the early 1990s when the Walt Disney Classics Collection was first launched.
As you are probably aware, in 1996 Disney Art Editions (the art publishing division of the Company) and Disney Collectibles (the area responsible for the Walt Disney Classics Collection and the Collectors Society) merged to make a slightly larger business unit renamed Walt Disney Art Classics. Today, our main strategy is to bring our art and collectible portfolios back to something unique and special.
"Managed scarcity" is a term that is very common in the industry and is something that Disney is now becoming aware of. Actually, someone even mentioned the phrase to me recently -- a Disney person. It was then that I realized that Disney is starting to understand the concept, because with collectibles, its all about "less being more." Really, managed scarcity is about limiting pieces. In doing so, the only way a collector can obtain a certain piece is to possibly buy it from another collector who purchased it when it was first introduced. In other words, they have to hunt for it.
So, what were now doing is making our entire product line better and scarcer. Were reducing the number of dealers who carry the line by more than 50% in the US. In addition, were bringing the number of active items in the line down to approximately 100 pieces at any one point in time. Previously, we had about 60 or 70 new introductions per year. Starting in 2002, our goal is to bring out 30 - 35 introductions annually, so we are literally cutting the number of introductions in half. We are lowering edition sizes on numbered limited editions and are lowering our initial production runs on open editions. This way, our animation art and collectibles, truly the crown jewels of the Walt Disney Company, will be even more coveted among collectors.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Roy E. Disney (Vice Chairman of Feature Animation) and Bo Boyd (former Chairman of Disney Consumer Products and current executive consultant). We discussed at length how Walt Disney Art Classics represents the premier art and collectibles of The Walt Disney Company. We represent the highest quality product in the market. Thats really what we need to rely on as our strength as we move forward in this business.
LZ: Actually let me say one other thing as far as the strategy. As part of our business, we also have licensed collectibles, under the umbrella of the Disney Showcase Collection. Licensed collectibles like Lenox, Robert Olszewski (miniatures), Steiff (high-end collectible plush) will be offered, but on a smaller scale that is in line with the rest of our objectives. So far, the response weve been getting from the collectors and the retailers in the last six weeks has been very positive. Theyre excited to see what were doing.