When you think of the top characters in the world, odds are that most of them are part of The Walt Disney Company. In fact, under Bob Iger, Disney has gone from one major licensing brand (Disney) to four (Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars). As a result, Disney has become the licensing version of The Avengers; different properties that comes together under one roof. The man spearheading Disney’s licensing business is Executive Vice President Global Licensing Josh Silverman. Josh joined Disney Consumer Products in 2011. Prior to that, he was a senior executive with Marvel Entertainment where he drove the licensing business while also working on the Marvel/Disney integration.
Recently, at the 2014 Licensing Expo, we were part of an informal discussion with Josh about the state of Disney’s brands and what he is excited about in the future. With all due respect to Josh, he is a man who has an embarrassment of riches. He has so many brands and things to look forward to, he had a lot to talk about as he wanted to touch on everything. So let’s begin as we take each brand, one at a time.
First up is Disney. Obviously Disney Animation hit new heights with Frozen. But Disney is so much more than the latest offering from Disney Animation (though he is excited about Big Hero 6). Disney Channel continues to be a brand builder for the company. With Disney Descendants coming out next year, they hope they will have a new franchise for the channel. According to Josh, the plan is to keep that property alive with short form content until a sequel to the yet to air film will be broadcast the following year. Disney Junior has found great success with Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. They hope that momentum will continue with Miles From Tomorrowland. Little is known about this next Disney Junior show, but it seems it will fit in with most boys (including me) obsession with outer space. And while the latest and greatest from Disney Channel and Disney Animation will always be exciting at Disney, the classic characters are always popular as they remain on fashion and on trend.
Pixar is having an off-year due to the delay of The Good Dinosaur. That does not mean that Disney Consumer Products is not thinking about how to deliver Pixar products to shelves. Starting this Fall, expect to see Pixar branded products that encompass the entirety of the Pixar library. The hope is that this will allow a wider variety of Pixar films and characters to be represented. Of course, the mother of all Pixar franchises when it comes to licensing remains Cars. Josh said they were thrilled when it was announced Cars 3 was in development. With over $20 billion in retail sales, how could they not be. When asked, Josh mentioned that they see a bright future for both the Cars and Planes franchises as they coexist moving forward. Looking ahead, Inside Out seems merchandise friendly with its wide variety of emotion based characters, which could mirror the success of Seven Dwarfs merchandise seen at the parks. (Of note, the company also seems excited about Disney XD’s upcoming 7D show based on the Seven Dwarfs).
At Marvel, there is a lot of attention on Avengers: Age of Ultron. Josh described the film as very “toyetic”’ They also seem particularly excited about Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. With Guardians of the Galaxy products hitting the shelves now, we should be able to gauge how these products will be received as we head into Christmas. (I have already spent a pretty penny on some of these products).
And then there is Star Wars. Expect to see a lot of Star Wars: Rebels products this holiday season as filming continues on Episode VII. While Josh did not comment on how Harrison Ford’s broken leg may affect filming, he felt Rebels is a property to be excited about in its own right. Looking beyond Episode VII, the alternating spin-off and saga films will ensure there will be fresh Star Wars content every year to inspire licensees.
As you can see, I don’t feel bad for Josh. While others have to worry about ensuring you have enough creative content to make licensees excited. Josh’s biggest problem is to have too much content to be excited about. And I am sure Josh would agree, that is a good problem to have.
FanBoy is a Disney dweeb who has worked at Disneyland and Walt Disney World