Sunday, February 6, 2011

Retro 71

This week’s product post is something different. Don't worry, next week we'll continue with more Retro 71 shirt concepts, but this week I wanted to showcase another avenue of product development. I have ideas for more than just softlines, guys. 
The one thing that Disney Theme Park Merchandise lacks is “story”. With Disney putting so much emphasis on the theme park attractions telling guests a story, I have to ask, why then, doesn't the merchandise? Now, granted, we all know that most of the in-park merchandise is lacking. We all want more than just keychains and ink pens—we want more specific stuff. Case in point: Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The merchandise sold within the Islands of Adventure land is doing it right. The product supports the entire story, right down to the packaging. Each gift shop supports the attraction, which supports the story, which makes it more thematic and believable. Every element works together to create one giant magical package. As Disney guests, we also want to take the magic back home with us. It's like the old shops on Main Street U.S.A. that helped support the overall concept of what one would find and/or see on the main street in any small town in America. The real working barbershop, the tobacconist shop, the hat shop, and the clock shop – forty years ago you would buy merchandise that supported the overall theme and not just browse through five stores of the same product.

 What better attraction to use as an example than the Haunted Mansion? A year ago, I was using the Mansion for another product development concept when that spark of inspiration lit up. I began looking at one character in particular, Madame Leota. After all, she has a cart of merchandise outside Walt Disney World's Mansion. However, the merchandise on said cart leaves a lot to be desired—if I ever met Madame Leota, I don’t think she'd actually have bobble heads or plush Jack Skellington dolls in her traveling caravan. So I began to think of what a gypsy/physic/medium would actually store on her traveling home when I came up with the notion of the Spirit Board, a twist on the classic Ouija Board game.

The packaging and overall design of the product is simplistic, era-driven, funny, and yet believable. It's something I could imagine Madame Leota using.

Instead of branding the product with the Haunted Mansion, I centered it on the character. This one product has since expanded into an entire product line based on this look and Madame Leota – products I feel help support the overall story and themes of the Mansion: magic, ghosts, the unexplained, etc.

So what do you guys think? Would you pay for a Madame Leota Spirit Board and try to speak to ghosts from the beyond, or would you rather have a Haunted Mansion key chain?


  1. Ghosts scare me. I would rather have a keychain! ;)

    But I agree with your premise. Case in point: Mlle. Lafayette's Parfumerie, Olde World Antiques and the Silversmith. Great atmospheric shops with little to no profit.

  2. Maybe if it was a cleverly themed key chain but your basic China import key chain with epoxy sticker...not so much. ;)

    With the cost of imports some of the stuff sold within the theme parks (even those specialty shops) can be purchased at really low cost nowadays. Case in point POTC. I purchased a wooden skull keepsake box for my sister in the gift shop a few years back. That same box design is offered from many different vendors overseas...really cheap, now what price point Disney decides to sell it at, well that's what determines the profit and if stores will remain open/carry unique items.

    I believe it has a lot to do with buyers and their trips to China. Not every buyer knows what will sell so instead of risking it on some new concept for a product that may take some time and money to develop, well lets just head over to Wenzhou and get some velcro wallets and slap some character art on it. No risk, not that high of a margin and so on.

    Once you've work with consumer products (which I have) it opens your eyes, really opens your eyes to how all this stuff goes down.

  3. I love this! I for one would definitely buy this kind of merch -- but in particular, I think the "actual" supernatural properties of this one would scare off Disney's management. They'd get too many complaints from people that it was "encouraging satanism amongst children" or something.

  4. Dave... yeah I had that same thought when I started designing it but if you look close at Disney you can find tons of occult, pagan and other subtle and well not so subtle references.

  5. Neato! It's cool like the Haunted Mansion Secret Panel Chest. Would definitely buy it.

  6. Very much so. I love that chest. It would be on the cart for sure, with new vintage artwork.

  7. Excellent product and packaging design. I've thought about stuff like this for years. A Haunted Mansion 13 o'clock clock. Dinnerware/silverware. Fleece blankets. Mansion blank books for writers. A line of spooky books for all ages. Where does it stop? And why doesn't Disney get on the ball?

  8. I don't think its about not being all the ball. I think it has more to do with niche markets and playing it safe. Disneyland seems to really understand when they release their limited edition special merch. I just wish that quality of product would be sold everyday within the parks.

    I love the idea of social stationery with the mansion theme! I'm a sucker for stationery!