Disney's Consumer Products business in India has signed close to 50 brands associations with the latest film Star Wars — the Force Awakens, slated to release in India on December 25, matching the record set by Avengers: Age of Ultron. Seventh in the series, Star Wars is the first movie slated to be released post acquisition of Lucas Films by the Walt Disney Company, hence Disney is bullish about the film and has set targets for next five years, states Abhishek Maheshwari, VP – Consumer Products, Disney India, during a candid conversation with License India.
Why do you think Star Wars has become a global phenomenon?
There has been enough written about Star Wars than one can read in a day. Even the time magazine has covered it. It has been a huge phenomenon since the time it was launched in 1997. There is enough and more written about the fact that they changed the way movies were created, perceived, delivered, the kind of fan base created during that point of time was continued to this day almost 40 years later which is unprecedented in cinema industry. This particular movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the first movie with the Walt Disney Company with Lucas being a part of it. That has been an interesting journey for us as a company. For us it is a big franchise, so the movie has high expectations. The movie released in the US so the initial reviews are very flattering. For us the way we operate as a company is really a multiplatform approach. For any franchise, any movie, we would love to take that experience across mediums.
How has been the response globally and what innovative categories have you looked out for?
This movie is the tentpole that we really wanted, but first we will take that experience across to many other formats. TV shows on Star Wars are already out there in the US, Disney is doing theme parks on Star Wars. For us, in India more particularly, we really partner with Star Wars the imagery, scale and storytelling lends itself to a lot of consumer products. People who are fans would like to own more and more of Star Wars and that’s the part we have focused in India.
How has been the licensing for Star Wars in India?
We have got a number of brand associations from the promotional perspective as well as product licensing and retailers associations leveraging in the whole Start Wars ethos and storytelling to create interesting stories at retail stores. We have really gone after that theme, considering this is the first time Star Wars is launching at this big scale in India. Even though there were six movies in the past, but with this one, it is different. It is really the first in both ways…as a genre and for us to speak to the fans with a powerful franchise. It should be a good one for us and all our partners in the coming years.
Do you think that this movie will be a breakthrough in licensing industry and will over power Avengers?
In longer terms, we are extremely bullish about Star Wars. Like I said, this is the first movie from Disney Portfolio. We have been able to get such a good list of partners come on board for the first movie without really seeing what the movie can do, which I think is very heartening. We hate to compare it to our other franchises because it’s like comparing your two kids. I can hope that they all do extremely well. Of course Avengers has done very well for us and has grown over time, we want that really happening with Star Wars as well. Now the consumer response and the story all have fallen at the same place, and how we are going to do next month or the next 18 months etc… The whole slate is ready for the next five years.
What all brand associations have been done for the movie and in which categories?
It has been done on a fairly broad basis, which has also been very heartening. Clearly the toys category is a big part of Star Wars Universe itself to set a whole range of toys and gadgets that are meant both for kids and adult fans to collect. So, that has been a big partnership (with Hasbro, Funskool in India.) There is a whole range of products largely driven by the lightsabers, which is very iconic of Star Wars. Then there are all kinds of figurines, collectibles, toys etc. Then the other category is apparel both for kids and adults, where we are putting in lots of efforts. Apart from Myntra and Bioworld, there are lots of other retail partners that we have. We are also in the jacket segment. Then we are doing one limited edition program on retail stores to create Star Wars experience. Because Star Wars is a deep story, not just about the movie but the whole universe per say, there is a lot of storytelling scope it has opened for us. We have also partnered with Scholastic. Also, on the promotional side, we have done some interesting tie-ups in the market with the likes of Lifeboy which is giving out product being co-promoted by us; HP – they have designed a specific Star Wars laptop, Subway. We are also partnering with ICICI bank where they are using our Star Wars imagery on their debit cards, which will be quite interesting for their consumers as well as Star War fans. With the retail partners and ecommerce like Amazon doing a lot of things, we are working with all major specialty stores like Landmark stores, Hamleys.
Are the licensing alliances majorly centered on eCommerce?
Alliances are not centric to one platform but are across the board and categories. For instance in toys category we have big licensees and manufacturers who are across all platforms like Funskool, Haspro, Lego, Mattel who have multi-channel presence. In apparel, Jack & Jones has 60 stores, they also have other partners like Bioworld and distribute to over thousand outlets in the country. So, yes eCommerce is of the pillars, but it’s not the only one. We started off a bit earlier with eCommerce players like Myntra and they took an early bet on Star Wars and have been building the product successfully. With Amazon, we in fact have set up a Star Wars shop. In total around 50 agreements have been done so far. We are quite happy with the partners we have and now we are looking to develop that franchise and offer more products.