Movies - TV
How A
Toy Story Merch Mistake Lost Millions
Of Dollars For Disney
It may be hard to imagine now, but back when the first “Toy Story” was to be released, Disney had low expectations about its success. This lack of confidence influenced its decision about merchandising, which led to a financial loss of hundreds of millions of dollars when the movie became a hit.
Scary computers
Large toy manufacturers like Mattel did not commit to making “Toy Story” toys as they felt that audiences would despise computer animation and the film would be a flop. This reluctance was sparked by a completely different film that is narratively and aesthetically dissimilar from "Toy Story" in every way: the 1982 sci-fi adventure, "Tron."
Disney bigwigs like Anne Osberg, president of Disney Consumer Products at the time, felt that the film’s characters couldn’t compete with Mickey Mouse or Winnie the Pooh, or even popular non-Disney characters. She explained in an interview, “I saw Woody as a cartoon-show Howdy Doody from my brother's youth. And I saw Buzz as not competitive with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
Supply and demand
When “Toy Story” became an unexpected hit and children wanted their own Buzz Lightyear dolls, the small toy manufacturer that Disney had managed to hire, Thinkway, just couldn’t meet the demand. One of the problems was that while manufacturers usually had 18 months before a film’s release to prepare orders, Thinkway only had five months.
Buzz vs. Woody
The other issue was that Thinkway was working under the assumption that Woody would be more popular than Buzz, but the opposite turned out to be the case. It was reported that 200,000 Woody dolls had been produced compared to 50,000 Buzz Lightyear toys, which led to an overall loss of about $300 million.