Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't the only prime-time offering on ABC this season that cleverly boosts the scope of Disney's (NYSE: DIS ) acquired character portfolio.
Toy Story of Terror will debut tomorrow night, and it's a safe bet that the Halloween special will continue to play this time of year for a long time. After three critically acclaimed theatrical blockbusters, Pixar's Toy Story franchise is still showing signs of life. The original celebrity voice actors are back in this half-hour special in which a road trip leads the popular playthings to a creepy motel where they start to go missing. I'm guessing it will all end well. This is Disney, after all.
Transforming computer-rendered box-office champs into seasonal television entertainment isn't new. Disney rival DreamWorks Animation (NASDAQ: DWA ) has been at this for some time with Scared Shrekless and Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins From Outer Space for Halloween, and a few Christmas entries, including Merry Madagascar and Shrek the Halls. DreamWorks Animation has done this without the arsenal of a major television network and a fleet of theme parks and namesake stores. In other words, Disney has a lot to gain in extending the life of its franchises.
Tomorrow night's special also comes at an ideal time. Disney decided to cash in on the success that Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI ) has had with its Skylanders video game series by introducing the similar Disney Infinity this summer. The virtual universes are expandable through actual figurines with RFID chips that can engage in the games once planted on docking stations, and this product has proven popular with young gamers. Activision Blizzard has been marking down its offering since Disney's arrival, and we'll have a clearer snapshot on Disney's impact when Activision Blizzard reports quarterly results early next month. But Disney just happens to be introducing the Sheriff Woody -- from Toy Story fame -- figure next week. Tomorrow's show starring Woody will be a fresh reminder for young viewers.
Once again, there's more to a Disney release than just its original form. A simple half-hour Halloween special will in turn promote merchandise sales, theme park visits, and now even video game sales. If it's a hit -- and it probably will be, or else Disney would've reached out to the smaller Disney Channel audience instead of going the ABC route here -- this is a smart bet that will continue to pay off year after year.
You know, as Buzz Lightyear would say, this goes to infinity -- and beyond.
Disney knows a thing or two about the future of television
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