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Disney’s Mickey Mouse, Others to Enter Conservative Saudi Market

June 12, 1993

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) _ Mickey Mouse and other well-clad Disney favorites will show up as T-shirts, comics and toys sold in Saudi Arabia this fall in a venture described as ″pure, clean fun″ for the conservative kingdom.

Walt Disney Co. officials said Saturday they had signed a deal with a Saudi Arabian company that will inaugurate Disney’s first licensing venture in a Persian Gulf country.

Disney took pains to be ″sensitive to religious and cultural elements″ in Saudi Arabia, said Dennis Hightower, president of Disney Consumer Products for Europe and the Middle East.

Dropped from the product list were some Disney toys and three-dimensional figurines whose sculpted features might alarm conservative Muslims who frown on public displays of the human figure, Hightower said.

″Disney is perfect for Saudi Arabia,″ said Ahmed Jawa, the managing director of Contracting and Trading, the Saudi company which signed the deal with Disney.

″The characters are pure, clean fun for our family-oriented society which places a premium on the well-being of our children,″ Jawa said.

Hightower said Disney would enter the market with T-shirts, children’s toys and other goods. The venture will also use local publishers to put out an Arabic language comic book, he said.

A Saudi recording studio will put out music and read-along tapes.

Unauthorized Disney videos appear in many Saudi stores and assorted Disney paraphernalia can be found in markets. Hightower said Disney officials have discussed with government officials effort to curb the pirating of trademarks.

The United States has threatened to impose trade sanctions on countries that violate trademark and copyright laws and singled out the Gulf region as one area for concern.

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