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Retailers Say ’101 Dalmatians’ Merchandise is Hot

December 5, 1996

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ Four-year-old Martin Duron lunged at the display in a Target store aisle.

``Mama!″ he cried, putting a death grip on a stuffed animal. The youngster wanted the black-and-white spotted dog based on the new Disney film ``101 Dalmatians,″ and he wanted it now.

He’s not alone.

A deluge of merchandise tied to the live-action movie, the latest catalyst for a Disney marketing blitz, is finding eager customers in stores across America. Wal-Mart and Toys R Us reported strong sales, though both declined to release figures.

Consumers have a dizzying collection to pick from, with Disney licensing some 14,000 official ``101 Dalmatians″ products from Mattel, Hallmark, Wamsutta and many other manufacturers. If an item can wear spots, it probably is for sale as part of Disney-induced doggie mania.

The ``Dalmatians″ effort represents ``our most extensive film licensing program to date,″ said Melissa Segal, director of marketing for Disney licensing.

The movie is a remake of a 1961 Disney animated feature about puppies in peril of becoming a fur coat. It set a Thanksgiving weekend ticket sales record of $45 million.

Just how much can Disney and its licensees expect in sales? Marty Brochstein, executive editor of The Licensing Letter in New York, said predictions are difficult.

But a look back at Disney’s ``The Lion King,″ which Brochstein called ``the champ in this kind of licensing,″ is instructive: Licensees did well over $1.5 billion in retail sales for its merchandise, he said.

The Dalmatian look, with its graphic black-and-white spots, lends itself to products for adults as well as children and allows Disney to reach into less traditional markets, Segal said.

That includes Bloomingdale’s, which is selling an exclusive spotted shoe.

At the Target store in Santa Ana, 45 miles south of Los Angeles, everything but a fur coat was in evidence _ foil-wrapped chocolate dalmatians, radio-controlled plastic puppies, and a veritable kennel of stuffed animals and closet of children’s clothes.

``Anything that’s a fad, they have to have,″ Betty Duron said of her eager son, Martin, and her 3-year-old daughter, Melina.

Mary Ellen Whiddon, eying the selection, admitted that the instant popularity made holiday shopping easier.

``It’s just like adults wanting the name-brand Gucci purse,″ she said of youngsters’ insistence on the products.

Yet, she said, there was something annoying about the merchandising.

``Don’t they (Disney) make enough money off the movie?″ she said.

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