Photos: Sorin Morar
(extract) I can imagine that everyone has their own very special relationship to Disney and individual characters. Does that personal level play a role when looking for the right franchise, or are you able to break free of that?
It is always interesting to see how that does indeed play a role. Frequently, we start off with a joint brainstorming session, after which ideas begin to spring forth from the partner’s side – as is often the case with “Star Wars.” When The Force Awakens came out, many men in particular revealed themselves to be longtime fans. It really is amazing to see just how many diehard “Star Wars” aficionados come creeping out of the woodwork. Even the most buttoned-up of grown men go weak at the knees, confessing that they have seen all the movies and beginning to quote lines from them.
Many people do, in other words, have a very clear idea of what the Disney brand ought to be doing. Is the “Disney” legacy sometimes also a liability?
Not really. Many tend to be positively surprised to hear how far we are able to go in terms of creativity with our partners, and just how many things can be done. While we do have very clear ideas governing our licensing agreements, we are nonetheless able to give our partners a lot of freedom in the actual design process. And one should not, of course, forget the archive, which dates back to 1928. That serves toopen up many roads. In recent years in particular, things have been developing very nicely inasmuch as the most diverse of designers have been accessing the archive to create their “Disney Consumer Products,” at the same time constantly updating it with the results they themselves produce. We, for our part, put out a style guide listing the latest additions every eight weeks. And we are strong. With revenues of $7.6bn, 2016 was the most successful year to date in our history. That was also due to the acquisition of Lucasfilm and Marvel, which enables us to fill movie theatres all year round. That makes us a long-term and reliable partner – not always successful, of course, but offering planning certainty. That is also evident in the merchandising, which offers both variety and planning certainty in terms of sales revenues.
So just how far can partners go when interpreting your characters?
Well, it depends which partner we are talking about and what kind of result we are looking for. Someone such as Damien Hirst is obviously given greater freedoms than a partner wishing to turn out commercial products. In the case of particularly exciting collaborations, we are sometimes more lenient in this respect, too, but then it tends to be more about a different signature style. One advantage is that the approvals here in Germany are generally made in close coordination with our European headquarters in the UK. These locally based structures enable us to work quickly and flexibly.
When you compare product groups, what is the strongest market?
Toys are obviously the strongest segment by far, yet they are closely followed by Fashion & Home. So we are hard on the heels of our colleagues in the toys segment. And, within our own division, it is apparel that takes the lion’s share. Next come accessories and home, which are fairly evenly balanced.
And what has the edge in the home segment What is the top performer there?
So why is it that bedding performs so well in the area of licensing deals?
Bed linen is, along with cups and mugs, the T-shirt of interiors. It can quickly be changed and, with it, a room – children’s bedrooms, for example – given a rapid and complete makeover. Additionally, bed linen is a great area in which to try out new motifs and to tell stories, there being a lot of space on which to do so.
In terms of target groups, children are the biggest market, right?
The grown-up world used to be pretty small but, in recent years, we have been giving clear emphasis to the adult segment, which naturally also includes the collaboration with Zoeppritz. But, yes, you are right: boys, girls and infants are our biggest market. Having said that, “Adults” now accounts for a double-digit share of this and the figure continues to increase.