Disney’s Doc McStuffins Toys Challenge Dora the Explorer

Disney’s Doc McStuffins Toys Challenge Dora the Explorer

By Matt Townsend December 05, 2013


With established toys such as Barbie and Legos prospering year after year, it’s often tough for new ones to command kids’ attention—and retailers’ shelf space. But when Jennifer Chandler-Saunders shopped for a holiday gift for her 3-year-old daughter, she bypassed such staples in favor of Doc McStuffins, a Walt Disney (DIS) character that in two years has gained stardom on cable TV and in the toy aisle. “My daughter fell in love with Doc right away,” says Chandler-Saunders, who nabbed a $35 Doc McStuffins medical kit from Toys “R” Us.Dottie “Doc” McStuffins, a 6-year-old aspiring doctor who treats her toys with help from her dragon and snowman friends and a magic stethoscope, is a fixture of the industry’s rankings of the most popular this holiday season, including hot toy lists at Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), Sears Holdings’ (SHLD) Kmart, and Toys “R” Us. Having a coveted product isn’t child’s play for retailers, which will sell $10 billion in toys in the fourth quarter, about half the annual total, according to researcher NPD.

Based on Doc McStuffins, the Disney Junior channel’s animated hit, the dolls are vying with toys inspired by Viacom’s (VIADora the Explorer, long the undisputed queen of the toddler set. For Chandler-Saunders, Doc’s skin color enhances the appeal. “I’m Caucasian, and the doll is black, so it’s kind of cool kids can look up to someone” of another race, says the 35-year-old mother of two, who runs her own insurance agency in Jetersville, Va. The show’s viewers are almost evenly split between boys and girls.

Doc McStuffins’s rapid ascent is something of a departure for an industry that tends to reboot old brands. Exhibit A: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which first appeared in the 1980s and were revived last year as a line of toys and a Nickelodeon series, are a top pick for boys this year, according to hot toy lists. Another familiar friend is Hasbro’s (HAS) Big Hugs Elmo, the latest incarnation of the fuzzy Sesame Street character, which industry analysts predict also will be a top seller this holiday season.


Last year, McStuffins’s popularity took some retailers by surprise, leaving them with insufficient inventory, says Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of toy review website Time to Play. The shortage spurred moms to hit websites such as EBay (EBAY), where they spent double the toy’s $10 retail price, he says. This year, Disney’s top four U.S. retail accounts—Wal-Mart, Target (TGT), Toys “R” Us, and Kmart—have on average quadrupled the shelf space given to McStuffins from last holiday, says J.D. Edwards, senior vice president of licensing for Disney Consumer Products. Doc McStuffins appeals to a wide range of demographics, says Jennifer Dominiquini, Sears’s chief marketing officer for fitness, sporting goods, and toys. “It addresses that human need for nurturing,” she says. “It’s a perfect recipe for success.”

When Disney executives were pitched Doc McStuffins in 2008 by creator Chris Nee, they green-lighted the show quickly because it introduced the concept of nurturing—one of the strongest play patterns—to children’s TV. “It was almost like one of those ‘duh, why didn’t we think of this before’ moments,” says Nancy Kanter, executive vice president for original programming and general manager of Disney Junior Worldwide. The company made one key switch: changing the family’s race from white to black. “It’s important to us that the brand and the content represents the world as kids live it and see it, and that is a world that’s very diverse,” she says. “For some kids this will look exactly like their families, and for others it will look like what they see in their neighborhoods.”

This year, Disney added licensed accessories, including clothes, bedding, and even Doc McStuffins Band-Aids from Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). It’s also releasing toys aimed at boys, including a blue (rather than the usual pink) checkup kit.

The brand’s growth helped more than double retail sales of Disney Junior products, to $1.8 billion in the fiscal year ended Sept. 28, says Edwards, who declined to give specific data for Doc McStuffins goods. Success in the toy division allows Disney to generate high-margin sales on characters already created by its other businesses. Consumer products accounted for 10 percent of profit in the most recent fiscal year, while making up 7.9 percent of total sales.

Rivals to the young doctor aren’t sitting quietly in their toy boxes. In September, Viacom released the Dora Sizzling Surprises Kitchen, and Skate & Spin Dora & Boots. “Ten years running, Dora remains a beloved property and is doing very well for us this holiday,” says Dan Martinsen, a spokesman for Viacom’s Nickelodeon networks. “Dora continues to be a trailblazer and has a long, bright future ahead of her.”

For now, Doc McStuffins’s race and her TV family’s reversal of gender roles—mom is a doctor, dad stays home—has strong appeal for some parents, says Laurie Schacht, chief executive officer of The Toy Book, a trade publication. “It makes it more real and more interesting,” she says. “Whether we’re talking about color or women, everyone has come a long way, and it’s nice to see that in our kids’ toys.”

The bottom line: A holiday hit toy is important for retailers, which sell half their $20 billion in annual toy sales in the last quarter of the year.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: