In light of the recent massive toy recalls by Mattel, Disney has announced they will begin conducting separate tests on many of their character merchandise items, some already on store shelves, to verify they are meeting safety standards. Mattel and other toy manufacturers will be officially notified of Disney's plans on Monday.
The New York Times reports:
Disney’s plan represents a significant shift in the toy business. Traditionally, these companies have licensed their characters to toy companies, deposited their royalty checks and left quality control up to the manufacturers. Indeed, the toymakers are usually held liable legally for harm caused by the toys they make.
Separately, Toys “R” Us, the nation’s largest toy retailer, has notified manufacturers that it, too, no longer feels that their tests are enough. Starting this week, engineers hired by the company will regularly visit random Toys “R” Us stores, fill their carts with branded toys and take them to independent labs for testing.Still, Disney and other marketers are clearly becoming concerned that their brands will be harmed in the long run if they do not intervene. Other marketers like Sesame Workshop also say they intend to test products independently. Nickelodeon, which licenses popular characters like Dora the Explorer and Diego to Mattel and other companies, decided to start its own double-testing program in July in response to the recall of Thomas & Friend toys made by the RC2 Corporation.
Retailers and toymakers fear that the recalls could put a cloud of suspicion over the entire toy business just before the critical holiday shopping season. On Aug. 14, Mattel had to recall 436,000 small toy cars based on the character Sarge from the movie “Cars,” because they contained lead paint. The toys were pulled because they all had the same item number, a Target spokeswoman said, and they will stay off the shelves until October. Mattel recalled more than a half million more toys last week.Disney has been considering surprise visits to vendors — and subcontractors — in China, a step that Sesame Workshop has said that it would take, according to a company spokeswoman. But such visits would be difficult to time, Mr. Mooney of Disney said, adding that Disney did not have contractual rights to make surprise inspections for quality checks, a provision in the contract that Disney may want to renegotiate.
Disney executives began floating the idea of double-checking the work of toymakers after the first Mattel recall of Fisher-Price toys on Aug. 2. Serious discussions began on Aug. 14, the day of the Sarge recall. Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, was told of the plan on Thursday after the company’s general counsel signed off on it.Source: The New York TimesIn private, Mattel executives have been trying to assuage the concerns of their business partners. The night before the recall of a toy based on the Pixar movie “Cars,” Tim Kilpin, a Mattel vice president, called John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios and the creator of the movie “Cars.”
Mr. Lasseter questioned Mr. Kilpin about the source of the lead paint on the roof and tires of 436,000 toy cars based on his character Sarge. “Never let our consumers down,” he told Mr. Kilpin.