Disney Rewind – Lion King Merchandise Debuted 25 Years Ago

While we’re still a few months away from The Lion King‘s 25th anniversary, June 14, it’s not too early to celebrate the anniversary of the movie’s merchandising. Rewind a quarter of a century, and toys were already on the shelf at Toys R Us. The choice was essentially unprecedented. Aside from clips and trailers, the film’s iconic characters had yet to sear themselves into our minds.

Mattel Baby Simba stuffed toy ad, The Honolulu Advertiser, 24 April 1994.
Mattel Baby Simba stuffed toy ad, The Honolulu Advertiser, 24 April 1994. Sun, Apr 24, 1994 – 214 · The Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii) · Newspapers.com

Walt Disney World intended to play things safe, waiting until the film premiered to stock park shelves, but relented by early May, apparently bombarded by requests from the public.

A representative from Disney Consumer Products, Chuck Champlin, told the Orlando Sentinel that the company was against the move, but wouldn’t punish retailers. It would be a little hard to do so, anyway, as the article also noted that The Disney Store has jumped the gun.

Toys R Us told the newspaper that 90% of movie merchandise was sold in the three or four weeks after a movie release. The store had also began selling products based on The Flintstones, which at least was based on recognizable characters.

Here’s a few ads for Lion King products that debuted before the movie, via Newspapers.com.

Lion King play pool ad, The Cincinnati Enquirer, 24 April 1994.
Lion King play pool ad, The Cincinnati Enquirer, 24 April 1994. Sun, Apr 24, 1994 – Page 594 · The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio) · Newspapers.com

See 'n Say Talking Toys Lion King, Honolulu Advertiser, 29 May 1994See ‘n Say Talking Toys Lion King, Honolulu Advertiser, 29 May 1994 Sun, May 29, 1994 – 227 · The Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii) · Newspapers.com

Lion King girls t-shirts, South Florida Sun Sentinel, 26 May 1994
Lion King girls t-shirts, South Florida Sun Sentinel, 26 May 1994 Thu, May 26, 1994 – Page 86 · South Florida Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) · Newspapers.com

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One comment

  • Alyssa

    I wish I could browse newspaper articles for free on that same site where those pics were taken from. It’s not fair that you have to subscribe in order to do so.

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