There’s been a lot of talk in recent days about Disney’s $500 million bear. But most Disney Parks fans had no idea the bear was worth half a billion dollars.
Every year, The Walt Disney Company sells billions of dollars in licensed and themed merchandise.
In 2019, Disney was the top seller of licensed merchandise, amassing nearly $55 billion in sales–more than twice as much as the second-place company on the list of the top 10 merchandise licensors, Meredith Corporation, which saw sales of $26.5 billion. The success of Disney’s merchandising becomes even clearer when it’s taken into account that toymaker Hasbro took the #7 spot with just under $7 billion in sales, and auto manufacturer General Motors took ninth place with $4.6 billion in sales.
In 2021, The Walt Disney Company took first place again as the top merchandise seller with $56.2 billion in sales. Hasbro and Mattel took sixth and eighth places, with $8.4 billion and $7.4 billion in annual merchandise sales.
Part of Disney’s billions in licensed sales comes from a Disney character that, like EPCOT’s Figment, debuted at the Walt Disney World Resort. Though other Disney-themed merchandise sells millions (and sometimes billions) more than this Disney character, he’s holding his own, as he’s responsible for approximately $500 million in merchandise sales every year.
But fans had no idea about the success of Duffy the Disney Bear until a presentation revealed it during Investor Day on Tuesday, hosted by Walt Disney Company execs at Disney World.
Duffy, Mickey Mouse’s very own teddy bear whose face dons a hidden Mickey, is the top-selling stuffed animal at Disney’s theme park resorts in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. Guests can also find Duffy at Disney’s Aulani Resort & Spa in Kapolei, Hawaii. Occasionally fans are even lucky enough to find the fluffy bear at ShopDisney.com and at certain fan events, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be there.
Duffy was originally created by Walt Disney Imagineers who debuted the adorable teddy bear in 2002 at the Once Upon a Toy store at Disney Springs at the Walt Disney World Resort. Duffy was later introduced at Aunt Peg’s Village Store at the Tokyo DisneySea Resort, where he was sold exclusively for years, although the venue frequently sold out of the fan-favorite bear.
Duffy the Disney Bear came to be in 2002 for the opening of “Once Upon a Toy” at Walt Disney World Resort. At the time, he was known only as “The Disney Bear.” Two years later, Duffy was brought to Aunt Peg’s Village Store at Tokyo DisneySea, where Imagineers added a story for him to make sense with the location.
Duffy was sold exclusively in Aunt Peg’s Village Store from 2005 to 2008, often selling out. Since then, Imagineers have expanded Duffy’s story to include a group of friends around the world. Today, Duffy can be seen at Tokyo Disney Resort, Shanghai Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, in Hawaii. Guests often travel with their Duffy-inspired merchandise, posting photos of their adventures together.
Duffy’s backstory came after his creation and goes something like this: Minnie Mouse made the stuffed animal as a gift for Sailor Mickey when he was leaving Cape Cod. He was going to be gone on a long voyage, and Minnie wanted Mickey to have someone to keep him company.
Before it was “Duffy and Friends,” guests often purchased multiple Duffy bears and gave each one a different name, dressing each one in a different outfit. Disney caught on to this practice and moved forward with creating new characters–Duffy’s friends, like ShellieMay, a little cat named Gelatoni, a bunny name StellaLou, and Duffy’s newest friend, LinaBell.
Years ago, guests at Disney World could meet Duffy at EPCOT. As of the time of this publication, Duffy isn’t meeting guests at the Central Florida Disney Parks, but there is a dinner and show starring Duffy and his pals at Tokyo Disneyland, and a new Duffy festival begins this month at Shanghai Disney Resort.
As popular as Duffy the Disney Bear and his pals are, especially at Disney’s Asian parks, he has never appeared in any of Disney’s television series or movies, but that will soon change. During the 2022 D23 Expo held at the Anaheim Convention Center in California, the President of Disney’s Parks, Experiences, and Products, Josh D’Amaro, announced a brand-new animated series coming to Disney+.
The original announcement had the new series coming to the streaming platform sometime in 2023, but in August, Disney updated its plans for the series, saying that Duffy will make his appearance when Disney Junior breathes new life in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in 2025. The newly-revived episodes will be available on Disney Junior and on Disney+.
Duffy and friends playing a part in reviving Mickey Mouse Clubhouse? We can’t think of a more fitting role for a group of lovable characters who are so popular with Disney guests that they sell half a billion dollars in merchandise each and every year.