June 6, 2007

DTQ: Who's The Biggest Kids Brand Whore?

curious_george_coloring_kit.jpgA reader called me out for harshing on Maisy, and she's right; though the particular book the kid and I read was lame, it's far from the worst example of brand-brainwashing crap that the Baby Industrial Complex foists on our kids. Maisy just happened to be the one who got stuck under my blogging tires; but during the same library visit, I refused to even read the kid a Dora book.

And now that I think about it, we read a Curious George book whose stupidity cut even deeper because it's a classic I knew and loved. Did you realize there's a whole series of Curious George books drawn "in the style of" the originals, basically authorized knockoffs with stories cooked up in a publisher's conference room somewhere?

[If you're curious, check out Babar, too; Jean de Brunhoff wrote a few books featuring the elephant characters he dreamed up for his son's bedtime stories. Then Laurent picked up and ran with it. Somewhere along the line, Babar's Yoga for Elephants seemed like a greenlightable title, sold with the awesome tagline, "An Original Laurent de Brunhoff Book". Mais, bien sur.]

So who is trying to simultaneously fill our kids' heads and empty our wallets by cranking out the most crap? What characters are battling hardest for brand recognition among kids who, just a few months ago, couldn't see anything more than three feet away?

Here's a Daddy Types Query to find the biggest kids brand whore out there in three easy, if admittedly unscientific, steps:

  • Pick a character, any character, from the kid/baby world.
  • See how many children's books they have by searching for their name on Amazon's Children's Book search. [Note: to ensure consistent tallies across all characters, make sure the pulldown menu next to the search box shows "Children's Books".]
  • Post the name you searched for, the number of results, and if you can figure it out, the URL to the search results page in the comments below.

    Extra Credit: if you see a particularly ridiculous example of a moneygrubbing title [e.g., Elmo Learns How To Use His First Visa Card], feel free to throw it in, too. I'd add Babar's Yoga, but I actually want it to turn out to be good and fun and hilarious. If it's not, please don't tell me.

    I tallied a bunch below off the top of my head, and already, it's clear I owe Maisy an apology.

  • Maisy: 309
    Dora: 1,128
    Babar: 737
    Barney: 1,529
    Elmo: 567 [wow, that's all?? -ed.]
    Clifford: 1,597
    Nemo: 365
    Sagwa: 15
    Johnny Tractor [John Deere]: 6
    John Deere: 210


    Small, middlin', or shamelessly large, Let's see how these characters stack up.



    I have to go with Berenstain brears, just for their pure dreck: 1003
    More than Blues Clues' mere 381

    Monster's favorite this week *sigh* Pokemon has 766.

    A lot of them are game guides. Does the evil of having its own Collectible Card Game add points?

    [don't sweat it if you can't do the link formatting; it appears the spam filter flags some comments with URL's in them anyway. -ed]

    And I thought of one more.
    Spongebob is always marketed alongside Dora (at least, pre-Diego it was.
    So 307 isn't shocking.
    What is surprising is that 24 of those books are marketed at under-3s.

    And speaking of Diego, he is a little lame, at a mere 83

    Apology accepted on behalf of Maisy...you touched a soft spot...MY soft spot for "sweet gentle no gender bias happy colours nonviolent no visible or painted nails thongs" Maisy!!!.

    I don't have many minutes of nap time left so the search for brandwhores will have to wait....but you might just start with "Disneystole the princesses"- they didn't even have to create the characters and I'm guessing there was no license fee to pay!

    I am going to get the Buy Buy Baby book by the way- I'll read it to my 7 year old with whom we discuss on a daily basis the pervasive marketing she enjoys so much! We do try to keep it to a minimum but with an older child and an open plan home- TV happens- so we work on explaining the motives behind what she is seeing.

    And- yep I was wondering who the heck the pictures on the diapers were for...until my baby T started roaring at lion picture (Simba/Kimba ) the pictures were a total waste of ink and licensing fees. Now at least diaper changes are funnier.

    Agree that the best thing to do is to educate your child about this sort of thing, so that they are media savvy and then hopefully less susceptible to its influence.

    Thomas the Tank Engine: 1,152!

    This includes the original books by Rev. Awdry--in collected form and in single titles. But there's also a whole bunch of new books that've been sanitized and cutified. For one, Sir Topham Hatt is skinny!

    Read em and weep:
    Barbie 2069
    includes Barbie Loves Weddings

    Curious George: 530

    We have a bunch of the Curious George knockoff books. There are actually two sets of knockoffs: (1) books based on 1960s vintage short films featuring the character, illustrated with stills from the films; and (2) newly written stories with new art ("new" meaning here early 2000s). (There may also be some books based on the recent movie and TV show, but I haven't seen any.)

    The books based on the 1960s films are pretty terrible: the art is grainy because the stills don't reproduce well, and occasionally there are oddities in the illustrations (e.g., people smoking). The new stories are arguably better than the originals, in that they don't have some of the disturbing elements of the original books.

    [yeah, I love how, in the original book, George has "a good pipe" and goes straight to bed. -ed.]

    How about the classic fairy tale princesses?
    Cinderella at 2674 and Snow White with an impressive 4363! I don't think any one beats Disney at turning brand recognition among kids into cash.

    [next project: figuring out the disney/non-disney ratio of classic fairy tales. Rather than fighting it, we're trying to make the Disney versions just one of several/many for the kid. -ed.]

    The marketing is getting out of hand. All the Pirates of Carribean stuff just came out. Wal-Mart was marketing everything, even down to the Pirates bedding and matching table and chairs set. It's ridiculous! My daughter was given a Dora hamper for her bedroom and that's the only Dora stuff I'll let her have as a decoration. Dora is her favorite, but I couldn't handle having a whole room full of it!

    Here via Goodyblog.

    Hey, now.. to be fair, Snow White is not exclusive to Disney.. I see a lot of Brothers Grimm stuff there. Probably a lot of that is people trying to make money by implied Disney association.

    I tried to search on The Wiggles, but I get a ton of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle in the return set, so...

    [I understand if you're contractually obligated to say that, Kaz. I'm sure the ranking would vary if we could look at other categories: merch, dvd/video, toys, etc. Wiggles and Baby Einstein skew to video, I'd bet. -ed.]

    How about Harry Potter coming in at 1,564 Results. Not bad.
    And for extra credit:

    I looked up my daughter's favorite: The Backyardigans. (Really it's just Pablo that's her favorite.) They came in with 55 hits.

    On the diaper thing, we use the Pampers with the Sesame Street characters and she always says "Elmo" when I put one on her no matter which character is actually on the diaper.

    [the kid started demanding only the Zoey diapers, "because she's a girl"; it's really annoying -ed.]

    I have to second Thomas for being particularly obnoxious. Our girl loves little cars, which I don't particularly mind. She has no idea that there are cartoons (okay, sorta stop-motion shorts, whatever...). Never having read the actual Rev. Awdry books, I asked at the Annapolis Barnes and Noble if they had them just so that I could see what they were like. No one had no idea what I was talking about. Awesome, since an entire back corner of the store is entirely devoted to Thomas.

    NASCAR ~ 340
    Jesus ~ 8558

    I was inspired to look up these two after seeing board books about them side-by-side in the library recently. Only in the south, I guess.

    [Yeah, isn't one a subset of the other? -ed.]

    As soon as I saw NASCAR and Jesus in the comments, I couldn't help but continue the swerve to the right:

    Bill O'Reilly: 12
    Rush Limbaugh: 35
    Sean Hannity: 1
    George W. Bush: 554 (Including "George W. Bush and His Family Paper Dolls"!)
    Dick Cheney: 62

    I'm not sure I'd call him a character (yet).
    Einstein: 2,250

    Bob The Builder: 189

    Blue's Clues: 381

    Wonder Pets: 2 (shockingly low!)

    Powerpuff Girls: 199

    Scooby Doo: 580

    Star Wars: 1850!!!

    Noddy (US) 328
    Noddy (UK) 911
    Noddy (Canada) 331

    "Cheer up Little Noddy" gets 4 separate listings on the .ca against just 1 on .com.
    The only rational explanation is that the Canadian versions contain an extra chapter critical of GWB.

    Max and Ruby: 153

    Some of the books listed in children's books on Amazon are not kid's books: Life of Pi, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time caught my eye immediately. And I wish that Kurt Vonnegut had written for children.

    Pooh: 3,222.

    And that's not all: Tigger gets you an additional 380. Granted, there's some overlap there. Eeyore gets you another 254, although again, with overlap.

    Pooh is *everywhere*, and gets more insipid by the minute.

    [another favorite, totally screwed up -ed.]

    yep pooh and the princesses....
    the disney machine at it's best!!

    "By reinventing Pooh, Disney has made millions in the Hundred-Acre Wood

    Source: Karen HellerKnight-Ridder Newspapers
    Winnie-the-Pooh still lives in the forest. He also lives on video, at the supermarket and in department stores everywhere, while being heavily traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Pooh is no longer all by himself. He is everywhere. He is even two Poohs. There is the original Pooh based on the A.A. Milne books with "decorations" by Ernest H. Shepard. And there is the Disney Pooh. The original Pooh is 70 this year, and the Disney Pooh is officially 30-something.

    Published on November 10, 1996, Page 1, Fort Worth Star-Telegram "

    That was 10 years ago .... the Pooh factory is still chugging along. A little off topic but how about the Pooh and Tigger Musical Toaster-$49.95
    It plays the song AND toasts Pooh and Tiggers faces into the bread!!! Now if only I could find a Maisy toaster our lives would be complete.

    Hello Kitty 251

    Teletubbies 227
    But only 176 on amazon.co.uk

    Madeline: 1046
    "cat in the hat": 452
    superman: 1465
    batman: 1120
    spiderman: 313
    blues clues: 332
    tonka: 198
    shrek: 219

    okay, I have to get back to work now...

    Mickey Mouse: 980
    Donald Duck: 378
    Uncle Scrooge: 594

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