Hasbro freezes out Mattel with new Disney deal

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NEW YORK (AP) — The toy wars just got a bit colder thanks to Disney's "Frozen," with Hasbro wrestling the rights for dolls from the hit movie away from its rival Mattel.

Hasbro Inc. announced Wednesday that its new deal with Disney Consumer Products will give it global rights — with the exception of Japan — to develop dolls based on "Frozen."

The Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based toy company will also make dolls based on Disney Princess stories and characters including Cinderella, Beauty and The Beast and The Little Mermaid.

Disney Consumer Products spokeswoman Joss Hastings said in an interview that the rights for the "Frozen" dolls will shift from Mattel to Hasbro in the spring of 2016.

The Hasbro agreement will also include clothing and accessories for the dolls, she added.

Disney released "Frozen" in movie theaters in November 2013, and it has become the fifth-highest grossing film of all time.

It has spawned a hugely successful soundtrack, won Oscars and sent children clamoring to their parents for any toys or other products tied to it. While Disney had trouble keeping up with product demand last year, the company has since ramped up efforts to ensure that plenty of items are available for 2014's holiday shopping season and beyond.

Hasbro's new deal with Disney expands on their existing relationship, having already teamed up on "Star Wars" and Marvel properties. It will also strengthen Hasbro's position in the girls category, where it already has popular toys from brands such as My Little Pony and Nerf Rebelle.

Losing the rights to the "Frozen" dolls will be a bit of a blow to Mattel Inc. In July Chairman and CEO Bryan Stockton said during a conference call that the "star" in the second quarter was its "Frozen" product line and that it was "continuing to chase demand there." The popularity of the toys helped Mattel to offset weakness in Barbie sales, which dropped 15 percent in the quarter.

But Mattel spokesman Alex Clark said in an interview that the company's doll portfolio remains strong, thanks to its mix of brands such as Monster High and Ever After High.

Clark said Mattel has a longstanding relationship with Disney and considers them a valuable partner. Aside from the "Frozen" dolls, the two companies have teamed on a number of other products together including those tied to the "Cars" and "Planes" movies and the "Jake and the Neverland Pirates" television show.

Clark said Mattel will continue to sell "Frozen" products through the end of next year and respects Disney's decision to move forward with a partnership with Hasbro.

Hasbro's stock gained $2.62, or 5 percent, to $55.56 in afternoon trading. Shares of El Segundo, California-based Mattel shed 47 cents to $31.60, while The Walt Disney Co.'s stock rose 87 cents to $89.18.

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