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Cometh the penguin (to a box store near you)

October 28, 2008 |  6:39 pm


It was only a matter of time before Club Penguin's online inhabitants waddled into retail.

Walt Disney Co. has licensed a toy line based on its popular virtual world for kids -- just in time for the holidays. 

As with the avatars that wander the snow-covered online community, these stuffed penguins and plastic figures come dressed in an assortment of costumes (bees, aliens, superheroes, pirates, etc.). Even their virtual pets, known as "puffles," can be found in plush, selling for $10 each.

Such a move by Disney Consumer Products was all but inevitable after Disney's acquisition of Club Penguin in August 2007. Until then, Club Penguin sold a limited assortment of stuffed puffles as a promotional item, but had not created a full line of toys inspired by the flightless waterfowl. 

Hollywood learned long ago that penguins are box-office gold.

The documentary "March of the Penguins" was the sleeper hit of the summer of 2005, grossing more than $77.5 million for Warner Independent Pictures. The following summer,  Warner Bros. reprised the penguin theme with the animated hit "Happy Feet," which sang and danced up $198 million in domestic box office.

Disney could lay claim to giving penguins their cinematic debut as Dick Van Dyke's dancing partners in the 1964 film "Mary Poppins." 

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

(Photo of the 6.5-inch stuffed figure courtesy of Stuart Ramson for Disney Consumer Products).