Walt Disney Publishing Worldwide this week releases Star Darlings, an aspirational global brand for tween girls that could be the post-princess platform that Disney has been looking for.
The new character-based franchise is launching with a series of young adult novels, in physical and e-book form, that feature a girl squad of 12 feisty young magical creatures (don’t call them fairies!) They encourage tweens to celebrate their individuality, make positive choices and turn their wishes into reality—with a little Disney magic, of course.
The 12 Star Darlings “embody the qualities and characteristics of today’s tweens, and have been created to resonate with the audience through a multiplatform lifestyle experience tailored just for them,” Disney said, as reported by Orlando Business Journal. Mercifully to parents everywhere, they’re less sexualized than Nickelodeon’s boy-crazy Winx fairies.
Each character pursues a wish with the help of friends, emphasizing the importance of networks, and the girl power themes explored include friendship, confidence, leadership and teamwork. The stories were created by designer Shana Muldoon Zappa and her husband, Ahmet Zappa (son of late musician Frank Zappa), who were inspired by their daughter.
“Our intention with Star Darlings has always been to empower every girl—no matter where she was born or what she looks like—to understand that she has what it takes within, to make her own wishes come true… through the unstoppable energy created by positive thinking, taking action and believing in yourself,“ said Muldoon Zappa, in a press release.
The description for the book series sets up the wish-based (this is Disney, after all — “When you wish upon a star…”) universe:
Welcome to Starling Academy. Twelve very special students have been selected from this year’s class to reclaim the wish energy that powers their beloved planet, Starland. The Star Darlings, as they are known, take classes where they learn how to grant the wishes made on birthday candles,shooting stars, dandelions, wishbones, and coins tossed into fountains, just to name a few. Their top-secret mission will take them to Wishworld (known in some places as Earth). There they will have to find the Wisher and figure out how to grant the wish before time runs out and they are stuck on Wishworld forever. Sage is the first Star Darling soaring off to Wishworld. Travel with her as she discovers how challenging life on a new planet can be and how she learns the importance of friendship, teamwork, and never assuming anything.
Besides the first three books, based on the Sage, Libby and Leona characters, products in the pipeline include a storytelling and lifestyle app, music from Walt Disney Records, the first in an animated series of shorts on YouTube and a fashion dolls line in collaboration with Malibu-based Jakks Pacific that’s exclusively being sold at Justice stores in North America. Helping steer the franchise for Disney: Barry Waldo, former role of VP of worldwide entertainment at Mattel.
It’s a big bet for Disney Publishing Worldwide, the world’s largest publisher of children’s books, magazines and apps, publishing in 85 countries in 75 languages.
“Star Darlings represents a fully realized world where strong, confident girls are front and center,” stated Andrew Sugerman, EVP Disney Publishing Worldwide. “We’re excited to announce this all-new, innovative property tailor-made for today’s tween, and the launch of Star Darlings represents one of our broadest multiplatform launches to date.”