Doc McStuffins Is Breakout Holiday Toy for Boys and Girls of All Races

Brace yourselves for a nice surprise, parents: One of the most in-demand toys of the holiday season is neither a princess nor a video-game warrior, but a doctor, thanks to Disney Junior’s runaway cartoon hit Doc McStuffins.    

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“Doc is huge,” Jackie Breyer, editor in chief of the trade publication the Toy Insider tells Yahoo Shine about the doll based on the character, as well as other related merchandise. “The Checkup Center is almost impossible to find at this point. But it’s all hot. Anything Doc is huge this year.”

Anyone with a little kid won’t be too surprised, as the relatively new show, about a 6-year-old aspiring doctor who admires her doctor mother and treats her toys with help from her dragon and snowman friends, is hugely popular with the 2- to-7-year-old set. It draws an average of 1.3 million viewers weekly, according to the latest Nielsen ratings, and has a viewership of both boys and girls.

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But the popularity of its merchandise — including Doc dolls, figurines, doctor kits and the Checkup Center— is still a breath of fresh air for many reasons, say toy experts. “If anything is surprising, it’s the fact that [it serves] a classic play pattern — it gets kids away from the screens, and they get to role-play and use their imaginations,” Breyer notes. “What kid doesn’t imagine that their toys come to life at some point? Also, it’s aspirational — [the character’s] mom is a doctor.”

Marianne Szymanski, president of the consumer research group Toy Tips, notes that the toys are also big with kids who have pets, and who like to treat them as patients. “Taking care of animals is such a play pattern that it's just a perfect fit,” she tells Yahoo Shine. “There wasn’t really anything out there in this category, but this being Disney, it really took off.” Another attribute, she adds, is the fact that it’s something fresh in an industry used to remaking the “same old, same old,” from Legos to Barbie.
Jim Silver, editor in chief of toy review website Time to Play, tells Bloomberg Businessweek that the toys first took off last year during holiday season, surprising retailers, who were largely unprepared for the Doc demand. But this year, the amount of shelf space that Disney’s top retail accounts — Wal-Mart, Target, Toys “R” Us, and Kmart — have given the toys has grown from an average of 5 feet to 20 feet J.D. Edwards, senior VP of Disney Media Networks licensing at Disney Consumer Products, tells Yahoo Shine in an email. Also, to date, more than 1 million of Doc McStuffins Doctor Bag Playsets have sold, and the brand continues to grow — beyond the toy aisle, with bedding, apparel, footwear and band-aids. The Checkup Center was nominated for the Toy Industry Association's Toy of the Year award for 2014.

“I’m very pleased with this product because, guaranteed, you will see kids who become doctors because of this toy,” Richard Gottlieb, founder and president of Global Toy Experts, tells Yahoo Shine. The fact that the character is both female and African-American, he adds, is another big plus. “It’s kind of a postgender product — and the industry has gotten even more gender-specific over the last 20 years,” he says. “Boys might not play with the doll, but I don’t think it’s just about the doll; it’s about a storyline. I think Doc McStuffins crosses many boundaries.”

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