Disney to test toys independently

LOS ANGELES – Following the recall of millions of toys by Mattel Inc., The Walt Disney Co. said Monday it will independently test toys featuring its characters.

The media and entertainment conglomerate said it will hire companies to randomly buy Disney-branded toys off store shelves and test for lead paint and other safety issues such as small parts that could come lose, Disney consumer products spokesman Gary Foster said.

The ultimate safety responsibility lies with companies that license Disney characters for toys, he said.

"But Disney wants to give an added level of scrutiny and assurance to parents that a product with a Disney character has gone through this process," Foster said.

Disney will also start requiring all licensees such as Mattel to submit their own test results before allowing products to hit shelves.

Foster said the company would be hiring more people in its product integrity office to oversee the program.

The tests will begin in the next two weeks and will include all categories of products, including toys, jewelry and children's clothing from about 2,000 licensees, including Mattel, which is Disney's largest toy vendor.

A call to Mattel for comment was not immediately returned.

While the consumer products division only accounts for about 9 percent of Disney's revenue, any problem with its toys effects the brand, which is a huge concern for the company, analysts said.

"It makes sense they will do anything they can to protect their brand," said SMH Capital analyst David Miller. "It's a natural move you'd expect given the fallout in confidence in Mattel."

In a little more than a month, Mattel has recalled more than 21 million Chinese-made toys worldwide over worries that they were tainted with lead paint or contained small magnets that could be swallowed by children.

Disney shares fell 10 cents to $33.49 in midday trading Monday while Mattel shares lost 30 cents to $21.