Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Discover Insanity Update:
Knut The Cute Is Making Millions Of Bucks!

It had to happen! It's been a couple of weeks since I wrote about my cuddly little buddy Knut the Bear. Well, Knut's life has gotten a lot better and I thought you'd all like an update on the little guy who was saved from extermination! Well Knutmania is in full swing in Germany, where the fluffy baby bear has become the latest merchandising sensation, inspiring Knut T-shirts, mugs, postcards, DVDs, keychains, candy and stuffed teddy bears that cost up to $40.

I was on top of this story the minute it happened. Isn't that what being a good "cub reporter" is all about? (Pun Intended). Knut's gotten a lot of press all over the world and it has opened the eyes of people worldwide to the plight of our endangered species. And like all good things, there are many people and companies who must make money on him.

You can view my previous story and slideshow by clicking on this link!

Knut shares the cover of the current issue of Vanity Fair with no less than Leonardo DiCaprio, with photos by Annie Leibovitz. He has the cover of the German edition all to himself. As first polar bear born in Germany in 30 years, Knut - who was born Dec. 5 and hand-raised by zookeepers after his mother rejected him - rose to fame last month thanks to television and newspaper pictures. Since then, he has become virtually omnipresent. So potent is his appeal that zoo attendance has roughly doubled since his debut, officials said.

"Obviously, his innocent, babylike looks are an important reason," said Peter Walschburger, a psychologist at the Free University in Berlin, adding that Knut's white fur and soft, round features made people want to protect him. Some 15,000 people visit the baby bear each day.

The merchandising frenzy now includes a special collection by German toy maker Steiff GmbH. Since January, the company has been selling 800 Knut bears a day, said sales director Gerald Uhlich. The stuffed animals come in three sizes and cost between about $27 and $40. Haribo, the German candy company that makes gummi bears, has created a white, marshmallow-like Knut candy that will hit grocery stores across Germany and Austria next week. Steiff has a licensing deal with the zoo and will invest part of its profit in projects there. Haribo also will contribute part of its proceeds to the zoo.

Knut also has his own blog - in German, English and Spanish - written by a journalist at the regional public broadcaster, Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg.

The boom may run its course in the next few months. We all must be willing to face the reality of what my good cuddly buddy's quick rise to superstardom is going to do to him.

Unlike his stuffed replicas, Knut will soon grow up - into a huge and much less cuddly adult. Remember, he's a polar bear...not Tom Cruise!