Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsFixme

Nightmare on Wall Street

Books: When the bottom fell out on R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series, the grown-ups panicked. Then the folks at Disney came in and provided a happy ending.

June 13, 1997|PAMELA WARRICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was a cold February night in New York. Homeless men in rags huddled over heating grates while inside a modest apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side, a slight balding man with bushy eyebrows was sucking in mouthfuls of cool air.

It wasn't the weather that had this famous children's author shivering in his bed. It was fear--the blinding white, bone-chilling, teeth-chattering fear that comes with the realization that everything you ever knew and believed just might be wrong.

Dead wrong.

The author, you see, had seen the future--his own future. And it was not good. It was a nightmare unlike any nightmare he had conjured up in his horror books because . . .

This nightmare was real!

After five years of soaring sales, hit TV spin-offs, and multimillion-dollar profits, R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series of scary books for kids was suddenly, unaccountably, not selling.

On Feb. 20, Stine's publishers at Scholastic Inc. announced that sales of Goosebumps--the top-selling book series in history with nearly 200 million copies in print, had peaked like a widow's peak, it had.

On the NASDAQ market, where the publicly traded Scholastic had been commanding as much as $78.50 for a single share of its stock before the peak, there were signs of true fright.

Spooked by what appeared to be the end of a craze, Scholastic's stock also took a dive, dropping more than 40% before closing that day at $36.75 a share.

Although the grown-ups might have been surprised, the picky readers in the 7 to 12 set were not. For months, boys and girls who had been buying Stine's books as fast as he could write them--which was about one a month--had been steadily losing interest. Or, as some parents saw it, finally coming to their senses.

But while demand for Goosebumps titles such as "It Came From Beneath the Sink!" and "Say Cheese and Die" and "Say Cheese and Die--Again!" was slipping fast, a far different phenomenon was being charted elsewhere in the Goosebumps empire.

The Fox TV series of the same name was hot and getting hotter, and the clamor for Goosebumps paraphernalia was loud and growing louder.

From lunch boxes to T-shirts to pillowcases, featuring ghoulish images of the "Abominable Snowman of Pasadena," the bloodthirsty rabbit from "Bad Hare Day," and the walking, stalking puppet from "Night of the Living Dummy," it seemed no matter what happened on Wall Street, some kids still wanted their Goosebumps.

And then earlier this week, Walt Disney Co. announced plans for a Goosebumps attraction at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Now the much-feared publishing nightmare has been transformed, as Stine's wife, Jane, puts it, "into an absolute dream come true."

As for the mood of Robert Lawrence Stine, the 53-year-old former social studies teacher from Columbus, Ohio, who devised the Goosebumps series as a way to entertain his hard-to-impress pre-adolescent son Matt, his wife says he couldn't be happier.

"For Bob, taking Goosebumps to Disney World is like going to heaven. He adores everything and anything Disney and this is a real thrill," she said. The new attraction is scheduled to open just before Halloween.

It will have mummies, skeletons, werewolves, bats and snakes . . . as well as some special spine-tingling effects yet to be announced.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|