When it comes to product tie-ins, I think no one does it better than Japan. From credit cards with video game characters on them, to pachinko machines featuring all sorts of cultural and media icons, they really know how to make cross branding work. While I think these cross-promotional themes can be weird or silly at times, the Uni/Disney Kuru Toga line of mechanical pencils are subtle, tasteful, and well executed, but at a cost.
For those of you that don't know, the Kuru Toga is a line (as well as the engine) of mechanical pencils that auto-rotate the lead as you lift and press while writing. This helps prevent lead breakage as the lead is more evenly used. I've been using this line of pencils fairly often for over 6 years, and have always felt that the technology backs up the claim. Unless you are trying to break the lead, you will never have the lead break, and your line will look more even. It is definitely one of the best advances in mechanical pencils out there.
The Disney line of Kuru Togas is a series of 6 pencils, each bearing the iconography of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Donald Duck. I purchased the Mickey and Donald ones, as well as one of the Disney packs of lead.
Mickey's pencil is black and red, (except for the grip section which is clear so you can see the mechanical tech of the Kuru Toga engine in action), with one of his white gloves in the black area and one of his yellow shoes in the red area (which would be his shorts color). Towards the grip is the Disney copyright. The eraser cap and a rubber band at the front of the of the pencil are translucent smoke in color.
Donald's pencil is blue. Lots of blue. Half of it is a deep metallic blue with a yellow band, and the other half is alternating shades of light blue. The deep blue section has Donald's signature hat as well as an anchor. The eraser cap and rubber band on this pencil are translucent blue.
Visually, I love the pencils. Unless you are really looking, the character's iconography is really understated. I like that I can use these at work and not feel like I'm using a garish looking pencil that screams "OMG I LOVE DISNEY!!!" I really like the subtle branding and with more American companies would follow suit.
My biggest issue with these is the price. I bought these off of JetPens for $9.50 a piece. Functionally, they are no different than any other Kuru Toga, and you can get the domestic ones for half that price. The lead also costs .80 cents more per pack than the one without the metallic disney logo on it. That's quite the tax to have a Mickey or Donald themed pencil. Fortunately, the writing experience is as good as any other Kuru Toga, otherwise the whole thing would feel like a sham.
I'm really happy to see things like this becoming available (and thank you to JetPens for making them available to us in the US). While I know they are pricey, for those of us who are fans of a certain mouse and duck, (go watch the new animated series, it's awesome!) these make for great gifts. I'm really glad that Uni went very tasteful with the theme and style, as these could have been a visual nightmare. Instead, we get something that is fun to use, both visually and functionally.