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BURBANK, Calif. -- "Buzz Lightyear to Star Command. I've landed in a strange world where benefit booklets resemble cartoons. I'll investigate and provide a further report."
Well, Buzz is partly right. A benefits brochure does look like a cartoon, but it exists in this not-so-strange world.
Titled "401(k) Story," the booklet uses characters from The Walt Disney Co.'s movie "Toy Story" to highlight the company's 401(k) plan.
The animated movie's two stars appear beneath a bright yellow and red cover shaped like the phrase "401(k)," which splits in the middle with flaps lifting up and down. Cosmic hero Buzz Lightyear and Woody the gunslinger welcome Disney employees to the wonderful world of retirement savings. The cover also contains the booklet's slogan, "Your future just got real."
Although Woody and Buzz aren't real, the Award of Excellence presented to Disney in the single-subject booklet category of the 1997 Business Insurance Employee Benefits Communication Awards competition is.
The movie theme, however, doesn't end at the cover. Throughout the booklet, pictures of the movie's toy characters highlight plan features. For example, a plastic soldier emphasizes a note on calculating retirement income, and a dinosaur and Little Bo Peep adorn the descriptions of the different mutual funds available in the plan.
Lines from the movie also come out of the characters' mouths. These relate to the page's topic "in a sub-thematic way," said Bill Zabit, president of Zabit & Associates Inc., the Sausalito, Calif.-based consulting firm that came up with the idea.
Mr. Zabit's firm presented Disney with five options, all based on Disney characters, and "this one seemed to catch everybody's eye,' said Alison McQuay, manager-employee benefit communications with The Walt Disney Co. in Burbank, Calif. The booklet project cost $73,000.
"It was eye-catching and creative, and we thought people would read it and open it," she said.
Non-moving toys also play supporting roles. Balls become pie charts showing different investment strategies, and stacks of colored rings transform themselves into a graph of money accumulating over the years.
Disney conceived the booklet as a tool to enroll more employees in the plan. Starting in March this year, the company sent it to employees not enrolled and new employees soon to become eligible to participate. Ms. McQuay said the company's strategy was to send it to employees' homes because enrollment is a family decision.