updated 11/21/2006 12:09:09 PM ET 2006-11-21T17:09:09

The Walt Disney Co. said Tuesday it will work with Payless ShoeSource Inc. on a line of Disney-themed footwear as part of a deal that cuts out the licensing middleman and has the companies working more closely together on shoe design and retail marketing.

The direct-to-retail agreement calls for Disney to collaborate with Payless to develop and sell shoes exclusively in 4,600 Payless stores and on Payless.com.

It differs from traditional agreements in which the company signs deals with licensees, which in turn take the products to retailers. And, it gives Disney more control over its brand.

The shoes will feature popular Disney and Disney Pixar characters, including Disney Princess, Nemo and Winnie the Pooh. They are expected to be available for purchase this spring.

“Payless is ideal for our first direct-to-retail footwear collaboration because the company is well-aligned with Disney’s goal to create quality, on-trend products for kids and families,” said Andy Mooney, chairman of Disney Consumer Products.

“Being closely involved with the shoe design process is a significant step for us, and we plan to have a truly integrated relationship with Payless, the nation’s leading footwear retailer, from creative to point of sale,” he said.

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