Of course, age doesn't matter to Barbie or, for that matter, Betty Crocker. But these famous brands aren't real people. Can Mary-Kate and Ashley somehow dissociate their physical selves from the frozen images that adorn countless products in the marketplace? "If Mary-Kate and Ashley has become a label that people expect to see at Wal-Mart on 'tween and young teen clothing and accessories, then it could go on," opines Brochstein. "If it's very much attached to their physical presence, then that's a bigger question."

Meanwhile, Mary-Kate and Ashley are moving on. They've always changed as they've grown, even to the name they asked people to use when referring to them. Once "the Full House twins," they became at various times "the Olsen twins" or "Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen," and now prefer to be called "Mary-Kate and Ashley." Their actual brand in Wal-Mart is "mary-kateandashley," with the words printed in different colors. Their publicity machine politely and somewhat gingerly asks that you not refer to them as "the twins" these days. What's next? "M-K&A" or perhaps "MKANYC" to reflect their new digs in the Big Apple?

That new apartment they'll be occupying come September is equipped with its own videoconferencing center to allow them to confer with Thorne and their other associates. They won't have any trouble affording it, or the notoriously expensive NYU tuition, or anything else their hearts desire. With a net worth already estimated at up to $150 million, with Thorne predicting 10- to 20-percent growth in the $1.2 billion retail sales of their branded goods this year, and with a licensing fee of up to 15 percent of the wholesale value of all that, they don't have to worry about choosing a practical field of study.