Posts Tagged ‘Disney’

In world where more than 80% of ten year old girls admit to having been on a diet, it behooves us to pay attention to the messages we send little girls about their bodies.  So it is not without much thought and consideration that I say that I find the hysteria over Disney’s new iteration of their newest Princess, Merida, to be crazily out of proportion.

(Insert pause for the sound of people frothing at the mouth and biting my head off here)

Now before you go saying that I have already admitted, on this very blog, to have partaken of the Disney Kool-Aid, let me assure you that despite indulging in a little corporate Kool Aid, I am still fully capable of forming my own opinions – positive or negative – about Disney. So can you. Take a look for yourself:

Merida before and after

Is she a bit more glam? Sure. Does that make her any less strong? I don’t think so. – Image from Yahoo Shine

Sorry.  But I just don’t think it’s that egregious.  Every time I see Ariel from The Little Mermaid I cringe at that ridiculous waist.  Ditto Jasmine. But this?  Not so bad. (And I’m not the only one who thinks so – check out what my friend Pilar Clarke has to say about it here. ) (more…)

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Me with the cast of Monsters University!I have never been a crazy Disney enthusiast.  I like Disney.  When I was 9, I went to Disney World for the first time and had a blast.  But then I didn’t go again until I my own kids were school aged, some thirty years later.  Don’t get me wrong – I love the classic movies.  I’ve seen Dumbo, and Cinderella, and even Beauty and the Beast a bazillion times.  I smile every time I see a little girl walking down Broadway in her princess costume. But I’m not one to wear Disney logos on my clothing, or purse, or jewelry. I’m not one to go to Disney without my kids.

I have friends (are you listening Ellen Gerstein?) who seem totally normal, smart, and respectable, and then step foot on Disney soil and become, well, a little bit crazy. Like they’ve drunk the Disney Kool Aid. Friends who (not to call out Ellen again, but…) know whether it’s best to turn right or left as you enter a ride for primary seating, who know precisely where to stand at a Disney parade, who have a closet full of Mouse Ears – each customized for various holidays and occasions – and who aren’t afraid to wear them.  And I’ve never really understood that part of  those friends.

Until now.  Because recently, I’ve taken a few sips of that Kool Aid myself. (more…)

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Disney World's New FantasylandLast month, I was lucky enough to get to go to Walt Disney World as a guest of the park, to get a sneak preview of the New Fantasyland — the largest expansion of the park in 40 years.  I’ve already shown you what Enchanted Tales with Belle was like.  Now, here’s a look at more of the fabulous new part of the fabulous Magic Kingdom,  Starting with the Be Our Guest Restaurant. (more…)

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2012-10-23 16.41.36The New Fantasyland, part of  the largest expansion in Disney’s 40 year history, and the most popular land in the most popular park in the most popular theme park in the world is – in a word – spectacular. It doesn’t open until December 6th, but I got a sneak preview of Disney’s latest piece of magic.

Enter the New Fantasyland through the old castle walls – a hint at the history inside. The Beast’s Castle – visible from a distance, but accessible inside – looms high on a hill.

“We are always working on different levels” explained Imagineer Diego Parras,“We create experiences for parents, children and grandparents – for everyone -  to enjoy together.”

But The New Fantasyland has added another dimension to that multi-level thinking: 2012-10-23 16.35.53 the physical one.  (more…)

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The new commercials say it all: 55 million people have seen Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway. And as of Saturday night, my daughter is one of them. (I had already seen it.  This was my second torture time.)

Want to know what my 10 year old daughter thought? “It’s beautiful!  I love the puppets and the costumes.  But it was long.  And kind of boring. It was like the Avatar of Broadway.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

The Avatar of Broadway!! What a perfect analogy!  James Cameron’s Avatar was gorgeous to look at, technically spectacular, and ultimately predictable, cliched, moralistic and boring as hell.  At least it had a message – however obvious and simplistic: We must protect the planet.  Not exactly profound, but at least admirable.

What’s the message of The Lion King?  Disobey your father and it might end up killing him? Make fart jokes and people will laugh? Cast cruise-ship caliber performers, put them on a Broadway Stage – and it’ll be Broadway?  I think not.

To me, Broadway is about – or I guess I should say SHOULD be about – innovation, great acting, challenging story lines. It should be about the best quality theatre can offer.  If I want to see Disney – and I love Disney, really I do, I’ll go to Disney World. I love the shows at Disney World.  The How-di-Do Dinner Show was one of my favorites.  But that’s because my expectation was that I was going to see, well, a How-di-do Dinner Show at Walt Disney World.  When I go to a Broadway Show, I expect more.

True, Julie Taymor’s opening of Disney’s The Lion King is innovative, visually spectacular, and almost makes the sitting through the rest of the plodding show worthwhile.  There were some isolated moments of innovation and beauty – the animals running through the ‘grass,’ the Xhosa spoken by the Baboon. But did the rest of the show have to be such a direct translation of the movie?  Does the Scar character really have to do an imitation of Jeremy Iron’s line readings?  Does Timon have to try to sound like Nathan Lane? (Thank God Harvey Fierstein didn’t voice the movie.  Who could imitate that?) One of the things about true theatre is that it’s always changing.  I’ve seen both Dustin Hoffman and Brian Dennehy in Death of a Salesman – and those actors gave performances so personal, it was like seeing two different plays. (You can bet I’m going to see Philip Seymour Hoffman in the role when director Mike Nicholls brings it to Broadway next Fall.)

Somehow, I doubt that The Lion King changes much from cast to cast.  It’s Disney, after all.  There’s no room for interpretation. The Disney Way or no way, is my guess.  And that’s not always a bad thing.  Inside the walls of Disney World, that makes sense.  Disney World is an alternate universe with it’s own rules for everything — even pointing out directions.  I can see how personal interpretations could spoil the fantasy.  That’s fine, in context.  But why teach a generation of young people that that’s what Broadway theater is, too?  That isn’t what it is.  Or at least not what it’s meant to be.

I know that financially speaking, Disney has helped Broadway a lot.  It has brought people to the theatre in great numbers.  But at what price?  What does it teach the countless children who have gone to see it about theatre?  That it’s essentially a commercial enterprise?  That it’s not really all that different from the movies?  That it doesn’t need to challenge or make you think? And it isn’t just the Lion King. Disney’s Mary Poppins on Broadway was – to my mind – a soulless bore.  It was impossible to imagine anyone loving the Mary Poppins character, because she wasn’t a character…she was a prop that they could make fly, and dance along rooftops.  Technically and visually speaking, it was impressive.  But so is “It’s a Small World”, and you don’t see Disney setting up little international cities inside a theatre on 42nd street, floating people through them in little boats and calling it Broadway Theatre, now do you?

Just because it’s on Broadway, doesn’t make it Broadway Theatre.

I think my feelings about The Lion King were only made worse by what I saw off-Broadway at The Vineyard Theatre the night before (and for a third of the price): a small spectacular performance piece (based on one by Spalding Gray) called Interviewing the Audience. Guess what it was?  A director, Zach Helm, interviewing, one at a time, three different people picked out of that night’s audience. That’s it.  The set was two chairs, a small area rug, and a few coffee tables.  There was water for the interviewees.  Nobody flew. Nobody (at least to my knowldge) farted. That night, Helm interviewed a middle-aged hotel concierge, a retired insurance consultant, and a recent college grad.  I can’t tell you exactly why it was wonderful – only that it was.  But I can tell you that for me, it embodied precisely what theatre is supposed to be: unexpected, entertaining, moving, profound, and open to interpretation. Also, that, as Helm pointed out, it was the only time the February 25th, 2011 performance of that show would ever occur.  There could never be another one like it.

If that isn’t a unique theatrical experience, I don’t know what is.

I know that with the price of mounting a Broadway show, most don’t meet the criterion I outlined above.  But wouldn’t it be nice if Disney – with all of it’s money – could produce a show that was all of those things? They have the power to make something spectacular. But I don’t think they even want to.  On each seat at the theatre where I saw The Lion King on Saturday Night was a survey:  How did you hear about the show?  How did you buy your tickets?  Have you seen any ads for the show?  Where did you see the ads? They didn’t ask what we thought of the show, if we liked it.  They only cared about the marketing.

And doesn’t that pretty much say it all?



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If you’re a Mom blogger who is even a teeny bit active on Twitter, it was hard to miss the feeding frenzy last week over the registration for the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, to be held in Disney World this March.

And if you paid any attention to it at all, you’d see that it made lots and lots of people very, very mad.

If you don’t know what happened, here’s a recap: Last year (I promise, this’ll be short) the Disney SMMoms Celebration (not conference) was invitation only.  Lots of people were upset about that.  It felt exclusionary.  And Very publicly, on Twitter, people complained that it was exclusionary, that they felt snubbed.  So this year, after months of teasers (from Disney) and rumors from everyone else, Disney announced that 2011’s limited space celebration would be first-come, first-serve. (Once you’re credentials were verified.)

They announced the date and time that registration would begin and we manned our lap-tops, iphones, and anything else that had internet-connectivity and were off to the races.

Only instead of a race, it was a frustrating waiting game.  You couldn’t get onto to the site.  Or you did, and then you got booted off.  Some of us spent hours trying to get registered.  And those of us who got through were asked for our blog names and urls, our professional and brand affiliations, our advertisers, our blog, twitter and facebook stats, and the names and age ranges of the people in our family.

The next day, the attendees were announced…and they looked suspiciously hand-picked.  One of my friends was told she registered too late, and by the time she did, the slots were all full.  But another friend, who didn’t get through until 30 minutes than that, was in.

So while no one knows for sure if all of the attendees were hand-picked, it certainly seems that way.  So why the hysterical rush? Why the charade (if it was one.)? Why not just tell people they would look through applications and pick?

Because all the Mom Bloggers would have complained, that’s why. We want to be valued, we want to be taken seriously, we want to be paid for our work.  But we also want don’t want to feel like there’s a popular club. We want to be one, big happy family. We’ve even gone so far as to include men in Mom blogging conferences that purport to be about empowering women.  We want every single one of us to feel equally valued and loved.

That’s awfully nice, but it doesn’t work that way.  If you want to have a big business like Disney to invite you to an event  – to effectively hire you to promote their brand – you have to have the goods.  In the blogging world, that means a minimum of 5000 unique page views a month, at least a 60 klout rating on Twitter, and a proven track record of working with companies (if you’re a business), generating buzz (through lots of comments, if your blog is personal) or both.

I looked at that list of people attending the conference.  And they’re the women I would want if I were a big company looking to get the word out.  They’re influencers.  They’re smart.  They’re funny.  Many of them are my friends.  I’m happy that they’re going.  And the truth is, my stats and my influence just don’t measure up to theirs.  They’re earned the right to go to this conference.

It seems to me that a lot of the people complaining about how this whole thing went forgot something very important: Disney wasn’t inviting everyone and their families down to Disney World because they’re nice.  It’s because they’re a business.  And they want – and need – a return on that investment of time, money, and hotel rooms.

Should they have misled all of us and taken all of our personal information in the process?  Of course not.  But shouldn’t we, collectively, take some responsibility too?  Last year Disney took a lot of flack from the Mom Blogging community for making the event invitation only.  That’s our fault. We should have understood that hard work, and good work reap rewards – like increased ad revenue, paid writing and speaking opportunities, and yes, even invitations to blog conferences.  By putting Disney in the position to have to defend doing what any other business dealing with any other group would do – take the best of the best – we set ourselves up, and put them in such an awkward position that there was almost no way they could have gotten it right.

As my friend Beccarama pointed out, not everyone gets to go to Harvard.  There’s a reason only people like Michael Bloomberg, Steve Jobs, and Warren Buffet are invited to the Sun Valley conference: they’ve earned it. Can you imagine every small business owner in America publicly whining about not being “picked” for that?

So in the end, I end up with this, I don’t approve of the questionable way Disney handled this whole thing.  I think it was unfair to put us all through that. But I don’t think we Mom Bloggers are blameless either. If we want to play in the big time, we have to act like big girls, and accept that while for many of us, Blogging is fun, and creative, and a way to be a part of a terrific community, for companies like Disney, it’s business.  And businesses don’t invite (really hire) everyone.   They pick the best of the best.

And that is fair.

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As I write this, my eight year old daughter sits and watches the premiere of the new Disney propaganda marketing machine….I mean movie, The Cheetah Girls, One World.

Yes, one Disney-fied world. One world filled with teenaged girls who wear only stillettos, and tons of make-up, and gyrate on the dance floor like they have way more experience than I had at that age. And it wasn’t like I was all that innocent then, either.

Ostensibly, the Cheetah girls are all about friendship over fame. The group over the one. It’s communism Disney style — with really great clothes. They’re all it it together. (To borrow from another Disney marketing bonanza). Only they’re not. One Cheetah is absent. Raven Simone (Galleria — she’s even named after a mall. Talk about materialism.) has left the group. Within the first few moment of the movie the remaining Cheetahs explain — she’s off the Cambridge. Buh-bye. So much for friendship. These girls are on the cell-phones all the time — even in India. (what network are they on? I want that range…and no worries about roaming charges, either.) Yet they never once call to speak to Galleria. I know I’m out of the room right this minute — but they hadn’t mentioned her yet. I don’t think they’re gonna start. Nice friendship. Out of group, out of mind.

Is it wrong of me to let my daughter watch this stuff? Will it make her think that that’s what she’s supposed to be? Made up and calling people “girlfriend” and saying “yo”? Does she get that it’s a movie? That most teenaged girls don’t jaunt off to India after one audition? That most teenaged girls don’t have a different, perfectly styled hair-do and trendy overly styled outfit (I mean, really, fingerless gloves? Sequined bustiers?) for every moment of every day?

And why why why does every single pop star have mellisma- itis? How many syllables can the word Loooooooooove have, anyway?

I don’t know. All I do know is I’d better get back in there and watch with her, so I can keep on reminding her that what she’s seeing is all Disney — and no reality. That teenaged girls don’t get to travel the world without any adult supervision whatsoever. That beauty isn’t only about how much eyeliner you wear, or how ungepatchked your outfits are. (It’s Yiddish – meaning overly accessorized)

If I don’t, maybe she’ll end up like me, trying for twenty years to lose the same twenty pounds, and writing a self-deprecating blog every day. Yikes.

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