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  1. #1

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    Disney classics woo wee ones - Variety 2/17/07

    Disney classics woo wee ones

    Cable net to breed new wave of devotees

    By Michael Schneider
    Variety
    February 17, 2007

    <!-- end author --><!-- /noindex -->
    Looking to revive 80-year-old toon idol Mickey Mouse, Disney is thinking young.

    Really young.

    Taking the "cradle-to-the-grave" strategy literally, Disney has introduced a whole new generation to Mickey and its other core characters (Donald Duck, Pluto, Goofy, et. al) via the toddler-targeted Disney Channel skein "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse."

    It's a money move on Disney's part: The munchkins who fall in love with Mickey today will be the kids who clamor to visit Disneyland tomorrow. In turn, those tweens will become the teens who wear Mickey-branded merchandise and then adults who spawn Mickey-loving kids of their own.

    "No question this is the most beloved and important character to the Disney company," says Disney Channel Worldwide entertainment prexy Gary Marsh. "Certainly, the conversation internally has been trying to, if not reinvent, then reintroduce Mickey to this new generation. Our goal is, in success, that this character will be exposed to 500 million people."

    Mickey's rebirth as a character for the under-5 set is paying off: Earlier this month, "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" posted its best ratings yet among kids 2-5, improving the channel's "Playhouse Disney" block by almost 40% vs. last year. Show regularly finishes in the top 10 basic cable rankings with the high-chair demo.

    But even more key to the Disney empire, the show has further awakened what had been a stagnant character. Beyond his star turns in the first half of the 20th century, Mickey was known more from his role as a Disney mascot (seen in the company's logos and merchandising) than from any recent entertainment.

    While the old Warner Bros. cartoons were saturated on TV for decades, the Mickey shorts from the 1940s and 1950s weren't as widely seen through the years. By the time both Mickey and Bugs Bunny appeared in 1989's "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," it was clear Warner Bros.' strategy had paid off: Bugs Bunny still came off as a contemporary character, while Mickey seemed out of place.

    Behind the scenes, Disney execs were battling over the soul of Mickey. Execs including Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg were anxious to push Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Daisy and Pluto back out into the world. On the other hand, traditionalists (rumored to include Roy Disney) felt the characters needed to be protected -- and the risk of injuring the core franchise was too great.

    Many Disney execs were especially opposed to bringing Mickey and friends to television, which was seen as a step below theatrical animation.

    "There was a constant schizophrenic discussion taking place within the company," says one former Disney animator. "Everyone agreed on one level that counting on people to know Mickey from cartoons from the 1950s was impossible... There was a push, 'We gotta do something with Mickey.' But then there was a pull, 'Yeah, but we can't risk damaging him with second-class material.' "

    Slowly, the barriers began to fall -- first with ancillary characters on shows like "Duck Tales" and "Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers." Then Goofy was given a showcase in "Goof Troop."

    At that point, it became OK to dust off the core Disney six. First came 1999's "Mickey Mouse Works," which featured new shorts in the classic Mickey cartoon style. That was followed in 2001 with "House of Mouse," which starred Mickey as a nightclub owner (wrapped around bits from "Mouse Works" and classic Disney cartoons).
    Marsh says development comes first and merchandising later -- noting that parents still control the TV when it comes to the under-5 crowd, and they demand some educational and learning curriculum with the shows.

    But once they feel comfortable with the program, he adds, parents have been quick to embrace the business portion of preschool fare.

    "Parents want to buy toys and merchandise that help interact with their children," says Marsh.

    Parents will also watch characters they're familiar with -- and that's where Mickey and Winnie again have an advantage.

    "If we can create images and stories that kids today will remember the same way, then we will have done our job very well," Marsh says.
    http://www.variety.com/article/VR111...goryid=14&cs=1

  2. #2

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    Re: Disney classics woo wee ones - Variety 2/17/07

    Daisy is not a core character, and she shouldn't be.

    Mickey is the star, and all the other characters orbit around him.

    Daisy's only relationship to Mickey is through Donald.

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    Re: Disney classics woo wee ones - Variety 2/17/07

    The reason "DuckTales" and "Rescue Rangers" worked well is because they didn't use the main five characters. Also, the animation was of a higher quality, and the shows held appeal to adults.

    If Disney is going to create toddler-oriented and child-oriented shows, it needs to differentiate them better from the more adult Mickey Mouse and company. Brand extensions, using such concepts as "Mouseketeers" and "Disney Babies", would help preserve the integrity of the original characters and keep Mickey as a happy little bachelor.

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    Re: Disney classics woo wee ones - Variety 2/17/07

    Gee, if they only showed the real cartoons again, where the characters have actual personalities and do actual comedy - - they might just get an new generation involved.

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    Re: Disney classics woo wee ones - Variety 2/17/07

    Quote Originally Posted by merlinjones View Post
    Gee, if they only showed the real cartoons again, where the characters have actual personalities and do actual comedy - - they might just get an new generation involved.
    The other nice thing about the existing library is that there are no production costs.

    I'm glad that the new Disney.com has been putting some of the short-subject films on its first page because the Web-site needs more actual content, instead of just advertising.
    Last edited by PragmaticIdealist; 02-18-2007 at 09:26 AM.

  6. #6

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    Re: Disney classics woo wee ones - Variety 2/17/07

    Quote Originally Posted by merlinjones View Post
    Gee, if they only showed the real cartoons again, where the characters have actual personalities and do actual comedy - - they might just get an new generation involved.
    Unfortunatly Disney see's more green than creativity these days in my opinion . I don't even think they fully understand their own characters anymore to be honest. I mean they butchered a lot of them with sequels, generic branded products, etc. Regardless of all the fancy words the Disney Rep. said in the article, It's all about money and ratings and that can be very damaging to the characters unfortunatly.

    As far as Ducktales/Rescue Rangers are concerned, I think they did well because they were creative, imaginitive, the stories were good, they had some funny segments, their characters had detailed personalities, and they were characters we could relate to in ways.


    That's my 2 Cents .

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    Re: Disney classics woo wee ones - Variety 2/17/07

    Quote Originally Posted by Disney Wrassler View Post
    As far as Ducktales/Rescue Rangers are concerned, I think they did well because they were creative, imaginitive, the stories were good, they had some funny segments, their characters had detailed personalities, and they were characters we could relate to in ways.


    That's my 2 Cents .

    Well, I couldn't wait to watch those shows afterschool when I was growing up. Ducktales had Scrooge and Donald's nephews, yet introduced new characters, some of which received their own stories (Gizmo Duck was pretty popular and Launchpad was carried over to Darkwing Duck). I always liked Chip and Dale and, just like Ducktales, the 5 part pilot did a good job of setting up the show (even if it's not a serial). Tale Spin was interesting since Baloo, Louie, and Shere Khan were all lifted from the Jungle Book. Given that we only knew these 3 characters when the 4 part pilot aired, the show proved interesting when the other main characters were introduced. I also watched Goof Troop. It must have been quite a risk to introduce Max since we never saw Goofy's wife or signs that she even existed (though Goofy has an unnamed son in some of his classic shorts). As for Pete, we still see him as a shify character who likes to make trouble for the Goofs, yet he's a family man now with a wife and 2 kids. An Aladdin spin off was no suprise (and it did well), however, Bonkers was a bit confusing. I don't know if anyone remembers, but there was a Saturday morning show called "Raw Toonage" and was just shorts. Bonkers and Marsupilami (who appeared on another show on Disney Afternoon) came from this show. For some reason, Webby from Ducktales appeared in the opening, yet I don't think she ever appeared on the actual show. Anyway, Bonkers got his own show that debuted on Disney Channel the season before it debuted on Disney Afternoon. Disney Channel's run showed Bonkers already partnered with Miranda. When it debuted on Disney Afternoon, Bonker's was slighty redrawn and partnered with Lucky. In fact, the Disney Afternoon pilot episode shows how Bonkers became a cop. This version of Bonkers included the Mad Hatter and March Hare from Alice in Wonderland. They did write out Lucky and reassign Bonkers with Miranda at the end of this version. I thought the Disney Afternoon version was done a little cheaper. They decided to attempt another Goof Troop with Quack Pack. Ok, so Donald's shirt was updated. That's ok. It's the redesign of Heuey, Dewey, and Louie that threw me for a loop. The 3 of them are teens. Their clothes were modernized, too (Louie decides to wear sandals now? x_X;. Even Daisy was redone (why did Donald stay with this version Daisy?) I only watched the 101 Dalmations cartoon for one reason: Cruella Deville!! I will admit this: It's good to see the core characters appear in new shorts with Mouseworks. The night club thing for House of Mouse is trying a little too hard, but at least it was good to see seldom used characters make cameos (like the Aristocats and Robin Hood). I really hope that they're really going in the right direction and that the cartoons will only get better. We had some good shows in the '80s and early '90s. Maybe they can strike gold again.

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