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  1. #1

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    For the Miley Cyrus franchise, 'Hannah Montana' is just the start

    For the Miley Cyrus franchise, 'Hannah Montana' is just the start

    The Disney Channel 'tween star conquers TV and the pop scene. Up next is movies.

    By Mary McNamara
    Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
    July 8, 2007

    Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus

    MILEY CYRUS doesn't look like a mouse. Or a befuddled bear. Or even a princess. But make no mistake, like Mickey, Winnie the Pooh and Snow White before her, she is a Disney franchise.

    Cyrus is the star of "Hannah Montana," a Disney Channel half-hour sitcom following the travails of Miley Stewart, a young girl living in Malibu who also happens to be pop star Hannah Montana. Costarring real-life Dad Billy Ray Cyrus and consistently featuring a wish list of costars including Dolly Parton and Larry David, "Hannah Montana" is one of the top-rated kids' shows of all time (in 2006, it was second only to "American Idol" among kids 6 to 14). Cyrus' first album, the 2006 "Hannah Montana" soundtrack, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart (a first for a TV soundtrack), sold more than 280,000 copies in its first week and subsequently went double-platinum. Her second album, a two-disc set titled "Hannah Montana 2/Meet Miley Cyrus," was released June 26 and beat out Kelly Clarkson's new album to be No. 1, selling 326,000 copies.

    There is, of course, a feature film in the works.

    This year, Cyrus performed as Hannah at London's famed Koko club (Madonna had been there a few days previous) and, with Mickey and Minnie, cut the ribbon to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Disneyland Paris.

    Only a 14-year-old would have that much energy.

    "I just had a 20-minute break," Cyrus recently announced as she took her place on set at a taping of "Hannah Montana." "The first I've had in about a year."

    She's exaggerating, of course; the days of run-ragged young stars are long gone. Because she is a minor, Cyrus can work only 8 1/2 hours a day, three of which are to be tutor-taught schoolwork.
    "Everything's starting to slow down," she says. "Just doing the show is such a break for me. I was on tour with the Cheetah Girls, went to London and Paris, was getting the word out about the new Hannah CD and the Miley CD — I'm now working for two people. And writing, I write all the time. Miley Cyrus wrote every song on that CD. I write in my sleep. I don't know how, but I'll work on a song, go to sleep and it's finished when I wake up."

    Europe was great because even though her mother, Trisha Cyrus, couldn't go — Cyrus' younger sister was in a school play — Cyrus got to bring her best friend from Nashville, so it was one big sleep-over adventure.

    "Here's a funny story," she says. "I cut the ribbon in Paris, and everyone in Paris speaks French — maybe you knew that. But I'm from Tennessee, and Tennessee girls don't speak French. So suddenly I'm stuck onstage with Minnie and Mickey and everyone is yelling at me in French — I guess they're telling me to get off the stage, but I didn't know what they were saying at the time, so I start dancing with Minnie and Mickey like on the show and finally my aunt comes and gets me off. Next time I go," she says, finally drawing breath and hitting the pause before the punch line, "I will learn to speak a little French."

    If Cyrus knows the importance of telling a good story for interviews, she comes by it naturally. Her country singer father also plays her father on the show, and if no one was quite prepared for the juggernaut of "Hannah Montana," the Cyrus family is quite familiar with fame — its requirements, its seductions and its limitations.

    "My mom is always telling me it takes a long time to get to the top," Cyrus says in all teenage seriousness, "but a short time to get to the bottom."

    It's hard to imagine what the bottom looks like for a 14-year-old, although names like Lindsay Lohan and Danny Bonaduce do present themselves. Right now, Cyrus is safe within the Disney biosphere, the multimedia incubation unit for adolescent stars. "The Suite Life of Zach & Cody's" Dylan and Cole Sprouse, Raven-Symoné of "That's So Raven" then "The Cheetah Girls," "Lizzie McGuire's" Hilary Duff — these are the natural descendants of Annette and Cubby, but Hannah Montana may top them all.

    Nickelodeon was the one to invent a channel dedicated to kids programming, but the Disney Channel, which doesn't have to worry about a pesky little problem like attracting advertisers, often seems to own the demographic. (Nick's recently debuted "The Naked Brothers Band" is a clear answer to "Hannah Montana" in form and story line.) So with that and Radio Disney in full swing, Hannah is the perfect multimedia creation — music, concerts, TV, two sets of clothing and other merchandise, and a feature film coming.

    "Hannah Montana has turned into a phenomenon," says Gary Marsh, president of entertainment for Disney Channel Worldwide. "The music is a giant add-on. The ultimate wish fulfillment. Here at Disney, television is just the launch pad. For other networks, it's the end, but here it just launches them into the next tier."

    Radio Disney (KDIS-AM 1110 in Southern California) is key to Cyrus' success. Six years ago, it was a mild-mannered attempt to capture CD-buying 'tweens, playing a range of bubble gum favorites and Disney movie music. "The audience came, but we were building equity for Britney and Christina," says Marsh. "We decided we needed to use it to leverage our stars."

    So Duff was introduced to a microphone and Raven-Symoné starred as the leader of the group the Cheetah Girls. Then along came "High School Musical," the smash-hit Disney Channel movie.
    Just recently, she says, she had to use a bodyguard for the first time. "We went to Six Flags and my little sister was with us so we had to have someone to stay with me so she could go on the rides with my mom and I could stay and sign autographs. But it's important because the more out there you are, the less people think of you as a character. They think of you as a real person."

  2. #2

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    Re: For the Miley Cyrus franchise, 'Hannah Montana' is just the start

    She sounds like a pretty level headed kid to me! And I know my 10 year old lives her to death.

  3. #3

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    Re: For the Miley Cyrus franchise, 'Hannah Montana' is just the start

    Wow, she's going to be busy! It's a great show and i'm glad that at least for now, she's a good role model for young girls to look up to. She seems to have a good head on her shoulders.
    Press today is so concerned with cool vs. not cool that they're starting to forget good vs. bad. I'm not sure I'll ever be "cool", but I will always tirelessly strive to be "great". - Josh Groban

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