Disney aims for new heights
Everest specials to take viewers on expedition
Sentinel Television Critic
April 7, 2006
Expedition Everest, which opens today at Animal Kingdom, is ready for its television close-up, and it's a doozy. The Disney attraction will be featured next week in three specials from Discovery Networks.
"This is a logical extension of a successful business collaboration," said Clark Bunting, president of Discovery Networks U.S. Production. "We've done a lot of bits and pieces over the years. This is taking it to the next level."
The initiative between the Walt Disney Co. and Discovery Networks has yielded dozens of programs over the past 20 years. The new specials are premiering under the banner "Everest: The Experience" across four channels.
"We took the project to them. They created how they wanted to tell it," said Ken Potrock, Disney's senior vice president of global alliance marketing. "If we didn't provide arresting content and access, they wouldn't do the shows. If it's purely Disney wanting to market something, they're not interested in that."
The programs are:
Expedition Everest: Journey to Sacred Lands, debuts at 8 p.m. Sunday on Travel Channel. The special follows Joe Rohde of Walt Disney Imagineering as he visits the Himalayas and researches the Disney attraction.
"Joe takes you on the journey," Bunting said. "He grabs you by the lapels."
Building a Thrill Ride: Expedition Everest, debuts at 9 p.m. Monday on Science Channel and at 8 p.m. Wednesday on Discovery Channel. The program looks at construction of the attraction's 200-foot mountain.
"Discovery wanted to tell the science behind the project," Potrock said. "They wanted access behind the scenes. They are top-secret. But in this instance, because of the requirements to tell the story, we gave access."
Corwin's Quest: Realm of the Yeti, debuts at 8 p.m. April 15 on Animal Planet. Jeff Corwin looks at wildlife in the Himalayas and hears about the Yeti, the creature known as "protector of the mountains" who is portrayed in the attraction. Discovery also partnered with Conservation International, a prominent not-for-profit.
Discovery retains full editorial control and paid for the specials, but it did screen them for Disney to check the facts, Bunting said. "These are not infomercials," he added.
The one-week scheduling of premieres was Discovery's call, Potrock said. "They saw the opportunity of the grand opening as an opportunity to put some heat around making this topical," he said.
Disney is playing up the Discovery connection with six huge television monitors at the entrance to Animal Kingdom and also at a media gathering to promote Expedition Everest.
"When the Disney machine gets cranked up, you know what they can do," Bunting said. "We have to make documentaries that people will watch. It's about moving that Nielsen needle. There are solid business underpinnings to this initiative."
The exposure will continue to pay off for Disney long after the premieres.
"These documentaries will be seen many times," Bunting said. "You'll see them as part of the normal documentary rotation through the course of the year. If you're thinking it's one-time use, it's not."
Hal Boedeker can be reached at 407-420-5756 or [email protected]
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