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Disney’s Monopolization of Tween Market

1 Dec

Disney’s monopolization of the tween market is undeniable and unavoidable when considering the entertainment for that age group. Disney selects a few tweens to develop into stars, and shapes them into celebrities that will dominate the market for them to profit off of.

One article depicts this phenomenon in a very concise way. Boorstin and Wheat discuss Hillary Duff’s progression through the ‘Disney machine’ in their article, “Disney’s Tween Machine.” Disney caught her when she was only 12 years old and featured her in a weekly series called “Lizzie McGuire”. Disney also aired the show every Saturday on a sister network, and published twelve books featuring Lizzie McGuire, the character which Hillary Duff played. The television show started to air every day, and Disney put out a soundtrack to the series, as well as dolls, notebooks, writing utensils—everything imaginable. Lizzie was a hit! Lizzie McGuire was also linked to a clothing line featured at Kohl’s. Later, a Lizzie McGuire movie and soundtrack were released. Although it is not completely certain, “it’s reasonable to assume that the amount (Lizzie has earned for Disney) is nearing $100 million.” Hillary Duff became an empire in the tween market. How could anyone compete with ‘Lizzie McGuire’? No other company has the amount of power that Disney does to be able to cross market, and invade every aspect of a tween’s life like that.

The modern day Lizzie McGuire is following right in Hillary Duff’s footsteps. Her name is Hannah Montana, performed by Miley Cyrus, and her franchise exceeds that of Lizzie’s. She put out a movie, through Disney of course, titled, “Hannah Montana: The Movie”. According to the Wall Street Journal, “it opened in the U.S. with $34 million in ticket sales over the Easter weekend.” Disney has also put Miley Cyrus through this tween celeb machine, and succeeding in their main goal—raising profits. In Ray Waddel’s article, “Touring: Rock Solid”, he presents a chart with revenue figures from various celebrities tours. Miley Cyrus enjoyed $34.7 million in total gross, while performing to almost 350,000 tweens in only 23 shows. That smells like a Mickey Mouse monopoly.

Boorstin, J. & Wheat, A. (2003.) Disney’s Tween Machine. Fortune. Retrieved November 30, 2010, from http://web.ebscohost.com.silk.library.umass.edu:2048/bsi/detail?vid=3&hid=104&sid=88fd5d56-79e0-4e3b-90fb-4868bbf78438%40sessionmgr111&bdata=JnNpdGU9YnNpLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#db=buh&AN=10856938

Wall Street Journal. (2009.) ‘Hannah’ Movie takes top spot in box office.Vol 253, Issue 85. Retrieved November 30, 2010, from http://web.ebscohost.com.silk.library.umass.edu:2048/bsi/detail?vid=10&hid=104&sid=88fd5d56-79e0-4e3b-90fb-4868bbf78438%40sessionmgr111&bdata=JnNpdGU9YnNpLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#db=buh&AN=38126414

Waddell, R. (2010.) Touring: Rock Solid. Billboard. Vol 122, Issue 29. Business Source Premier. Retrieved on November 30, 2010, from http://web.ebscohost.com.silk.library.umass.edu:2048/bsi/detail?vid=10&hid=104&sid=88fd5d56-79e0-4e3b-90fb-4868bbf78438%40sessionmgr111&bdata=JnNpdGU9YnNpLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#db=buh&AN=52476198

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Maybe Disney’s Not So Bad…

1 Dec

It’s not a secret that Disney gets a lot of scrutiny for its virtual take over of our society. Children and adults alike seem to be obsessed with the Disney name and all that it has to offer. Disney is often ridiculed for being too fantastic and overly optimistic, but this may not be such a bad thing. In his article “Disney World as Structure and Symbol”, author David Johnson portrays Disney in a slightly better light than its critics.

Johnson reminds his readers that Disney World is a foundation of shared culture for people all over the world. In a day and age where the world is scary and unpredictable, Disney serves as a safe haven where people of all different ages can go retreat into their own fantasy for a while. The thematic images of work, leisure, and play, that Disney displays in their parks are familiar to the public and allow people to identify to their own lives while still getting the chance to escape. 

Johnson, David M. (March 5, 2001). Disney World as Structure and Symbol: Re-Creation of the American Experience. The Journal of Popular Culture. November 11, 2010. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.0022-3840.1981.15412157.x/abstract

 

An Anthropologist’s Inside View of Disney

22 Nov

Anthropologist Jean Baudrillard decided to take a closer look at the Disney parks. Digging deeper than just observing how the parks run on a day to day basis, Baudrillard has discovered some important, not so talked about secrets Disney tries to keep hidden. Through her research she has come to discover that the “real” that Disney portrays is just and illusion of real. Disney has the ability to alter human desires, and uses techniques to make us believe that we not only want but NEED them and their products. At this rate, Baudrillard believes that there is no reason why Disney wouldn’t take over the human Genome. However, Disney is not alone in this process. It is part of a much larger conglomerate of society today that tells us how our imagination should work, and instructs which technologies to use and how, and makes us believe that we will not be functional members of society if we stray from this path. According to Baudrillard, we are no longer spectators, but extras in a world of virtuality.

Baudrillard, J. (1998). Disney World Company. Temporary National Theatre. November 9, 2010. http://temporarynationaltheatre.dk/TEXT/DISNEYWORLD_COMPANY.pdf

Disney… Does the Fun Always Shine??

14 Nov

Beginning at a very young age, people all over the world are taught about the magic and wonder that Disney and its parks have to offer. We are told all about these places that will offer us a Utopian sun filled vacation, and we are persuaded to crave the carefree atmosphere that comes along with the parks and all that they have to offer. Bombarded by images on TV, on the Internet, in films, on billboards, in stores, on the sides of buses, etc., it is difficult to not desire a trip to one (or all) of the Disney Parks. But is what we’re hearing through the media and pop culture really accurate? How much of what we are led to believe really holds true?

The feelings of excitement that often accompany a first time visitor to a Disney park is quickly interrupted by the commodity-crazed market that Disney has become. Although this has an affect on all visitors of the parks, adults and children are affected by this in very different ways. For example, Disney theme parks appeal to couples with the promise of an erotic fling- an exciting romantic get away where they can re-kindle their relationship. Instead, what they are offered is an environment that is homogeneous, regulated, and controlled. There is no individuality involved. Instead a thematic, generic package that is shared by most visitors. In reality, the Disney parks are at the end of the day highly commercialized spaces that offer unrealistic expectations for not just adults, but children as well.

Children are led to believe that visiting a Disney Park will bring them to a more colorful, imaginative world. Disney combines fantasy and fun, and offers what seems like a world of endless opportunities for young children. For little girls, there is nothing more exciting than meeting your favorite Disney princess live in person, and what little boy doesn’t dream of the day where he can shake Peter Pan’s hand? It is this side of Disney that reels the public in, and has made the Disney Company so successful. What we don’t see in these picture perfect images though, is the power, politics, and ideology that lie behind these ideals.

It is certainly safe to say that “fun” at Disney parks is being had under conditions. Any emotions or experiences one may have at the parks are shaped carefully by the consumer aspect of the company. While Disney remains at the center of our culture and society, as well as a staple of childhood for many, it is important to remember that Disney has a tremendous amount of power, and their monopoly over public space can not be underestimated.

Disneyization

14 Nov

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to notice that over they years Disney has become more and more influential on our society. Between TV, movies, video games, restaurants, and countless other merchandise, Disney is everywhere. Disneyization explains the process by which the Disney theme parks have managed to dominate more and more sectors of society.

There are four main components to the term: theming, dedifferentiation of consumption, merchandising, and emotional labor. All four of these areas play a huge role into the tremendous success of the disney theme parks, each one as important as the next in order for the company to succeed.

One of the most exciting parts about the Disney Parks is their theme. The magic of Cinderella’s castle, and the comfort of Winnie the Pooh’s tree house are what draw us in. Walt Disney began using coherent themes very early on to ensure his parks were special. He was able to achieve this goal creating attractions such as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (which is Wild West theme), and Space Mountain (outer space theme). Throughout the years Walt has maintained these themes and has been a HUGE influence on the spread to theming restaurants, hotels, and shopping malls. Restaurants such as Hard Rock Cafe, and Planet Hollywood were created as a result of theming, and have been tremendously successful.

The Disney Parks ability for massive sale of food and merchandise is thanks to dedifferentiation of consumption. When forms of consumption with different institutional spheres become interlocked with each other they become increasingly difficult to distinguish. One thing I never realized was the convenient locations of restaurants and food stands next to the most attractive rides. It also never occurred to me that most of the attractions require you to forcibly walk through a gift shop both on your way in and out of the ride. It is no secret that Disney knows how to merchandise. Their parks provide sites for selling the vast amounts of merchandise they have come up with over the year, and allow them to sell their name in any way possible. This technique has been extremely profitable for the company.

The fantasy and success associated with the parks have encouraged many people to dream of jobs working there. To ensure that their employees worked as smooth and their parks run Disney even opened the Disney Institute, a form of a university that’s sole purpose is train their employees to attract and sell. To ensure that their guests have the best experience, Disney Park employees are required to make sure that they constantly play the their role. The more the public buys into the magic and the excitement of the park, the more likely they will spend long days there and bring their families back for years to come.

Disney remains one of the most powerful industries in the entire world. Their parks especially have had a major societal and economic impact. I still wonder though, has Disney lost focus of what was once a wholesome family relaxation destination, and created what is essentially the mecca for consumption and indstrialization?

Disney’s Beauty Ideal

14 Nov

Disney Stars

Carol Lieber and Temple Northup wrote a very insightful summary of their research on Disney Channel programming, titled, “The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful: Beauty Ideals on Disney and Nickelodeon.” They gathered information on the characters starring in these shows, and what types of messages they are sending to young children –girls in particular. The ways that most of the popular shows are set up reiterate the “beauty is good” ideal. To begin, they found that most characters were white and thin. They did not report even one overweight white character. The creators of the show did not hold African-Americans to the same ideal. (1) Lieber and Northup write, “An exception to this ‘thin ideal’ is found in portrayals of African Americans, with television characters revealing a much larger range in body sizes.” Reflecting on the Disney shows I used to watch, this is completely true. Raven-Simone in the television program, “That’s So Raven” represented a larger African-American teen girl. Aside from this, most of the main characters were roles played by thin, white teens.

Another division of their research included breaking down the characters on these shows into different categories like valley girl, girl next door, brainiac, athletic and classic beauty. Most of the characters fell under the categories classic beauty and girl next door. Both of these categories do not have any valuable positive traits. They are both sort of average, pretty girls. On the other hand, brainiac attributes the person with intelligence and athletic attributes the person with talented physical ability, agility and fitness. These were the two least rewarded categories through the lens of the show.

Of course it is difficult not to be influenced by the images that tweens are being bombarded with today. Lieber and Northup summarized this point perfectly, “in this media drenched world they are growing up in, it is difficult if not impossible to escape certain media messages”. The Disney franchise is especially persistent with cross-marketing and guerilla tactics which make their images of beauty far too available by the most vulnerable people in today’s society. Like everyone else, young girls develop values and ideas of the real world as they grow up. Looks are very important to most people today. It is reinforced by the media; then people internalize the values and spread them. It is a vicious cycle that can be very dangerous. Eating disorders and anti-social behavior can arise from these types of societal strains. For those being marketed to, these images can turn into serious problems because of the pressures to fit in. It is worthwhile to consider the beauty ideals promoted in th classic Disney movies: thin, primarily white, and lacking a dynamic personality. Disney’s beauty images are now being carried through to real, more relatable starlets. The photo featured left shows two of the most popular Disney stars – Miley Cyrus and Ashley Tisdale. They both represent the beauty ideal of being thin and white teens.

(1)   Lieber, C., & Northup, T. (2009). The Good, the Bad & the Beautiful: Beauty Ideals on Disney & Nickelodeon Channels. EMBSCO Host. Retrieved November 14, 2010, from http://web.ebscohost.com.silk.library.umass.edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=4&hid=107&sid=fb8508ac-f31b-4b60-89d7-17acec080af8%40sessionmgr104

Disney World… A World in Itself

4 Nov

Since Disney World opened its doors in the 1970s the park has grown to become a center of our society’s culture. This 35 billion dollar empire attracts millions of visitors each year and consists of vacation resorts, theme parks, water parks and thirty nine hotels.

Disney world alone amounts for most of the jobs  in Orlando, and did you know it is the largest single-site employer in the United States? People travel from all over the world to visit Disney and get lost in its fantasy. It is amazing to see what Disney World has become and it is exciting to see what this ever growing “land of fun” will come up with next.