Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Disney – The Evil Empire?

I used to work with a guy who called Microsoft “The Evil Empire” because he felt they permeated personal computers subversively. I used to think of Google in the same way. I’ve softened a lot to both Microsoft and Google since they both seem to be putting more tools and information available to people – for free.

But I’ve always thought of Disney as the definitive Evil Empire, and now I’m convinced. Disney has a reputation for great theme parks (Disneyland, Disney World), great kids movies, and great kids entertainment. Where Disney gets “evil” in my opinion is what I see as aggressive merchandising to kids in ways that may not be so obvious.

The biggest Disney offender of late is Hanna Montana, a Disney-created children’s TV series. It features the fictional character Miley Stewart (played by Miley Cyrus, the real life daughter of singer Billy Ray Cyrus), who by night is the famous pop singer Hanna Montana.

It sounds innocent enough.

Once you add the Disney marketing machine to the mix, however, it becomes obvious that this innocent-sounding television show is just a vehicle to deliver Disney’s “crack” – the toys, the games, the concert tickets. My niece asked for some Hanna Montana toys for Christmas, and when I went looking for them, I got a bad case of sticker shock. And while I’m on the subject of sticker shock, there’s the Hanna Montana concert tickets. Recent sales of these tickets created a stir and outrage with parents when it was revealed that some ticket agents found ways around Internet ticket buying safeguards in order to grab up huge number of tickets, and then reselling them for anywhere from $600 to $3,000 in some cities. Some individuals sold them on eBay for hugely inflated prices. And parent, trapped by the Disney marketing machine and their desire to placate their kids, would pay just about anything to get the tickets. (Many did.)

I don’t blame Disney for all this. But I do blame Disney for being so active in permeating our kid’s minds for the purposes of creating almost insatiable desire in some children to just have all the “stuff.” OK, almost every kids movie these days has marketing tie ins, but Disney seems to have been doing it the longest and may have very well helped to fuel the trend. And that trend only gets more ingrained as parent take their children to Disney World or Disneyland, and when they have children of their own they take their kids, and so on.

So while I jokingly call Disney “evil”, I suppose they are just doing what everybody else who tries to make money is doing – creating desire for something that maybe you don’t really need. And that’s really not evil; it’s just the American Way!

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