Carleen Hawn, editor of Found|READ has two columns up that look at the effect Disney’s purchase of Club Penguin will have on the kids it entertains. First she looks at if the sale will end up exposing Club Penguin’s members to more advertising. The answer is that Club Penguin will remain ad-free, but that kids will now be exposed to ads if they visit Disney-com on their way in or out of the site. Hawn’s other point in the first article is that this purchase shows the Mouse House has lost its creative edge.
I think it’s admirable that Disney, the supposed “#1 site for kids and families” (despite having botched Toontown) is now “learning from Club Penguin,” but this rather confirms my suspicion that the House of Walt is no longer a house of creativity.
Having invented animation, the company had to buy Pixar to stay competitive in it for goodness sake. The single exception might be the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise – but that’s a derivative product line anyway, and we all know it will be remembered for its box office records, not its wan contribution to artistic invention.
Yes Disney is having to buy talent and creativity. But if you look closely they’re often buying back the talent that the Eisner administration let fly the coop. John Lasseter, for instance, would have preferred to practice Walt’s art of animated storytelling at the Disney Studios, but Eisner showed him the door. Many of the gaming companies purchased by Disney have founders that used to work for Disney or have dreamed of being an imagineer. Once these groups are brought back into the fold, I think that, except where marketshare is crucial (as is the case with Club Penguin), Disney will now return to their original role of nurturing in house talent.
In her follow up article posted on her own site, Hawn asks if Club Penguin could have gone on without the purchase or did they have a ‘fiduciary duty’ to accept the best offer. This ties into a lot of questions being asked around many industries as private equity firms run around buying up businesses looking for some financial aid.