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What’s wrong with Disney? Synergy gone wild.

Although the volleys from both sides have decreased, this thing with “it’s a small world” is not over. It’s just the thin shell of a much larger egg. It has nothing to do with the personalities involved, their creative ability, nor their passion for the Disney product. No one is doubting any of that.

No. It has to do with a choice made by someone (or someones) in Disney parks management. A deliberate choice that has many of us worried.

John Nadleberg, who has recently set out with his own blog, summarizes excellently:

Disney is over cartooning their parks, they have been doing it for a while, and although it has been tolerated for one reason or another, it is often not appreciated at all. They are wrecking what were once theme parks with all kinds of entertainments by changing them to ones that have one single type of entertainment.

Movie people originally constructed Disneyland, and in a way, going to a Disney park is very much like going to a multiplex theater to see different types of movies, with each area within the park representing another type of film. This theater has a western, that theater has a horror film, the other theater has a drama or a comedy, and yet another has an animated feature. What they have been doing, and are continuing to do, is turn every single theater in that multiplex into being about animation, and they are doing so with very little artistic integrity. The shows they produce with this mindset are often very poor and poorly received. Shows, such as Soarin’ and Expedition Everest don’t follow this mindset and are their great recent successes.

Yet, they still keep dumping the cartoons in. They are not even paying attention to the negative reaction to the cartooned up attractions that they have already built; they just keep doing it, seemingly without any regard to anything other than their own egos or their marketing department. Is it any wonder that the fan base and the public (as expressed in the Los Angeles Times) are now becoming fully exasperated with them?

I disagree with Jon’s ultimate conclusion that as a division they are creatively bankrupt. But I think Jon’s warning that the big numbers Disney is seeing at its parks right now won’t last forever is dead on.

Something in the way the public gets their entertainment has changed over the last decade. I look at this article submitted for JPG magazine and wonder what it tells us. What is is driving people to get their entertainment at theme parks but to put their local amusement parks out of business due to lack of attendance?

Disney obviously has a theory on this that is, more than likely, coming all the way from the top. Bob Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, has stated repeatedly that his theory is to identify ‘franchise’ properties and then maximize them. It’s all about synergy.

I’m generally in favor of synergy when it comes to nearly every facet of the Walt Disney Company. But there are some areas where a little synergy goes a long way. Disney characters on ESPN, for instance. ESPN The Weekend is a great merging of the two properties. But if suddenly Mickey Mouse was on every episode of Sports Center audiences would click away to Fox Sports (most of the anchors probably would too).

So when it comes down to it, our argument (those of us opposed to adding Disney characters or an America scene), is that “it’s a small world” is its own brand and, like with ESPN, when it comes to synergy a little goes a long way.

Check out this photo essay of “it’s a small world” put up yesterday by ZapperZ. The brand is so content rich, design specific, and layered. In fact, a few months before these photos were taken, Disney ratcheted up the bling, so to speak, layering in extra patterns, richness, and details. I don’t know if that was a restoration to it’s original look or an upgrade. But it is an example of how you plus a brand.

High School Musical has become a great franchise for Disney. We have High School Musical 2, High School Musical 3, Disney has officially announced that a fourth film is already in the works. We have High School Musical on Ice, on stage, sing-a-longs, music videos, and other product up the whazzoo. But what we don’t have, and what wouldn’t sell a lick, is Stitch, Belle, Woody, and the gang. That wouldn’t be a plus, it would be a huge distraction from the brand.

Woody and the Toy Story crew get their own musical on the Disney Cruise line and they get a new movie and a 3D treatment for all three versions. But they don’t fit within the brand that is “it’s a small world”. We’ve had enough of that type of mis-placed synergy. There may be the be a bump, but it’s unsustainable.

2 thoughts on “What’s wrong with Disney? Synergy gone wild.”

  1. I sincerely hope that they recant their decision and remove the Disney characters from It’s A Small World in Anaheim. I’m also afraid of what they might do to the Enchanted Tiki Room there. I heard they added Disney characters to the one in Orlando. Adding characters to that attraction would NOT be a subtle change. If they can commercialize a classic like It’s A Small World, I wouldn’t put it past them to wreck another of Walt’s creations.

  2. Disney has destroyed the whole point of It’s A Small World by commercializing it! They’ve gone way too far this time. Disney characters don’t belong in that ride, or in the Enchanted Tiki Room for that matter. Hopefully they won’t wreck that ride in Anaheim.

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