Monday, February 18, 2013

New Media - Convergence of Media/Marketing Disney

This week's reading can be found here. I've decided to use an earlier version of the chapter originally suggested in the syllabus.

This week will focus primarily on the Disney Company. In the construction of the company, there is a merging, or converging, of media. Products market products; Disney products market other Disney products. Can you think of other companies that do this?

Some ways in which Disney cross promotes:

- television shows become parades at the Disney theme parks (High School Musical, for instance)
- movies become rides/movies sre integrated into existing rides (for instance, "Pirates of the Caribbean" was a ride which became a movie, elements of which were then integrated back into the ride)
- rides become movies (The Haunted Mansion)
- accessories (Mickey Mouse watches, for instance)
- costumes for youngsters
- vacations: 2 theme parks in the United States, 1 in Europe, 2, soon to be 3, in Asia
- cruise line
- entertainment becomes media for sale for home use
- the rarity of this media becomes a part of the experience (the notion of the “Disney Vault”)

From 2005-2008, Disney curated something called Disney VMK, or Virtual Magic Kingdom, an onlineenvironment similar to World of Warcraft. A player could collect prizes like virtual furniture for his or her online space, or costumes, or things like Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, items which exist in the real-life theme parks.

There is a continual loop of promotion. All areas of the company point to other areas, in terms of promotion.

What did you think of Pahl’s criticisms? The media-rich environment that Disney presents is interesting. I should be noted that there are various third-party additions to this kind of widespread promotion. These include:

- license holders (Walmart, Dollarama, etc.)
- fans (in the form of fan culture, podcasts, the D23 fan community, actually a first-party promoter)
- multiple television shows that are simply promotions for traveling to the parks

Is there a cultural identity which is worth preserving in the experience of Disney? Or is it too marred by consumerism?

Does the Disney worldview compete with Christianity?

Please note that your final paper needs to be 8 to 10 pages long, not 10 to 12 pages as it mentions in the syllabus.

1 comment:

Phil Wiebe said...

The 'other companies that do what Disney does' thought exercise was actually surprisingly difficult. Nothing sprang to mind immediately; no one really does what Disney does to the same magnitude. I thought first of Lucasfilm (but Disney just bought Star Wars, so, not anymore), or mini-Disneys like Universal or whoever owns the writes to the Harry Potter franchise. Disney sells its brand uniformly - you can always spot a Disney product, whereas with Universal you may never realize that a certain IP was owned by Universal until you go to Universal Studios. The idea of cross-promoting with theme parks, hotels, memorabilia, costumes (even for adults), and vacations sounds like something that would distinctly resonate with Japanese culture. That said, I am not an expert on Japanese mass media corporations; I wouldn't be surprised if Nintendo or SquareEnix or Capcom did such things. Maybe Weyland-Yutani, Acme, or Rossum?

As with his commentary on shopping malls, I am inclined to agree with Pahl's criticisms. That said, I never grew up with either. I'm also not a shareholder in Lutheran theology. I don't think enjoying Disney products is unethical; their corporate ethics may be repugnant and their films and products might come bundled with problematic or even disturbing worldviews, but for that only Disney can be criticized, not the consumer who takes these things in with a grain of salt. I recognize the religious aspects of the Disney experience, and find their presence troubling, but once again, it is the responsibility of the consumer to reject lies where they arise. Of course, "Now, I realize that most visitors to the Magic Kingdom don't understand their experience in these terms. For most, the trip is a simple vacation. But many feel compelled to visit the place, or are drawn to it for reasons they don't fully understand, and some positively get possessed by it." I think this naivete both empowers and defuses this kind of ideological power. While some may be possessed, many will treat the whole thing as a mundane entity, preempting the casting down of idols.

My only real reason for disliking Disney is because I don't think their products are very good; that is all. There may be some cultural identity worth preserving in the heritage of Disney, but as a non-believer from day one I am completely ignorant of it. I don't think it would be a huge loss for the Disney IPs to disappear from the face of the earth. There may have been a time when they mattered, but that time has gone. I don't think Disney is authentically interested in the production of modern classics for the improvement of children.

The Disney worldview might not compete with Christianity, but like Freemasonry, I don't think they're compatible. It requests an ideological buy-in that is too high a price to be made in good conscience.