Mousetalgia link


Monday, November 1, 2010

D23: Disney what were you thinking?

For the two or three of you who actually follow this blog, thank you by the way, you’ll notice a change on the side bar.  I am proud to promote the Mousetalgia Podcast from my favorite links to the Useful Research Link (Also newly renamed).

For the last two weeks, give or take a couple of days, my job (IRL) was had me researching the recesses of our computer network storage systems (think bottomless pit of un-cataloged bits and bytes of mostly useless information to most people…) for information on a couple of project.  I know you are all a twitter to know why, but, confidentially is the order of the hour, so…  I don’t think so!  Anyway, you don’t want to know about that really, you want to know why the Mousetalgia promotion? 

Well, this work project is so exciting that the only way to proceed, without throwing myself out of my second floor office window, is to plug in my headphones (earbuds actually) and listen to something in my iTunes.  Happily, having only recently found the Mousetalgia Podcast, I have many previous episodes to catch up on.  Lucky me, really!  So, I’ve been listening to previous podcasts for last couple of weeks to keep me from completely slipping the bonds of reality.  So, running in reverse order, I’ve listened back to episode #58, thank Dave, Becky, Jeff and Kristen for helping to keep my sanity (questionable at best) intact.

But why the promotion, and why the title of this blogisode?

The promotion of Mousetalgia to valuable research resource is a result of the listening to all these past episodes this last week.  The crew discusses interesting topics each week not all of which I agree with, but, which give me avenues to express my opinions here.  It will be motivating to see what I find in the remain 57 episodes, and one’s to come in the future.  The reason for the title of this blogisode is the result of a couple of podcasts discussing D23 events with some questioning of how D23 is run.  These are comments I’ve heard from other D23 members, so hearing it also from the Mousetalgia crew gave me pause for thought.   Thanks Mousetalgia for being both entertaining and thought provoking at the same time.

So, D23: Disney what were you thinking?  Sounds like I’m challenging Disney wisdom in creating D23, right?  That’s not the case, it really is a question. 

I don’t think anyone would argue that the Walt Disney Company has a masterful marketing organization.  I’ve said for year that Disney has an amazing ability to separate guest from their wallets…  But, personally, I don’t seem to mind that happening.  So what’s up with D23?  I was a bit surprised to learn, at the recent Destination D event that the dedicated D23 group at Disney consists of only 7 people.  Now, of course, they rely on many individuals within the company to pull off these events and run D23 day-to-day.  Given what they’ve managed to pull off since they founded of the club a little less than 2 years ago.  But even so, I have heard complaints and comments about this organization not being of a caliber that we have come to expect from Disney.  There seems to be an expectation among the Disney enthusiasts that every Disney endeavor must be the slick big bucks marketing promotions that we get to see every day in the media, otherwise Disney management isn’t trying hard enough.

Being the analyst that I am, and 30 years experience in corporate America, I tend to view things a little differently.  I’ve often heard that my analyses are completely wrong, right up until the point where they prove to be accurate.  We have seen for years the Imagineering prowess of WDI in the theme parks, the creativity of the Studio in movies and TV, and the plussing of the vacation experience through such operations as the Cruise Line, the Vacation Club, and Adventures by Disney.  We don’t give second thought to Disney focusing creative Imagineering efforts to these activities.  So why not apply some of that Imagineering magic to the corporate image?  I don’t think Disney wants D23 to come across as some slick well financed marketing gimmick.  I think they are going for a more organic, home grown feel for the club.    So what possible reason or reasons could motivate Disney’s management to pursue such an operation?

First of all, for years there has been obvious absence of a real Disney presence in the fan base.  Yes I know, Imagineering (retired and current) talents have attended various fan conferences and event, and told wonderful stories of their time working for the Mouse.  But, Disney’s management, by its absence, relinquished much of the control of the corporate image and message to these fan organizations.  Having spent some time observing the Disney fan world, along with some personal participation, I have seen an continuing subtext which tend to deify the man Walt Disney as the infallible creator of the object or our affection.  In the same subtext there is a thread that tends to demonize current management as failing to carry out the creator’s objective.  That’s a message and image hard for anyone to live up too, and is rife with possibility for the conspiracy theorists that exist and thrive in any large popular group.  It is in company’s best interest to find a way to present and preserve the Walt Disney Story accurately with as little negative impact as possible.  Additionally with Disney more recent incursions into the interactive world and the explosion, in recent years, of the online social networking phenomenon, it makes sense for this development of a club environment.  It may be the convergence of time and opportunity but the creation of D23 came at probably the best time possible given all the circumstances.  With the planning of the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, which I believe was created as much too re-humanize Walt Disney as to honor him as the icon that he was, the creation of D23 made perfect sense as a opportunity to humanize the company that Walt founded and built.

Now, back to the original question:  D23, Disney what were you thinking?

I believe Disney was thinking, the true Disney Fans are much smarter and more sophisticated than most people give them credit.  My belief is that Disney understood that a slick, heavily financed and over staffed club organization would have viewed by the true fans as a blatant marketing effort designed to undercut all the other Disney fan groups and organizations (not that there aren’t couple out there that need a little undercutting.)  Having had the opportunity to meet a couple of the D23 staff in person, and being a pretty good judge of character, I believe Disney also knew that the people it chose to run D23 really had to believe in what they were being asked to create, and there, they succeeded without question in my opinion.  While I think Disney recognizes and will exploit the opportunities presented by D23, it is my opinion that Disney understands that there has been a groundswell in demand for real and accurate information about Walt Disney and the company he and his brother Roy founded.  D23 provides Disney with the ability to put that information out, and still maintain some control over the message. 

Is that what Disney was thinking when it created D23?

Your comments or questions are always welcome.  If you have a correction or something you think I should look at in my research, please feel free to contact me at

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