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Unauthorized Movie Shot at Disney Parks; What Should Disney Do?

25 Jan

This week at StudiosCentral, my Jentasmic! column addresses a movie that’s getting a lot of internet buzz and prompting discussions of intellectual property rights:

There’s been a lot of buzz on the internet about Escape from Tomorrow, a film which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this week. The film was shot primarily at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, without permission from Disney; cast and crew filmed surreptitiously, mostly with handheld cameras. It tells the story of a man slowly losing his mind during the course of a day at Walt Disney World, after receiving bad news by phone in the early part of the day. It’s certainly not anything that a reasonable person would confuse for an actual Disney product. (Of course, like most people who aren’t at Sundance, I haven’t seen the film.)

Head over to StudiosCentral to read the rest. (tl;dr: I don’t think Disney should do a thing.

Jentasmic! on Lucasfilm Acquisition: Do’s and Don’ts for Disney

2 Nov
Minnie Mouse as Princess Leia

At Star Wars Weekends 2008

When news broke earlier this week about Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, all my geeky internet feeds simultaneously exploded with joy and surprise. And I don’t just mean the Disney geeks. The anime geeks, the gaming geeks, the sci-fi geeks . . . everybody was freaking out. And almost everybody seemed overjoyed.

But I’m feeling a good bit more cautious about this acquisition. Sure, it could mean good things; I’ve enjoyed the results of Disney’s collaboration with Lucasfilm over the years. I’m a big fan of Star Tours 2.0, and had a great time at Star Wars Weekends. But I also fear there are many ways this could go wrong. From my Jentasmic! column today at StudiosCentral:

DO learn from your experience in the Pixar merger. The response to Brave from both critics and fans, plus the increasing reliance on sequels, has me a little worried that Pixar may be losing its identity as some of its key players have taken on significant roles in other areas of the Walt Disney Company. And I’m sure there’s plenty to be learned from the Marvel experience as well. Don’t be afraid to look squarely at your mistakes and learn from them. It’s equally important to look carefully at what you’ve done right, so you can do it again.

Head on over to StudiosCentral to read the rest. I promise you there’s a non-gratuitous mention of the Star Wars Holiday Special, which isn’t usually all that easy to pull off.

Marketing Fail: Princess Tiana for Watermelon Candy

7 Mar

From clutch:

This week’s failure at good common sense in product marketing comes courtesy of a batch of Disney princess-themed Valentine’s day candy that pairs Sleeping Beauty‘s Aurora with vanilla flavored sugary dipping dust and Tiana from The Princess and the Frog with the watermelon flavor.

Wondering why this is a problem? Colorlines and Sociological Images (warning: disturbingly racist imagery) have the scoop for you, far better than any explanation I could try to provide.

Why You Should Oppose SOPA, and Let Disney Know

22 Dec

Anybody familiar with the history of the Copyright Term Extension Act (aka the Mickey Mouse Protection Act) should not be surprised that Disney’s supporting SOPA, the very bad no good ready-to-break-the-internet Act on which the US Congress will resume deliberation in January.

You don’t believe that SOPA’s really all that bad? Maybe you’ll listen to Adam Savage of Mythbusters:

These bills aren’t simply unconstitutional, they are anticonstitutional. They would allow for the wholesale elimination of entire websites, domain names, and chunks of the DNS (the underlying structure of the whole Internet), based on nothing more than the “good faith” assertion by a single party that the website is infringing on a copyright of the complainant. The accused doesn’t even have to be aware that the complaint has been made.

Okay, he’s a TV star. Maybe you want something a little less glossy, like perhaps the Stanford Law Review (not usually my go-to site for internet technology discussions, but they distill this one quite nicely):

Directing the remedial power of the courts towards the Internet’s core technical infrastructure in this sledgehammer fashion has impact far beyond intellectual property rights enforcement—it threatens the fundamental principle of interconnectivity that is at the very heart of the Internet. The Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) is a foundational block upon which the Internet has been built and upon which its continued functioning critically depends; it is among a handful of protocols upon which almost every other protocol, and countless Internet applications, rely to operate smoothly. Court-ordered removal or replacement of entries from the series of interlocking databases that reside in domain name servers and domain name registries around the globe undermines the principle of domain name universality—the principle that all domain name servers, wherever they may be located across the network, will return the same answer when queried with respect to the Internet address of any specific domain name. Much Internet communication, and many of the thousands of protocols and applications that together provide the platform for that communication, are premised on this principle.

Or, well, my spouse, who writes on internet security for CIO:

SOPA and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), another piece of legislation, both want to crack down on internet pirating – a goal every bit as laudable as the measures themselves are flawed. The bills would require companies to monitor user content, limiting the use of pictures, video and audio and other media. One problem that is it is pretty much impossible to tell the difference between an ISP interfering with a connection because of a court order and a hacker interfering prior to an attack.

The US House of Representatives lists both ABC and “Disney Publishing Worldwide” as supporters of SOPA. It’s not clear to me how to contact their offices; when I tried the number listed for them on Gizmodo, I had a lovely conversation with a receptionist in upstate New York, after which I was convinced that Disney’s support of SOPA is coming from somewhere other than this small local office. Which, of course, would be consistent with the fact that many other companies on the list are essentially part of Disney (ie, ABC, Marvel, ESPN). So, I’ve directed my comments through the Disney Corporate Citizenship feedback form, and invite you to do the same. Here’s what I wrote:

The US House of Representatives web site tells me that Disney Publishing Worldwide is a supporter of SOPA, HR 3261 (http://judiciary.house.gov/issues/Rouge%20Websites/SOPA%20Supporters.pdf). SOPA poses threats both to the First Amendment, and to the fundamental technical underpinnings of the Internet.

As a regular consumer of many Disney media channels, parks, and products, and as a US citizen and voter, I ask that Disney retract its support of this act.

And if all this opposition to SOPA is for naught? For all the technical and legal problems SOPA would cause, certain of its intrusions would be surprisingly easy to get around. Download this episode of GeekNights now, on Circumventing SOPA. You’re welcome.

(And hey, am I the only one who noticed that the House.gov URL above includes the phrase “Rouge Websites?” I know they mean rogue . . . but it makes me think SOPA is targeting Sephora.)

Disney Acquires Togetherville: Smart, and Maybe Creepy

25 Feb

Togetherville main pageDisney acquired the Togetherville social networking site this week, which is probably a great move for profits, and convenient for parents of young kids. But it also raises all sorts of red flags about potential data-mining privacy violations. From my StudiosCentral Jentasmic! column this morning:

Remember that rumor some time back that characters in the park might someday remember your name and your number of previous visits, based on data stored in a specialized wrist band? Well, if this were integrated with Togetherville and Facebook, Mickey might also happen to know that you hit a new high score yesterday on Pixel Purge, and that your Dad’s sciatica has been acting up.

And of course, let’s not forget that anything ABC or ESPN knows, Disney knows. So, Mickey might want to know what you thought about the last episode of Grey’s Anatomy that you watched last night on your web browser, or the Celtics game.

I remember in the early dot com wave, you could tell who the most powerful person in the room was, because usually he (yes, usually he) would be wearing board shorts and flip flops to the executive committee meeting. Today, I’ll bet you can tell who the most powerful person in the room is by figuring out who has the least (true, personal) information available about them online.

Gay Characters? Disney Channel Needs a Lesson from Buster Baxter

15 Feb

AfterElton has a fascinating interview with Disney Channel President Gary Marsh, on the topic of gay characters on Disney Channel shows. The topic is introduced by this quote from Marsh, from 2008:

“Well, just to speak sort of in the 30,000-foot level first, we don’t deal with sexuality on the Disney Channel in general. That’s just sort of not where our audience’s head’s at. They’re really a pre-sexual audience, for the most part, and so sexuality is not how we look to tell any kind of stories.”

I’ll echo AfterElton’s sentiment: It’s not meaningful to talk this way about same-sex couples. For example: How is it not sexual for a kid to know he has parents of opposite sexes, but somehow sexual for him to know that some other kid has parents of the same sex? And hey, why isn’t it sexual when Zack and Cody are ogling all those girls?

The article goes on to make it clear that Marsh is okay with characters on the Disney Channel being widely interpreted as gay, but that those characters won’t ever be coming out in any way.

We leave it up to our audience to interpret who these characters are and how they relate to them. It’s great that this child has interpreted [Shake It Up! character] Gunther [as gay] and that it speaks to him in a way that makes sense for his life. And that’s what we’re trying to do — create a diverse cross section of characters on television that kids can have different access points and entry points to connect with.

It’s like the Hays Production Code all over again: You can have gay characters, they just can’t be identified openly. (Of course, Disney’s moved quite a bit forward from Hays, in that gay characters don’t have to die horribly at the end of the story, or suffer in silence — they can go on to Julliard instead.)

I can’t imagine the Disney Channel budging on this issue anytime soon, due to what I’m sure they perceive as market pressure. So, is it better to have coded gay characters like Ryan Evans, who’s widely interpreted as gay but may convey the message that it’s not okay to be out? Or is it better to only have clearly heteronormative characters on kids shows? I’m not satisfied with either option.

When my home state began recognizing same-sex marriage, many people felt that the world would fall apart somehow. But as the years have rolled by, it seems like less and less of a big deal (except, of course, for those whose marriages are now recognized, for whom it is enormously important). If mainstream television networks like the Disney Channel had an openly gay character now and then, perhaps the social order wouldn’t really be rocked for all that long? After all, glee‘s been pretty darn successful (in some part because of a fabulous openly gay character), and many parents already shun Disney Channel for being a bad influence on their kids, and ban it from the living room (just look at these google search results).

Yeah, an openly gay character on the Disney Channel would probably make executives and stockholders a little nervous. But I can’t help but wonder if people were nervous when my grandfather was lobbying for Bill Cosby to be cast in a leading role in I Spy. Sometimes change makes you nervous. Too bad.

And hey, if you’re looking for an example of an excellent (and thoroughly non-sexual) portrayal of lesbians in a children’s television show, this clip from Postcards from Buster is for you:

“Boy, that’s a lot of Moms!”

Another Contract Extension for WDW Cast Members

8 Jan

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

A second round of mediation between Walt Disney World and its largest labor group ended Friday with little movement on either side.

But Disney management and the Service Trades Council did trade some new offers and agreed to once again for bargaining on Feb. 10.

(Hat tip: The Disney Blog.)

So . . . since there’s more than a month before the next round of bargaining, let me reiterate my suggestion: If you think Disney should provide better compensation to their Cast Members, let them know. I’ve provided a link to Guest Services and the text of my own email to Disney in yesterday’s post.

Do I think that a flood of emails to Disney will result in immediate improvements of Cast Member wages? Sadly, no. And I don’t think I’m gonna be able to trigger that kind of flood, anyway. But at a minimum, at least I know I spoke my mind, and (perhaps better yet) some Cast Member in charge of reading through Guest comments might be glad to know some Guests care.

If you haven’t already watched Mousetrapped 2010, you might want to check it out now. I’m sad that so many of the people making the magic for me are under such financial duress. I also try to keep it in mind when I’m in the parks (or calling Guest Services), and try to be a little extra kind to those who are making the Parks so magical for me with such little compensation.

And if you’re moved to contact Guest Services yourself, why not also spread the word to a friend? We’re all in this massively connected online Disney Digerati these days, so tweet it out, Facebook it, whatever. Will Disney change its ways? Probably not. But maybe we can make a Cast Member smile, somewhere.

Can’t Tell the (Disney) Players Without a Scorecard

5 Sep

Honor Hunter of Blue Sky Disney has created a couple excellent cheat-sheets for those of us who might confuse Ollie Johnston with Eric Larson, or somehow even forget who Ed Catmull is.

Those with opinions on Tony Baxter (or wishing to form some) will want to read the comments on the Suits vs Creatives post fer sure.

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