Disney Moves Out Of Comfort Zone With 'Disney Side' Videos And Succeeds

I live among prudes and pedants. After weeks of planning, my "One Night In Bangkok" theme for the little guy's second birthday party was nixed by a concerned group of community leaders. "Inappropriate," they chirped, questioning my ability to concoct a palatable Siam Sunray for the kids and stating that the pachinko parlour attendant costumes "hit the ignorant/racist/culturally condescending trifecta." I still don't know how I'm going to break it to the one-eyed croupier I engaged especially for the occasion.

With only a few days to go, then, we're choosing between a fire truck theme (note to local fire marshals: if you get a call reporting a gas-like odor on my street sometime this weekend, please send out your shiniest, loudest rig) or something Disney-related (Darkwing Duck-branded party plates = reduced wear-and-tear on dishwasher). It looks like it's gonna be the latter, because imagination is expensive. Shame on you all for frustrating my conceptual vision, not to mention the kid's developing interest in adventure tourism. Son, we'll get you that Thailand stamp for your passport yet.



In researching Disney themes, I came to a realization that, for a guy who fancies himself demographically super-hoTTT, stings like only the hardest truths can: I am in Disney's crosshairs. The company isn't just eager to sell me age-appropriate tchotchkes for the kid. No, it wants to plant the notion of a Disney World/Disneyland family pilgrimage deep within my cerebral cortex half a decade before I'm likely to embark upon such a journey. In unusually forward-minded fashion, the company has attempted to hit where I sit: in the broad, bright corridors of the Internet, via a smattering of "Disney Side" brand videos designed to reduce my defenses to a smoldering pile of Air Bud 8: He's a Golfer Now! spec scripts.

The idea here is that each and every one of us, even Idi Amin or Andrea Peyser, has a pronounced Disney side. And ho ho - it's just as easy to get in touch with that Disney side as it is to get one's freak on, and requires fewer catalog purchases.

The thinking behind the campaign is smart and even the tiniest bit quirky, which represents a leap for the historically buttoned-up Disney resort marketers. Sure, two of the clips I watched include overused footage of fireworks erupting up and around the Magic Kingdom. But another features a wiseacre darting around Central Park dressed like a medieval fop, attempting to get unsuspecting passersby to try on Cinderella's bejeweled slipper. The clip has a smiley happy resolution, because of course it does - the guy finds The One and they're magically whisked away to Disney World - but it's a rare piece of Disney marketing that doesn't toe the wholesome-or-die corporate line.

Alas, most of the "Disney Side" clips deliver G-rated personalities and fantastically functional families in biblical abundance. Doe-eyed songstress Tiffany Alvord expresses her Disney side through a cover of "It's a Small World," complete with giggles, adorably extended/retracted tongue and ukulele; after watching it, I spent 18 minutes scrubbing the refined cuteness off my computer screen. Junior-Bieber Mike Tompkins covers "When You Wish Upon a Star," sating the Internet's pent-up demand for suburb-boy beatboxing in the process. Internet pin-up Grumpy Cat, ostensibly assisted by his/her human minders, contributes a clip that might best be described thusly: "cat whose oddly spaced eyes suggest a peevish countenance - a "grumpy cat," if you will - appears at various Disney World locations."

(Separately, whoever's behind this campaign seems to have taken a look at YouTube views and hired everyone with a family- or genial-teen-simpatico fan base. Research!)

Do the saccharine bits within the "Disney Side" clips make me want to find a pretty flower and punch it in the stamen? Sure. But that speaks more to my distaste for the obvious than it does to the content. Disney's marketers try something a tiny eensy little bit new here - again, new for them alone, not for any other brand founded in the last millennium - and it's hard to beat anyone up too badly for venturing out of his comfort zone. The campaign surprised me. That's more than I expected, and more than enough.


Because there are too many brand videos to cover on a week-in-week-out basis, we're introducing a new Video Critique mega-feature: Five-Word Reviews. Brevity, soul of wit, blah blah blah. Enjoy, and send ideas/submissions to me here. Thanks in advance.

"Ad company excels at advertising."

"My groin hurts by proxy."

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