In its constant effort to keep spreading the brand, Walt Disney Co. has introduced a digital camera line for children. The new Disney Pix digital cameras are designed for kids and "tweens" and are tied into Disney characters and themes. The new cameras, which start at $19.99 and include Disney branded photo editing software, are actually being made by an Atlanta-based outfit called Digital Blue. The cameras include branded designs around "High School Musical," "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Cars," "Little Mermaid," "Disney Princess" and "Tinker Bell." Meanwhile, Disney-owned ESPN has cut a deal with apparel maker VF Corp. to create sports-themed duds. The first line of College GameDay T-shirts and fleeces will launch this month in department stores, sporting-goods chains and college campus shops.
Backgrounder: All this brand extension may seem second-nature, but Susan Davis isn't pleased with the “Disney Hand,” which is devoted to extending the company name into most everything, including the public schools. Davis, who teaches communication at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, was especially irked when the Disney Channel rolled into her son's school with a 90-minute assembly that was supposed to “help empower students to unleash their creative powers.”
And what did the school get from this? Surely not a gift of 1,000 bucks to put towards pencils, glue and Kleenex—nor toward a new roof. Nope, it got a live appearance by a kid who’s been on TV and some good PR in the local newspaper at a time when the school is at risk for not meeting its Annual Progress under No Child Left Behind for the second year in a row.
And what did Disney get? A little piece of positive association; another school they can mention in their “Imagineer That!” ads and put on their list of charity cases. It’s small, but it accumulates, branding the company bit by positive bit as educational, oriented to community and the arts. This is not unimportant at a time when Disney is being roiled by scandals and takeover attempts.
What bothers me the most about Imagineers’ visit is the idea, endlessly repeated, that the Disney Company knows what imagination is and has a lock on the formula. Through its branding, the company has done a pretty good job of convincing Americans that Mickey Mouse stands for the unfettered mind.