Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Disney on TV

Disney Channel is a premium-only service. Here in the UK, it is available on all three major premium TV services (Sky Digital - Satellite; Virgin Media - Cable; and Tiscali TV - True TVOIP).

Which is fine of course. Available to us are The Disney Channel UK, Disney's Cinemagic and Playhouse Disney, as well as their various Plus Ones and whatever. I think there's room for more. We'll get to that later.

We also get ABC 1 (A strange name, there is only one ABC channel here. Sky used to name their primary channel Sky One for similarly vaporous reasons, though they have since added a Two and Three). ABC 1 however is not a premium channel and is freely available, even on our Free-to-Air digital terrestrial service Freeview.

Freeview has but three children's channels. The rebounding CBBC serves CBBC and CBeebies (A channel for younger children in the vein of Playhouse Disney), whilst the moribund CITV is a waste of good bandwidth.

For you to fully understand the true sorry state of free children's programming in the UK and what Disney has to do with it, first you need a history lesson on UK Children's TV over the last decade or so.

In 1998, ITV relaunched their dominant CITV segment with a return to presentation. CBBC had been once again ailing for a period of a few years, bolstered only by a later finishing time and shows like Blue Peter and Newsround. CBBC's programming was characterised by some kids as being stuck up and not fun.

CITV had hits like evergreen favourite The Sooty Show, surprise hit Bernard's Watch and game shows like Finders Keepers and Fun House.

CBBC did have hit cartoons like Count Duckula and low profile cultural hits like Around the World with Willy Fog - an imported cartoon based on Around the World in Eighty Days, but overall, the wind was in CITV's sails.

A year before CITV relaunched, CBBC fell victim to the BBC's corporate rebranding. The CBBC logo was switched from a fun, colourful number to a boring black on yellow affair. The studio, previously anarchic with pictures and children's letters everywhere became ruthlessly modern and was stuffed with transparent "fun" gimmicks which ended up never being used other than at their introduction.

However, CITV was being poorly managed by the men upstairs. That it was still successful was down to the creative genius of lower ranking producers and managers.

Truth be told, things went wrong first in, yes, 1998 when ReBoot - a show with adoring fans - was axed. Management were not as in touch with he audience as their hits might suggest.

From 2000 onward, the production quality of CITV's shows deteriorated at an alarming speed. There were hits, like My Parents are Aliens, but on the whole the output was sub-par. To make matters worse, popular foreign cartoons Digimon and CardCaptors were axed despite their potential to be critical shows for boys for example.

But even British hot property Sooty felt the pain as producers clearly struggled o put together a consistently high-quality show on what was clearly too little money. Fans balked at a disastrous move in the last season to attempt to redesign the puppets and - in two cases - the characters.

The final season was nowhere near the "The New Sooty-era" peak of quality Sooty Heights which managed to match or surpass its predecessor, the final "The Old Sooty-era" series.

Things have gotten worse. CITV has moved to channel only - there is no CITV segment on ITV1 any more and CITV no longer produces its own shows - even My Parents are Aliens is gone. CITV now relies entirely on bought programming.

CBBC meanwhile has surged ahead, redesigning itself in 2002 and largely walking away with the market as CITV struggled to stay afloat. CBBC used bought programming like Mona the Vampire and surprise cult hit Arthur to lure kids over and those same children were then led into watching shows like Tracy Beaker and the sublime Jeopardy.

The heat-death of CITV is a shame. ITV were Disney's partner for free-to-air programming - to the point of co-branding quirky Saturday and Sunday morning show Diggit, which aired Disney shows like Recess, Pepper Ann and Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. This show replaced the older Saturday Disney.

CBBC has since relaunched again in a format more similar to their mid-nineties days. But the quality of the programming is ebbing slightly and some shows come across as increasingly aged. Blue Peter for example has never been closer to death. They did score a hit with an international co-production Shoebox Zoo.

The death of high profile free-to-air Disney programming (Toonattik, the lousy replacement for Diggit's lame replacements Diggin' It and Up on the Roof, still broadcasts Disney cartoons) has got me thinking. Why can't Disney offer a free Disney Channel?

It could run reruns, use some of Disney's archive of cartoon hits (Which are currently being under-utilised in my view) as well as live action classics like the Honey I Shrunk the Kids TV show.

Disney Channel 3 (As I'm going to refer to it) could have ads to support it, after all CITV was/is ad-supported, so why not? It would give wider access to Disney content and it wouldn't be a particularly difficult operation to run.

As to that 3...Disney Channel 2 should be a second channel, tandem to 1 (The current Disney Channel) which shows more cartoons. Kids do still like cartoons as well as live action sitcoms, Disney Channel 2 would be an outlet for new animated shows so live action production would not have to be cut back.

So firmly do I believe that a free Disney Channel on Freeview could be a smash hit, I would happily run it myself with payment being tied entirely to viewing figures, with no viewers meaning no money. I think I'd make a fair bit of money.

Not that I expect Disney to just e-mail me with a job offer. I'm simply making a point.

That being said, if Disney did want me to work for any part of Disney Channel UK (Aside from things like cleaning before you start) I would say yes, even to an assistant's job. In fact, I hope to take up such a position once I'm out of uni.

Working for Disney would be a dream come true ;)

Anyway, to put it simply, I think Disney needs to offer a free way for kids to watch Disney shows in the UK other than ITV's ailing weekend output. Even a segment on ABC 1 would be good.

But for crying out loud, schedule it as a 4-6/7 thing, after school when kids want to sit down and relax in front of the TV. Do not dump it in the early morning, a lot of kids like to sleep in, especially in the UK and make sure you keep the Saturday Morning cartoons tradition alive as well.

Jens Out

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Where should Disney be building Parks?

If you're anything like me, when you heard that Disney were opening a resort in Hawaii, you started grinning uncontrollably. Reason being, Hawaii is one of my most desired holiday destinations outside all the Disney Parks. And now that there's going to be a Disney Resort there, I have twice the reason to visit.

But it got me thinking. Where are the future Disney Parks going to be? And what could be some possible locations?

The more credible rumours I've heard suggest Disney is planning an Australian Park and a Mainland China-based one. Australia is a logical choice, Oceania is a major gap in the market and it makes sense to put a Disney Park somewhere not geographically close to any of the others.

China is a tad disappointing. There is some logic in the move - there are a vast number of people who could visit a Chinese Disneyland - but owing to the fairly recent opening of Hong Kong Disneyland and the presence of TokyoDisney, some were hoping for some expansion elsewhere.

And so, to the potential candidates. Debunked rumours suggested a South American Resort was in the near future, an idea which has cropped up several times.

Yet, it's difficult to see how this could work. South America isn't really known for it's infrastructure and most of the continent's major cities are jam-packed. It would have to built in a rural area - and the public relations nightmare this would cause would be unbearable for good old Mr. Iger.

I myself believe Disney should open a park in Spain, possibly near Barcelona or elsewhere on the coast.

Indeed, a similar idea was presented whilst Disney were planning what eventually became Disneyland Resort Paris. The idea has a number of advantages, especially now.

A second resort would give EuroDisney SCA a better income. And it could also serve the burgeoning Disney Cruise operation. Building the Resort right on the coast would allow Disney to build a dock exclusively for the ships, offering a permanent port of call for European cruises - Europeans could board in Spain rather than America.
Perhaps this could even form a seaside-themed land. It's an idea with legs.

One bizarre rumour I have heard, which I think may have been spawned as pure speculation and as such is probably based on pretty much zero evidence, is that Disney (Or more likely EuroDisney SCA or one of the other Disney subsidiaries) might buy The Tussauds Group - comprising a number of UK attractions including theme parks like Alton Towers. However, the recent sale of the business to Blackstone - who rolled it into Merlin Entertainments, has put the proverbial kibosh on that idea.

I must confess, I'd also like to see Disney open one more Resort stateside. Perhaps in Central America, perhaps not. However, I believe this is not currently in Disney's plans, so I shan't hold my breath.

Where would you like to see Disney expand to?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Disney to expand Mobile Venture to Japan

ZDNet, via Reuters, has it that Disney is to go into partnership with Japanese mobile phone carrier Softbank in a move moderately similar to the existing Disney Mobile service stateside, though it sounds like it may be more focused on downloads than that particular venture.

Reuters suggests that this move will spark increased saturation in an already crowded Japanese market. My interest is more in the idea that Disney is finally taking its mobile venture international.

Here in the UK, virtual operators are prevalent - Tesco, Virgin and the Carphone Warehouse all operate virtual networks - Tesco for example on the dominant O2 carrier.

As such, it piques my interest that at some point soon, Disney may move into the UK Mobile network. As a die hard Disney fan, that excites me.

Hit up the link for more details.

Jens Out

Saturday, October 27, 2007

HD-DVD Vs. Blu-Ray: A Consumer and Entertainment Value Comparison

In this cross-blog feature, I'm taking a look at the optical media format war currently raging across the world.

Optical media is currently dominated by the ubiquitous Digital Versatile Disc, DVD. The DVD was in the right place at the right time, smashed VHS thanks to better pricing, better quality and more features.

It also schooled the older CD standard in the data optical disc market, thanks in large part to an increase of over 300% in per-layer capacity. Most households in the West now contain at least one DVD player, many have several. Additionally, most computers ship with one or 2 DVD drives.

But with the HD era approaching and the capacity of the DVD not really sufficient to hold enough content at HD to justify the effort - never mind the increasingly bloated size of video games - a new standard is needed. 2 competitors have emerged to take this role.

HD-DVD, Toshiba and NEC's direct successor to the DVD (In name only, it is technologically different) and the one endorsed by the DVD Forum and Sony's Blu-Ray Disc.

Both have upsides. In this part of my cross-blog feature I'll be looking at the discs from the perspective of consumers as well as at their value as an entertainment distribution model.

The movie industry has put a lot of weight behind Blu-Ray, including the object f this blog's focus, Disney. But were they right to do so? Well, yes and no. it depends on what's more important to you as a consumer.

The studios chose Blu-Ray because, as I outlined in the first part of this feature, it is technologically superior. On paper, it's an obvious choice.

With higher storage capacity studios can put more HD Content on one disc, which is a plus that one would have difficulty in reasonably ignoring. Disney, for example, are able to release the High School Musical 2 Extended Edition in HD and add more special features without adding any more discs over the DVD release.

This creates possibilities for consumers which are universally good - less disc-swapping chief among them. But there is one thing Blu-Ray doesn't do well for consumers - relax their wallets.

HD-DVD players and in some cases discs are comparatively very low-priced. Players can be had for as little as £115 for the Xbox 360 branded USB model and even standalones run as little as £200 - compared to a starting price for Blu-Ray players of around £300 for the PLAYSTATION 3.

Speaking from a consumer's pointof view, it's easy to choose HD-DVD.

But from an entertainment-lover's view, it's difficult to choose one over the other. A bi-partisan approach would be best. get both, then you can't lose.

All Your Time Are Belong To Us: The Technical view
All Your Disney: A Consumer and Entertainment Value Comparison
All Your Time Are Belong To Us: It's Not That Simple

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Disney Stuff Pictures Update: PJ Mickey W/ Teddy

Hey guys, just a quick one with a picture of the stuff I bought in the Disney Store yesterday.

Disney Store

So I visited the Leicester Disney Store yesterday. I had been told that the stores had lost a lot of their magic, but I didn't really get that impression myself. I was impressed with the size and layout. There was a lot of stuff in there, but it didn't feel cramped.

I do agree that the old mountain of cuddly toys will be missed, but I suppose it was never that efficient for finding the one you wanted anyway. In larger stores, I suppose a compromise between it and the shelves could be reached. But at the end of the day the shelves provide faster, easier access to the toy you want, so they probably should win out.

The decoration of the store was quite impressive too. The areas all match the properties they apply to and there is not an inch which is not colourful. The carpet is marvelous and unique, the walls a joy to behold.

The service was also exquisite. There's not a cast member in there who didn't have a smile on their face. One got the impression was was surrounded by people who loved that they were in this place. They also seemed to be very well trained with the young lady who served me expertly boxing what I was buying in a few seconds and only 1 try. It took me multiple tries and significantly more time to mimic her when I was resealing the box later.

I was also pleased to see that the big screen playing Disney musical numbers which I remember delighted the young me was still in use, in this case pumping songs from High School Musicals 1 & 2 - as well as a couple of older songs from cartoons if memory serves - all around the store. I caught myself miming along a couple of times and I wasn't alone.

Looking around as I was being served I saw a young girl delightedly handing over a collection of coins in exchange for some Mickey Mouse shaped Chocolate Lollipops. She was quite clearly on Cloud Nine and the Cast Members were sharing in the fun. Watching this take place, I could really see the famous Disney magic a work.

There are cynics who say The Disney Stores are corporate greed at its best. They're wrong. However frivolous you think the products, or whatever opinion you have on the pricing, you're missing the point. The Disney Stores bring the magic that little bit closer to the children in all of us.

Jens Out

PS: I was buying the Pajama-Wearing Mickey with a Teddy if you were wondering.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Some pictures of my Disney Stuff

Hey guys, here's some pictures of some of my Disney merchandise, including the Cars Phone.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Cars Lightning McQueen Animated Character Phone

I recently bought the aformentioned phone for use as a VoIP phone on my desk. I must say, Lightning looks right at home sitting there in front of my monitor and beside my PDA.

The USP of the phone is that instead of simply ringing when a call is received (Though that is an option), Lightning vibratesas if limbering up to race and delivers phrases from the film.

Phrases like "Kachow, kachow, kachow", "I am faster than fast", "Speed, I am speed" and "Now that's what I'm talking about".

There are five in total and a press of the Demo button, located by the handset cable port, plays all of them including some vibration.

The handset itself is the top of Lightning. The area from his bonnet (Hood) back to his spoiler comes away as the handset. On it are the obligatory 1-9-0 # * as well as Redial, Recall and Mute buttons plus a volume High/Low switch and a Cars logo.

The handset is surprisingly comfortable to hold and the buttons all have nice feels and are easily readable - even the corresponding letters on numbers which have these.

The phone looks very neat, most likely a result of it being a compact phone with a unique form factor. It's also a surprising accurate model of Lightning, including - as far as I can tell - all of his sponsor stickers, matching is body shape exactly and basically just looking, for want of a better word, right.

I'll update later with pictures and details on how good it is as a phone.

Jens Out

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Vanessa could still stay

Disney have said that they are "sticking by Vanessa" over the issue, but have not confirmed her involvement in High School Musical 3, as they are still involved in negotiations with talent for that release.

This is looking good, but I for one am keeping my eye on things. Vanessa needs to be confirmed for High School Musical 3 at least before I'll stop watching things closely.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Vanessa Anne Hudgens

Below is an open letter from me and anyone else who wishes to sign it in the Comments to The Walt Disney Company regarding news that they may drop Vanessa Anne Hudgens from future High School Musical productions.

Dear Board of Directors, Management of The Walt Disney Company/Disney Channel Worldwide and all other involved parties,

I have heard the news about a nude picture of Vanessa Anne Hudgens surfacing on the internet and that as a result, Disney is considering dropping Vanessa from future productions in the High School Musical franchise.

I would like to emphatically suggest you show leniancy in this case. Vanessa has said that the picture was a private matter and that she did not wish for it to appear in public. I for one believe her and you should too.

And either way, Vanessa is a fantastic role model and a very down-to-earth, nice person. She has earned her good name and Disney should do everything to help her maintain it - not help soil it.

Besides which, dropping Vanessa would be a huge mistake. High School Musical is a global cultural phenomenon. And Vanessa is a central part of that. There is no question over whether future High School Musical productions will be as successful if Vanessa is replaced. They will not. So financially, it's a mistake.

And that's not to mention the public outcry Disney would surely face.

Dropping Vanessa is neither justifiable or clever. As a die hard Disney Fan through-and-through, I would hate to see Disney make the huge mistake of ending Vanessa's involvement in the High School Musical Franchise.

And who's to say the cast would go along with this move? If Vanessa goes, one could imagine Zac Efron walking. Ashley Tisdale might be next and what is there to guarantee Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu and Monique Coleman would stay?

And without the whole set, there's no franchise to continue. No record-breaking profits. Nothing.

Disney has chucked away profits before - refusing a potentially lucrative deal with Hilary Duff over a slightly late response, turning down hits like Survivor and CSI, but we're past such monumental mistakes and into a time of wisdom. Like buying Pixar or allowing movies and TV shows to be bought from iTunes. Let's not make dropping Vanessa Anne Hudgens the crowning screw-up of this renewed era for Disney.

Vanessa Must Stay.

Paul Douglas

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Welcome to All Your Disney

Welcome to All Your Disney, my new blog dedicated to all things The Walt Disney Company and it's related subsidiaries and owned brands.

As some of you will know, I am a huge Disney fan and would like very much to be a Cast Member. On this blog, I will chronicle both my dealings with Disney and my thoughts on its products and so on.

Anyway, to kick things off here is a reprint of my recent preview of the music of High School Musical 2, first showing on Disney Channel September 21st here in the UK.

I simply must get Disney Channel by then...

I recently previewed the music from the sequel to Disney's smash hit High School Musical. High School Musical 2's not showing until next month over here, but it's alreadys et records Stateside.

Anyway, the music. I gotta say, I loved the music of the original, but I felt it was artificialy bolstered by a reprisal and the Album by a couple of "alternative versions". The music in this sequel is almost all the equal of the best of the original. And there's more of it.

From the upbeat "What time is it?", a catch number as good as or better than the original's "Stick to the Status Quo" and "Breaking Free" to the spectacularly fun "You Are the Music in Me", High School Musical 2 is full of hits.

But it's not just the "catchy" numbers that are fantastic, "Gotta Go My Own Way" is superb, better than "When there was Me and You" from the original in every way.

Another standout is "All For One", a number similar in content to the original's "We're all in this together". It is equally as fun and catchy as its predecessor.

To summarise, whatever you thought of High School Musical (I myself thought it was delightful), High School Musical 2 is both its musical superior and a standout musical in modern times.

At least give it a try.

Jens Out