Overhauling Disney

LOS ANGELES — The Walt Disney Company, concerned that its main Web site is not entertaining enough, is moving once again to overhaul Disney.com.

It will be the second recent makeover for the company’s marquee site, which is still the top Internet destination for children’s entertainment but faces increasing competition from players like Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and WebKinz.

The changes, scheduled to take place over the next few months, will introduce more free video to the site (including full-length movies like “Finding Nemo”) as well as more games and things for visitors to do with their cellphones. For instance, little girls (or bigger ones) who create fairy avatars in a virtual world called Pixie Hollow will be able to use their cellphones to create pet butterflies for their fairies.

“I’m going to want to use my phone to feed and love my butterfly all the time,” said Larry Shapiro, executive vice president for mobile content. “That kind of emotional vesting is what we’re after.”

In Overhaul, Disney.com Seeks a Path to More Fun – NYTimes.com (via Kidscreen)

As always – passing along that article to you.

I look forward to Disney.com’s overhaul. They’ve tried some interesting things, but I never seem to swiftly enter Disney.com without getting some message about updating apps to see their nifty 2.0-ness, or getting inundated with ad-insanity – from commercials to flashing ads to loud noises that i can’t figure out how to turn off. Then there’s the whole HUGE-OCITY of Disney, and how to find what you’re looking for.

Like I said, they’ve done some cool things in the past, and in the last year they’ve really started to get a strong footing on their web presence/virtual world/immersive experience. It will be fun to see what innovative stuff they dream up.

As for the phone & Pixie Hallow? Sweet. I’m not quite sure how well the phone tie-in will do (considering the age demo is a bit younger to be carrying around a cell), but that doesn’t mean anything. Kids are in contact with cell phone tech these days, thanks to stressed mom + grocery store + bored kid in cart + cell phone of activities to cure said-boredom.  If it was a parent & child combo adventure into Pixie Hallow, that would be AWESOME.  Why?  Cross-convos about tech (kids teaching parents, parents teaching kids, opening conversations about the Pros & Cons of web availability) and role modeling proper usage.  Fingers crossed those brazilliant minds behind PH have thought about the possibility they have here for opening up conversations about cell phone internet use & the awesomeness of parent & child play with new tech.

I honestly think that these kind of multi-platform avenues into the virtual experience are valuable for the future of the market (I mean, look what it’s done for facebook, I check my facebook on my phone daily).  But to think of cell phone use on virtual worlds for youth as something different – like twisting the whole concept of virtual world on it’s side (your av lives and breaths with you, where ever you go).  They’ve been doing a lot of this stuff for teens & VWs & profile sites for a little over a year now.  But for the tween demo?  Not really cracked it yet.  Pixie Hallow might just be one of the first to step forward with an avenue in…

But then again, that pulls me into the conversation of “should an 8 year old have a cell phone? …seriously?” Cell Phones denote a certain level of self-responsibility. Parents give cell phones to kids to keep in touch with them while out of parental range. My question is – if you’re not watching your 8 year old, are you expecting the cell phone to be a parental replacement? Or did you leave your child in the care of a capable adult? And if you did leave your child in the hands of a capable adult… WHY AREN’T YOU CALLING THAT CAPABLE ADULT WHO IS IN DIRECT CHARGE OF YOUR CHILD? Sigh.  I only freak because when working with after school kids, we had this problem.  Parents just calling their kids from the car, saying “I’ll meet you outside”, and the kid would just walk out the door without so much as a toodaloo, sending us into a chase & panic thinking the kid was making a clean break for it.   Again, sigh.

Alas, Technology is way cooler than my silly traditional thinking (or my boring safety mindframe), and if it came down to a cage match between cell phones for tater tots vs traditional childcare, sadly… I think the latter would be cake batter.

Perhaps there’s a middle road. Fingers crossed. Parents just buy cell phones for “shits and giggles” for their gigglin tater tots, and said tater tots can use the web on their phone to do all sorts of lovely web surfing without the annoying eye of a parent. Sounds like fun, right?  *Scoff*

Hopefully Kidzui & Kajeet will form some sort of power alliance and help block inappropriate web surfing from phones for 11 and unders. Time will tell.

Ramble, ramble, ramble. Back to the top, go for simplicity, Disney. The easier it is to just look & understand your hugemongous entity, the more people you’ll have sticking around. Cheerio and all that jazz.

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