Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In The End It's Not The Years In Your Life That Count. It's The Life In Your Years.

Lincoln's Deathbed in the Petersen House

"A little before seven I went into the room where the dying President was rapidly drawing near the closing moments. His wife soon after made her last visit to him. The death struggle had begun. Robert, his son, stood with several others at the head of the bed. He, bore himself well but on two occasions gave way to overpowering grief and sobbed aloud, turning his head and leaning on the shoulder of Senator Sumner. The respiration of the President became suspended at intervals and at last entirely ceased at twenty-two minutes past seven"
Morse, John T. (editor), The Diary of Gideon Welles (1911)

Gideon Welles served Lincoln as Secretary of the Navy. Upon hearing the news that the President had been shot earlier in the evening of April 14th, he and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton rushed to the side of the stricken Lincoln. Aides had moved the dying President across the street from the Ford Theatre to the Petersen House.

"Die when I may, I want it said by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow."
Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Disney Has Found Its Eighth Dwarf

Once upon a time there were some miners named Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Bashful, and Doc, and, of course, Dopey. They were the Seven Dwarfs that helped to create the Disney Empire. They were short. They were industrious. They were male.

Today, Disney uses a new group of dwarfs to help fashion their empire. They don't have funny iconic names, but they do have eyes that see the obvious and ears that hear the sound of checks being written out to them.

Disney was one of the few animation studios that missed my talented demeanor and droopy-eyed approach to programming, especially boy-centric programming. Now it appears that that boat hasn't so much left me at the dock as sunk in the harbor. Us old diggers who rooted out transcendent ideas as if they were subterranean fungi are now as current as, let me see, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride or the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage. A new breed of creative development executives now gallops across the company's TV landscape: the raging anthropologist and the wily psychologist. Their job: to find out where Disney's lost boys have gone.

The Toon Disney into Disney XD transformation is too complicated and messy to explain in a family friendly blog. I try to remain upbeat and entertaining throughout my writings here. Some news items simply set me down into my own inner space adventures. I'll let this article and this article act as an E ticket ride to bring the reader up to snuff.

I produced more methane reading this particular New York Times article than half the dairy herds in Wisconsin emit in a week. Maybe that's the reason I don't bring newspapers to social events. Apparently Disney TV can't attract boys to its live action and animation programming because… well that's what these new hunters and gathers have been called in to find out. Disney XD has lost its XY.

Disney owned the boys TV market at one time, with Davy Crockett and Zorro and Spin and Marty and The Hardy Boys; but that was so long ago most of America's Interstate Highways were still being numbered odd or even. Those programs were all action-packed, and adventure-oriented, with great characters, plenty of bonehead humor and storylines that made you wish you were part of the proceedings. I wonder if Walt Disney ever asked any of his subordinates to gather themselves up some focus groups to see how long a raccoon tail Davy Crockett's hat should have?

I was part of the Fox Kids team in the '90s that reinvented Saturday morning, developing programming that attracted both genders quite easily. We blew away the competition with Batman, X-Men, Spiderman, Goosebumps, and a re-versioned Beatlejuice. We created the fabled 6-17 demographic, the first time ever that a salesman could sell advertising to such a vast kid market skew. None of us were professional academics, brand consultants, marketing mavens, or long term strategic thinkers. We were rank and file executives who knew story, understood our audience, and most importantly, worked around equally talented writers, storyboard artists, directors, and voice talent. The only time I ever heard the word "focus" was at my ophthalmologist.

Yet now the Rosetta Stone for attracting boys is a ratty Black Sabbath tee shirt. Black Sabbath has been around longer than Stonehenge. I'm not following how Ozzy Osbourne biting off the head of a bat helps configure a show for Disney, but then I don't have a degree in marketing.

If Aaron Stone succeeds, it is not because he is a mediocre hoop player, but rather because he's a normal kid thrust into the role of a superhero – an example of wish fulfillment attractive to both genders. I'm still dreaming of being bitten by a radioactive spider, though lately the only things biting me are villainous creditors.

Forgive me, Lord, for I am about to sin, but I don't know any man who would ever utter something as blatantly moronic as this line: “Winning isn’t nearly as important to boys as Hollywood thinks.”

Really!!!!!Get back to me with various examples because my testosterone-fueled mind can't conjure up one.

Oh, and one other item from this insipid article merits some commentary:

You, the executive VP of Research at MTV: Don't rewrite history! What were you, two years-old when Fox Kids was handing the competition its lunch on barbed wire doilies? We wrote the history on revamping a day-part that was by that time deader than heaven on a Saturday night. You guys just added additional chapters to the logic already established.