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Learn with Mickey! More disturbing brand diversification…

Learn with Mickey! More disturbing brand diversification…

Animators + film makers x corporate genius / brand power + emerging economy = Disney English schools. Just what the heck is going on here?

July 8, 2010 6:49 by

Disney is to dramatically ramp up the number of schools it operates, according to the latest news reports.
What? Just hold the phone a second. Did Kipp miss something here? Have we wondered into a cinema with a magic ticket, and found ourselves sucked into the movie world through a vortex? Or is Disney really an educational foundation that just strayed for a few years into animation and movie making? Yes, it must be that. Kind of like Lamborghini makes tractors, or Peugeot makes salt and pepper mills.
The Financial Times reports that the Disney company plans to expand the number of English schools it provides in China from 11 to 148. The ambitious drive would see Disney providing English training to 150,000 children a year by 2015 (On a side note, we wonder how many English speaking kids are learning Mandarin or Cantonese. Not many, we can safely assume).
Kipp is supremely worried about a Disney run school, and suspicious about just what attendance might entail. Beyond the obligatory Disney pens, pencil cases and bags (which cost a fortune, by the way. We went to Disneyland once, and visited a Disney store, and vowed never to have kids), will students have to spot a Mickey or Mini t-shirt? Or is that out-dated, is it now all High School Musical characters?
Which could explain how this twisted situation came about, actually. The producers of High School Musical, while making the film, thought: you know what, this is a cinch. Let’s start a real school. So they did. The fact that Disney has identified Shanghai as the location for its next theme park probably never came into it. But it begs the obvious question: Somewhere in China, are there schools full of immaculately dressed, attractive, pure-as-the-driven-snow kids, singing and dancing along to all Disney’s favorite hits?
All joking aside, Kipp has major doubts about schools run by a mega-brand on a profits basis. Apparently Disney doesn’t share them.
“It is a very sizeable opportunity, something that can deliver operating earnings of well over $100m in the next five years,” says Russell Hampton, president of Disney Publishing Worldwide. “We wouldn’t enter this business just to use it as a marketing tool to get Disney in front of people,” he adds. “But there’s no doubt that a side benefit is broader exposure to Chinese consumers and to build familiarity with the rich heritage of Disney storytelling.”
All those cartoons we saw as kids, when Donald Duck’s eyes turned into dollar signs, now seem so ironic.

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