Fass Talks: Spreading the Magic of Disney

Seshasaye Kanthamraju, Executive Director of Disney Communications & Citizenship in the Walt Disney Company (South East Asia) Pte. Ltd delivered a talk about The Walt Disney Company, on 6th April 2016. “Spreading the Magic of Disney” was organized by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in collaboration with The Walt Disney Company Southeast Asia. According to Yeong Woon Chin, the Research and Executive Administrator for Knowledge without Borders, the main objective of the talk was marketing and branding of The Walt Disney Company among UNMC students.

The Disney Company consists of five major businesses; television, consumer products, mobile and online content and travel and leisure. The company’s television business covers three channels: Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior while its movie business consists of six brands: Disney itself, Pixar, ABC, Marvel, ESPN and Lucasfilm Ltd.

The consumer products business is one of Disney’s most globally expanded operations. These products, mostly targeted at children and pre-teens, range from toiletries, clothing, beddings, bags, stationeries, and shoes to lunch boxes. These are usually dedicated to one particular character and the company’s smallest brand, Marvel, have more than 8000 different characters. With the sheer number of characters in Disney, it is not easy to imagine its level of growth.

With the shift in digital platforms from desktop computers to laptops, tablets and phones, the company aims to drive the mobile and online content business with maximum relevance to the target audience. This includes the production of applications to watch different Disney TV channels online, online games, adventurous stories and interactive puzzles related to different Disney characters.

Lastly, Disney Parks and Resorts provide exciting options for family travel and leisure. This is not limited just to the Disney World Theme parks but also take into account the Disney cruise lines and entire islands which have been transformed into Disney Worlds!

Each company strives to reach the top of the industry. However, Disney also makes every effort to ensure that their work creates happiness. The company guarantees that the happy environment creates magical memories that last a lifetime.

“We create happiness through Magical Moments and Lifelong Memories.”

– Disney’s Vision

When shown clips from cartoons and movies from forty years ago, it brought smiles to the faces of the audience

What makes a Disney product so iconic is the optimism and moral values featured in their storytelling. The morality and optimism the movies and cartoons bring to the audience are some of the most important reasons why Disney acquired Pixar and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Sesha also emphasized that innovation is a major quality of Disney’s products. Among the renowned inventions the company has pioneered are the seven-layer animation camera (designed to improve the special effects of their animated works) and the Disney Magic band – an all-in-one device, which acts as the key to the Disney hotel room, admission of entrance to theme and water parks, and “credit card” during the stay in Disney Worlds.

Dubbing is also a very important industry for Disney. To demonstrate this, a clip of the song “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen which was sung in 25 languages was shown. Disney dubbed this movie in 63 different languages across the world. The audience was fascinated when Sesha informed them that the song was sung by 63 different artists. In order to maintain the quality of the dubbing work, Disney has its own internal company for dubbing, which is known as Disney Character Voices International.

According to Sesha, the core values that should be weaved into every Disney movie or cartoon are family and community; they should not be based solely on the individual. The importance given to the community by Disney is encompassed in three C’s; compassion, creativity and conservation. Compassion stands for bringing happiness, hope and laughter to kids and families in need around the world. In order to achieve this, one of the initiatives taken by Disney was making the hospitals and orphanages a happy place for the children by decorating these places with Disney characters. These decorations made hospitals and orphanages a “Disney World” for the children.

Conservation, as its name entails, aims at conserving nature for future generations. To explain the importance of creativity, Sesha engaged the audience in an activity in which they were asked to make the best paper plane. The activity is intended to encourage the audience to think out of the box and ask questions instead of focusing too much on rules and preconceived ideas.

The game requires the students to make a paper plane and throw it at a target.

The talk was followed by a Q&A session. Sesha was asked what Disney’s plan was after buying Marvel, and if the brands are separately managed. He said that whenever a new brand is acquired, the company never changes the essence of the storytelling of the brand. He cited Pixar as an example, in which the storytelling starts with the phrase “What if?”; what if the toys played behind the door, what if there were monsters behind the door, what if a rat was behind the world’s best chef and what if there was a family of superheroes. According to Sesha, Disney lets the brands make their own content, and the brands are acquired because they target a specific audience and have a certain fan base.

When asked about the failures of Disney, Sesha mentioned that Disney has included the clips from failed movies in the corporate video. This is to celebrate the fact that Disney believed in the story and gave it their best shot. There are some movies which make unbelievably high profit and those are screened for a longer time in cinemas. Since it is not possible to predict which movies are going to work or not, it is important to celebrate failures along with the success.

“We just put our failures right in the front and we say, we like it. That is why we made it.”

Regarding the future of Disney, he stated that instead of following a 1 year or 5-year plan, the company forms a group named Future’s Group which consists of employees from different departments to identify the trends in the market. According to Sesha, it is not important to become number one but to look out and invent for the future.

When a student in the audience asked a question regarding how Disney manages to maintain a balance between optimism, fantasy and realism in all of their works, Sesha’s answer was simple. He mentioned the two famous Disney movies: Frozen and Maleficent. The reality is that the girls of today’s generation are “shoulder to shoulder” with boys who may become their bosses in the future and that nobody can tell them to wait for Prince Charming. He also referred to “pink for girls and blue for boys” as an outdated statement. The world has changed a lot and Disney no longer follows the same style of storytelling. Rather, Disney focuses on being relevant to the current generation by listening to the fans and consumers in designing and storytelling.

Tiffany Tham, a BA (Hons) Education TESOL student, found the Disney’s formula for success in movies to be the most interesting fact about the talk. However, she felt that the talk was rushed throughout and that more time should have been allocated for the talk.

“I personally found the talk more enjoyable than informative and could’ve lasted longer. I did learn a thing or two about Disney as a brand, though I already knew some of the things mentioned, or could’ve known if I just looked it up online.”

– Suzanne Ong, 2nd year English with Creative Writing student

By Suma Khalid Mohamed

"They say that great minds think alike, but also fools seldom differ"

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