forces of geek, Writing

Disney’s Peripherals

Disney does many things well, like family-friendly movies, theme parks that attract millions of people and reminding us that magic can be a real possibility.

They also do a few things with what must be regarded as an unparalleled finesse and expertise.

Such things include global media domination, turning moderately talented 13-year olds into pop sensations and tapping the unlimited well of character merchandising.

Characters that haven’t been animated in over 50 years still retain a fan base and marketing potential.

Cinderella and Snow White are just a few of Disney’s character elite that have seen a resurgence in popularity, especially with young girls. This is in no small way the result of Disney’s marketing of the Princess line.

The Disney Princesses campaign highlights some of movies’ most cherished princesses, portraying them on equal footing, all the while celebrating their individual appeal. Little girls all over the world have chosen one or more of their favorites and dress up to showcase their love of the storybook world.

“Role models? You betcha! We’ve all got unique qualities that make us strong, female characters. Examples? Well, we can’t think of any off-hand, but we’ll totally get back to you.”

Another successful line is the Disney Villains.

Harvested from various feature films, Disney Villains gives a wink to the devil inside all of us by appealing to our darker side. All Disney fans have a favorite villain, one who is often times more popular than the heroes.

Be honest, Ursula is a far more interesting character than Ariel and Maleficent is way cooler looking than Sleeping Beauty.

Bringing new life into old characters is a Disney tradition. If Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Horace Horsecollar can be revived from the long dormant death of obscurity, then Disney truly has the ability to play God.

In an effort to squeeze every last nickel—er, monetize their vast library, Disney is overlooking what many (Well, okay. So far, just me) believe to be the next big marketing line: Disney Peripherals.

When answers to difficult Disney trivia questions meets millions of dollars worth of advertising, you can be sure that children everywhere will be begging their parents for a shirt with the picture of that character you might recognize but whose name you don’t actually know.

Disney’s Jim Crow. Named, presumably so, after popular actor Jimmy Stewart.

Jim Crow is the cigar-chewing leader of the scatting flock of birds in 1941’s Dumbo.

Remembered for their mutilation of the English language through the use of slang and non-descript Southern accents, the crows became a big part of the animated film, despite only having a few minutes of actual screen time.

Along with Preacher, Straw Hat and Fat Crow, Jim Crow ridicules the little elephant with the big ears for his own amusement. Perhaps being considered on the low rung of the ladder for no other reason than being, ya know, crows, Jim and his friends take some pleasure in feeling superior to another. Eventually, these societal-fringed birds do the right thing when Jim Crow tells Timothy Q. Mouse, “But we’s all fixin’ to ‘hep ya.”

It is Jim Crows who, through the use of “…a lot of ‘chology. You know, *psy*-chology,” helps Dumbo find his confidence and discover his unique ability to fly.

If marketed right, kids around the world will be chewing on discarded cigars and quoting such Jim Crow-ism’s as “You don’ hafta leave feelin’ like dat. We done seen the light. You boys is okay” or “Uh, what’s cookin’ ’round here?”

“Hey, mom. Guess who I am! ‘I’m all fixin’ to ‘hep ya’. Get it? Well, would it help if I painted my face?”

Little girls everywhere may soon be changing their names to Clarice and driving wedges between friendships. In 1952, Clarice appeared as the world’s seemingly only female chipmunk in Two Chips and a Miss.

Clarice was a nightclub performer whose natural beauty and sensual aura turned Chip and Dale from best friends to bitter enemies.

“Hmm, what should I do with my dripping sexuality today? Cause a traffic accident? Make a window washer fall from several stories? Ooh, I know… I’ll break up a friendship!”

Clarice found entertainment and joy in tearing apart the friendship of two males.

When gentlemanly competition turns into a fistfight, Clarice shows little girls everywhere that it is okay to laugh because men are simpletons whose emotions can be played with for your own personal entertainment. Ha ha.

It’s funny because Clarice never really intends to be with either of her suitors, so everyone ends up frustrated and alone. Clarice is a great character for any little girl who enjoys imagining taking her future ex-husband to the cleaners.

“It’s funny because you’ve both lost what little manhood you had to begin with. Oh, that’s rich.”

Coinciding with the real-life baby boom, Mickey Mouse’s loyal dog Pluto apparently had a single progeny.

Pluto Jr. appeared in the 1942 self-referential cartoon Pluto Jr.

Pluto Jr. spends his time getting into trouble and being rescued by his devoted father. Pluto Jr. is a great character for any child who feels like doing something and employs a damn-the-consequences attitude. He makes his own fun, explores anything with an opening and plays with any animal it comes across.

The fact that Pluto Jr. was never seen or heard from again also makes him a poster child (sorry, poster puppy) for death by misadventure.

Whether as an adorable puppy or cautionary tale, Pluto Jr. is sure to be a profitable character.

Pluto Jr. explores the thinnest branch on the rotted tree that stands next to Starving Crocodile Lake.

For those little girls who find princesses uninteresting, one-dimensional or even too representative of traditional gender stereotypes, there is hope.

Disney Peripherals should really focus on Katrina von Tassel as a princess alternative.

Despite a name that suggests the headlining act of a burlesque show, Katrina von Tassel is the buxom love interest in 1949’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (one half of the animated film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad).

“Are you staring down my shirt, Ichabod?” “Oh, god no. I was looking to see if you dropped any of your father’s money.”

Katrina von Tassel is the object of affection of several men in Sleepy Hollow, but Ichabod sets his sights on Katrina after realizing her father’s wealth.

Oh yeah, and her beauty.

Katrina proves that looks can take you only so far. Looks plus wealthy parents, well, that’s the key to obtaining a husband. Sure, she can still be wealthy and beautiful without a husband, but it’s the husband that results in her being “complete” and free of rumors… ugly rumors about Katrina and her roommate friend from college, Alice B. Toklas.

Disney collectors are always on the lookout for the next fun thing and many people (okay, again, just me) believe that Disney Peripherals will be just that.

Let’s be honest. Disney’s successful because we, the consumers and fans, buy their merchandise. We as a buying public are voracious and insatiable.

To Disney collectors, there is no such phrase as, “At last, my collections are complete.”

Viva les périphériques!