Monday, July 19, 2010

One Family's Bold Experiment: A Year Without Disney

Earlier this year, CCFC was ejected from its home at the Judge Baker Children's Center (JBCC.) Judge Baker’s decision to end its affiliation with CCFC came after representatives from the Walt Disney Company contacted the Center following CCFC’s successful campaign to persuade Disney to offer refunds on its Baby Einstein videos. The story touched a nerve with many of our supporters, including Lisa Ray -- activist, blogger, mother, and founder of Parents for Ethical Marketing:

What kind of a country do we live in, I thought at the time, where a multi-billion dollar corporation can encroach upon a tiny advocacy organization and the people who work for it? Is the family friendly Disney so ruthless that it must control public criticism? Who else is at risk for speaking out against corporations?

Thinking out loud I said to my family, “I wish we could boycott Disney. But I don’t think we can. They’re too big.”

My 12-year old heard me and suggested we should at least try. Her thought: “A year without Disney.”

A year without Disney? Is it really possible in this day and age, given the ubiquity of Disney’s vast media empire? I asked Lisa more about her family’s decision to forgo the Mouse for a entire year.

Q: I love the fact that the impetus for a Year Without Disney was, in part, your (and your daughter’s) reaction to the story of CCFC’s eviction from Judge Baker Children's Center. What was it about the Disney/JBCC/CCFC story that upset you so much?

A: I was upset that Disney chose to defend themselves publicly instead of engaging in the conversation. I was upset that Disney chose to offer those refunds but refused to say that that had made a mistake. But I was most upset that they would unleash their corporate lawyers in order to squelch any attempt at criticism. I felt violated, as a CCFC supporter. I mean, who does that? How is that even a good business practice? And it says a lot about the power of corporations in our society today. It scares me.

Q: I know your concerns about Disney began long before the events of last fall. Can you talk about which aspects of Disney’s marketing machine trouble you the most?

A: Several things. I'd say its presence everywhere. You cannot get away from Disney. The way other companies buy into the licensing because they know that Disney characters sell, so when you are buying for kids, there are always items with the latest Disney character slapped on it. As the mother to two girls, it was especially hard to avoid the Disney princesses on everything. My youngest adored them (she did not know who they were so only called them "the three ladies”), but when we started seeing them show up in the grocery store, that's when we instituted the "no licensed character" rule in our house. Don't get me started on the roles of girls (helpless) and women (nasty/cruel) in the princess stories. Last, I'd say I don't like how Disney has co-opted and altered stories. So many families don't know that many Disney stories are not original and that the true stories have so much more depth and meaning. (Those are some of the things we're hoping to uncover over the year.)

Q: You’ve said that you didn’t think you could boycott Disney because they were “too big.” And in the course of preparing for YWOD, you’ve discovered they were even bigger – your website includes a pretty impressive list of all the properties that Disney owns. Were you surprised by any of it? What’s going to be the hardest to give up?

I was surprised by the number of online properties they have (NFL.com? Really?). The movies will probably be the hardest, along with Hulu. But I really see it as an opportunity to look deeper for something else to watch.

Q. When CCFC launched a campaign around the Unilever Axe/Dove hypocrisy, many people were surprised to find out that these brands were owned by the same corporation. And some even argued that even if they were they were, Dove and Axe were separate brands that had nothing to do with each other. Why is important to make the connection between a corporations various brands and properties?

Just some random thoughts here. Profits are still made by the parent company, so separate brands have a lot to do with each other, even though they may have different audiences. The bigger issue for me, for Disney at least, is to realize that we won't get a diversity of options if Disney owns the magazines, the television stations, the radio stations, the websites, the book publishers. And with all that money behind them, smaller companies don't have a chance to compete in their marketing world. So again, we have to put so much effort into finding anything else.

Q: What do you hope to learn from your Year Without Disney? What do you hope your children gain from the experience?

I don't really have any expectations for what I hope to learn. I'm trying to remain open. For my girls, they've already learned how to find out what company makes a product (since we've had to check everything in our house, practically). They learned just how many things one company can own and how that affects the variety of entertainment opportunities they're offered. I hope they learn that they can survive -- and maybe even thrive -- by doing without something.

Q. It’s been two weeks without Disney so far. How’s it going? Any surprises? Anyone feel they’ve missed out on anything?

We had been talking about this for a couple months beforehand so some of our boycott started earlier. We had to send back one Netflix movie without watching it. At a family gathering, someone suggested the kids go to a movie and I had to talk quickly to steer away from the Toy Story 3 discussion. Probably the most difficult is the rule that the kids do not need to follow the boycott while at friend's homes. My 8-year-old ended up watching quite a bit of Hannah Montana at someone else's house, and when I picked her up she told me she felt guilty (both for violating the screen time rule and for watching Disney). That certainly wasn't my intent and I felt absolutely awful. So we've had more discussions about differences at other people's homes.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

I hoping that others will join me! At lease to eliminate some Disney in their lives and report back on how it is going.

To follow Lisa's family's progress, cheer them on, or let them know how you've downsized the mouse from your life, vist http://www.yearwithoutdisney.com/. You can also contact Lisa at lisa(at)parentsforethicalmarketing.org.

40 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I hated Disney's marketing practices to young children even before I had kids, so once we had children, my husband and I decided we would ban Disney from our lives (we have the same ban against McDonald's). It has not been difficult. We have always talked with our children about the reasons we don't buy Disney or McDonald's, and they are well-versed on the subject. All of my daughter's friends know she hates Disney princesses. It has been a wonderful way to teach our children about ethical marketing and the insidious ways companies try to sell to parents through their kids. My children were able to absorb these lessons as young as 2 or 3. I remember my toddlers going through a supermarket pointing out all the cartoon characters on boxes of food, saying "Tricks! Tricks!" because we had told them that those characters have nothing to do with the quality or taste of the food but are there just to trick kids into wanting the food and that truly healthy and good-tasting food doesn't need to use such tricks. It's never too early to teach our children to be smart and ethical consumers.

    ReplyDelete
  3. There is more and more discussion about the health effects of wireless technology and non-ionizing radiation. Even the American media can't stop the snowballing of one study after another that confirms the devastating health and environmental problems we will soon be facing if something isn't done to reel in this nightmare. Enough is not being done by cities, counties, states and the Federal Government. What is being done is everything to shield the telecoms from responsibility and liability. Initially cell phones were released with no pre-market safety testing. Health studies were suppressed and the 4 trillion dollar a year industry was given a pass with no consideration of the carnage that is and will be facing us. It is said that city governments are "not allowed" to discuss health issues when licensing the placement of towers. They should anyway. Is it not the moral and legal obligation of our governments to look after and protect our health and welfare?? When did this become an obsolete concept?
    On it's face, the 1996 telecommunications act is unconstitutional, a cover-up and a license to kill. A cell tower is a microwave weapon capable of causing cancer, genetic damage and a host of other very serious health problems. The telecoms are shielded from "health concerns" as a valid consideration when challenging the location of a cell tower. Free speech? We don't use it anyway. "Health Concerns" why? What do they know and when did they know it? The Government and the Military have known for over 50 years that radio frequency is harmful to all biological systems. Bees, bats, humans, plants and trees are all affected by it. While people complain about cell towers going in next to schools we allow the school board to install wi fi in all the schools and irradiate our kids for 6-7 hours each day before they go home and let their parents finish the job with DECT portable phones, wi fi and Wii's. A tsunami of cancers and early alzheimer's await our kids while the Portland School Board won't even consider adding to the health curriculum information on "safer" cell phone use and the dangers of wireless technology. We teach about alcohol, tobacco, drugs and safe sex but not about cell phone use. Young people under the age of 20 are 420% more at risk of forming brain tumors because of their soft skulls, brain size and cell turn over time. We are in a wireless trance and many scientists are in a state of panic as they see this thing expand with no safety testing or public education programs in place.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  5. CCFC Should Join in on the fight to keep kids from using cell phones and from being advertised to. The carnage that is coming will be like nothing we have ever seen. it will make tobacco and asbestos seem like the common cold. check out wirelesswatchblog dot com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Disney has NEVER been as innocuous as its marketed itself to be, consumers are just more savvy these days. I applaud this decision, though I think the real heat will come not from limited choices, as that can be accommodated and adjusted to rather quickly. Its the peers/peer parents who wig out when you say Disney is the devil. Disney has done such a thorough job of brainwashing, I mean look at the vastness of their empire, that when you speak against Disney publicly, YOUR looked at as being subversive.
    In the end whats important is the kids learn to think and scrutinize about what surrounds them.
    Today's kiddy sandbox is global, and you bet Disney knows this.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Cell phones do not cause cancer and can not cause cancer. Microwaves do not have enough energy to break chemical bonds and mutate DNA. To do that, you need UV or higher energy (x-ray, gamma ray).

    I am no fan of cell phones, but this "cell phones cause cancer" stuff is pure lunacy. For more info, google Bob Parks.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  9. As a way of steering the discussion back to a Disney-free life, and the great effort of this family to live w/o Disney, I wanted to suggest that kids' birthday parties are often the hardest time to have a Disney-free experience. The Disney company has such a stranglehold, that it is hard to find decorations and party favors free of their characters. Some creative party ideas are definitely in order. Does anyone know of a source for such ideas? I did a fruit and vegetable themed party last fall for my 7 year old twin girls, and it was quite a hit. We had a 'name that vegetable game' which involved lots of (to me) common veggies like eggplant and cabbage which were anything but obvious to many of our guests. We also were going to have a relay race using our fruits and veggies which would have been passed as fast as possible by two teams into two different baskets, but the weather got rainy so we couldn't. Any other suggestions?

    Janis,

    Provo, Utah

    ReplyDelete
  10. Re electrosmog effects on the human body check this out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7E36zGHxRw , blood tests before and after using computer or mobile phones result in clotting red blood cells (responsible for oxigenation of the blood)in rouleaux formation, same as in the cancer patients. As for the mobile phone masts and cancer, court in Brescia, Italy (thanks to neurosurgion and two neurologists that helped in appealing and winning the case for the claimant that sued for 80% disability due to getting brain tumours while using mobile phone at work for hours)http://www.mast-victims.org/index.php?content=news&action=view&type=newsitem&id=4518. Jeff J can find at least 4 videos on youtube where kids have fun making popcorn by surrounding the corn with 4 mobile phones and activating them at the same time. As for the Disney ban, I can only applaud it, theres plenty subliminal messaging going on there, here is just one video with a few examples http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFBSEibIi8w

    ReplyDelete
  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Indeed a very interesting blog. Read a pleasure. Cognitive information that is very good.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Its very best and useful company , The Disney company has such a stranglehold,

    ReplyDelete
  14. I could tell that we’re on the same interest and obsession. Good to know someone I could share my ideas. Looking forward to know and learn some more from you. I'll be glad to share my own thoughts to you soon. Thank you for sharing such valuable articles. More power!

    ReplyDelete
  15. You have a very good blog that the main thing a lot of interesting and useful!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I really want to go to Disney Land. . .It is really great in there . . .

    phone spy software for the safety of my phone.Android phone locator for the tracking of my location.
    android gps apps locator and tracking my route.

    android tracker also a tracker for my gps.

    track cell
    track a cell phone
    track cell phone location

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thanks for sharing the information!
    I found this article very interesting and informative!
    Keep sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Very significant article for us ,I think the representation of this article is actually superb one. This is my first visit to your site.


    the best seo company

    ReplyDelete
  19. Very interesting thanks. I believe there's even more that could be on there! keep it up

    ReplyDelete
  20. Indeed a very interesting blog. Read a pleasure. Cognitive information that is very good.

    ReplyDelete
  21. If you want to buy xanax online then I think you are at right place mycare pharmacy is one of the best pharmacy . Here you can buy medicines at very cheap rates as like buy ritalin online and many more .

    ReplyDelete
  22. You can find all types of mobiles in pakistan at one place .
    Nokia , Blackberry ,Samsumg and all the other mobiles are available here .

    ReplyDelete
  23. Its very best and useful company , The Disney company has such a stranglehold,

    ReplyDelete
  24. I have no words to appreciate this post ..... I'm really impressed with this post .... the person who created this post was a big thank you man .. for sharing with us.

    ReplyDelete
  25. What I discover difficult is to discover a weblog that can capture me for a minute however your blog is different. Bravo.

    toronto limo rentals

    ReplyDelete
  26. You are a Great while writing in the blogs it is awesome I liked it too much good and informative thanks for the sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  27. You will be missed.The one place where as a venue and fan I could search by
    what ever perimeters I chose .Good Luck with your future endeavors.

    ReplyDelete
  28. It’s good to see this information in your post, i was looking the same but there was not any proper resource, thanks now i have the link which i was looking for my research.

    ReplyDelete
  29. You will be missed.The one place where as a venue and fan I could search by
    what ever perimeters I chose .Good Luck with your future endeavors.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hi! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and new initiatives in the same niche. Blog gave us useful information to work. You have done an amazing job!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Brilliant post and useful information…I think this is what I read somewhere…but
    I don’t know with your experience...
    |Testosterone Booster|Natural Weight Loss|

    ReplyDelete
  32. we promise that you wont suffer from any anxiety or pain. See more stuff as well

    ReplyDelete
  33. It was very useful for me. Keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. This was actually what I was looking for, and I am glad to come here! Thanks for sharing the such information with us



    buy curcumin

    ReplyDelete
  34. I have a presentation incoming week, and I am on the lookout for such information.
    Natural Colon Cleanser

    ReplyDelete
  35. Your blog is really excellent. It inspires the readers who have that great desire to lead a better and happier life. Thanks for sharing this information and hope to read more from you. Great information…


    natural suppliments

    ReplyDelete
  36. ]we prefer to honor many other online internet sites on the internet, even if they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Under are some webpages really worth checking out

    ReplyDelete
  37. Hi! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and new initiatives in the same niche.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I love this post! Thank you for the nice information on non-touch screen handset. This is definitely good.

    ReplyDelete