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Why Disney is tuning into its musical roots

Even though music is in the House of Mouse's DNA, Disney Channels Worldwide is evolving its strategy to better capture the hearts of the youngest generation.
April 24, 2019

The beat goes on for music-based content in the kids entertainment space, with simple tunes and accompanying visuals playing a major role in capturing kids’ attention. A great deal can be derived from the strategic approaches driving the transformation of catchy little ditties into the sweet refrains of a booming bottom line. In our four-part series, Kidscreen is looking at newcomers like Little Baby Bum and Baby Shark, as well as industry giants like Disney, which are all trying to figure out just exactly how they can get the dough out of the Do Re Mi.

Ever since Adriana Caselotti’s ethereal voice wistfully sang “Someday My Prince Will Come” in the 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney has recognized music’s efficacy in forging the connection between an audience and a story. Fast-forward more than 80 years, and the company is still the master of using music to cement character and narrative.

“Music has always been in our DNA,” says Jennifer Rogers Doyle, SVP brand development and integrated planning for Disney Channels Worldwide. “But as the industry has completely changed, we also have had to evolve our strategies.”

According to London-based independent kids market research firm Dubit, Disney is one of the most powerful music brands around. Dubit’s research shows that 13% of two- to 15-year-olds say they enjoy the Disney brand specifically through music, a number that far outstrips any other IP creator. To further leverage this advantage, Disney launched the Disney Junior Music banner last fall and conducted its own proprietary research that has guided its updated music strategy.

“Moms told us that they wanted Disney Junior to help them navigate the daily touch points of life for preschoolers,” says Rogers Doyle.

That insight changed the focus of Disney’s robust musical offerings from being IP-focused to more holistically designed. Now, tunes are grouped by themes and milestones, such as love songs and lullabies, and the company created a number of playlists that were then slotted on different platforms, such as Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora. The simple shift helped bolster the streaming volume, Rogers Doyle says, pointing to Mickey Mouse Club’s “Hot Dog Dance” song as one particularly successful tune, with more than 50 million views on YouTube.

Disney also found success in adding musical elements to already established IPs and creating new hits like the Doc McStuffins song “Rock-a-bye Baby,” which has been streamed on YouTube more than 38 million times. Additionally, the company is applying its findings to craft similar strategies for its Lullabies and Dance Party brands.

“One of the things moms like to do with their kids is have dance parties, so we are taking that and creating collections for moms under those banners,” Rogers Doyle says. “We want them to see how Disney Junior Music can be something that is not just on TV, but lives on every platform.”

The shift can also be seen through the lens of live entertainment extensions and tours, a key part of Disney’s musical success. While popular live entertainment tours anchored by IPs such as High School Musical, the Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana have been filling venues for years, the new approach means a fresh combo of IPs hitting center stage in the form of Disney Junior Dance Party on Tour.

“The show has all of our characters singing their greatest hits,” says Rogers Doyle. “We wanted it to represent everything on the air. It is one of the first shows that we have ever done that exhibits our whole portfolio.”

The successful tour will be starting its third 40- to 60-date leg this spring, filling 1,500 to 2,000 soft-seat venues throughout North America.

“The beauty of what we do is that everything starts with a story,” Rogers Doyle adds. “We know that telling a strong story over and over again in different ways is what makes a good franchise; all of our music comes back to that.”

Tune in tomorrow for part four of our series on musical moneymakers

About The Author
Gary Rusak is a freelance writer based in Toronto. He has covered the kids entertainment industry for the last decade with a special interest in licensing, retail and consumer products. You can reach him at garyrusak@gmail.com

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