Disney Mans Up

May 19th, 2009 | Sources: NY Times


The Walt Disney Company wants a bigger piece of the action in the pre-teen boy market, so it hired an anthropologist to sort through the dresser drawers of a 12 year-old.

heavyVenturing into territory never before seen by human eyes, much less smelled by human noses other than his mother’s who–let’s face it–had no choice, Kelly Peña eventually found a Black Sabbath T-shirt scrunched into a corner on the top shelf.

When confronted with the artifact, the boy confided that “wearing it makes me feel like I’m going to an R-rated movie.” 

Disney hopes these and other penetrating psychological insights into a most assuredly confused demographic can help it recreate a time when Davy Crockett drove millions of boy-dollars its way, while hopefully counteracting its reputation as a provider of girl-friendly fare like (ew!) Hannah Montana.

disneyboymagnetEarly results of Peña’s work are apparent on Disney XD, a new cable channel and Web site featuring urban skateboard parks populated by unassuming, nonthreatening boys, and on its TV hit “Aaron Stone,” where one character is quite average as a basketball player.

Peña had suggested to producers that today’s boys relate with characters that are trying to grow and improve themselves. “Winning isn’t nearly as important to boys as Hollywood thinks,” she told the New York Times.

foxflameoutnetworkBoys in the 6 to 14 age range drive $50 billion in global sales per year, according to market researchers, but it’s a tough market to crack, a fact to which News Corporation can attest after its Fox Kids Network failed famously in the late 1990s. 

Despite Pena’s intrepid work to date, results have been modest. Disney XD has bumped its prime-time audience by 27% among kids between 6-14 years of age, but most of that has come from girls. Viewership among the boys is up 10%.

Just don’t tell that to the boys!


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