Sunday, October 23, 2005

On the Job Training: Motherhood - 4
Disney Wars: Revenge of the Princesses

Saturday morning we rose bright and early on a rainy day. We had tickets for the 11 a.m. Princesses on Ice show at the Wachovia Center (precorporate sponsorship days aka The Spectrum). My friend and I got our two 4-year-olds together and drove down to South Philly in her minivan. Her daughter had on a sweatsuit that announced "Princess" on the front. Mine chose a sparkly velvet dress she's never worn (she refused to wear anything else).

In the parking lot, we saw pint-sized Cinderellas and Snow Whites. On the escalators, we saw girls from infants to preteens wearing pink, purple and blue symbols of Princesshood - either a full blown costume or sweatshirts or tiaras.

I looked around the packed arena and thought "All of you people are here today, dishing out mucho dinero for tickets and service fees for an ice show because you ALL have a princess in your house.. you're going through the same Princess worship..and succumbing to the pleas of your own Princess."

I felt a sense of comradery with the parents there. I was not alone.

And talk about the Magic of Disney! It's the marketing of Disney!! Toys and souvenirs were insanely priced. A bucket of popcorn, which could feed a whole bevy of Princesses, was priced at $8 because you got a Princess bucket (the next one was $6 and you got a box. Yeah, figure out which is going to sell more). They had snow-cones for $10 because you got a cute Mickey or Cinderella mug.

This whole Disney Princess marketing industry is absolutely brilliant. Parents like me fall for it. (Who did not want to be a princess when they were 4 years old? I'm giving into this just because in 6 years, she may want to wear black, ripped jeans and ride skateboards. Who knows.)

But, Disney is smart enough to always put a trio. Yes, you can have an Ariel mug and target Mermaidphiles. You can have an Aurora nightgown and attract the sleeping beauties. Or, you can have Jasmine whatever and attract "ethnic" market. However, put them altogether on a mug, nightgown and whatever - BAM! you just sold all three to all three markets. How awesome is that?

And, for parents it's cool because if she's in an "Ariel" or "Jasmine" mood it still works. You're not limiting yourself to one princess.

I was livid when I saw Princess bandaids were higher priced with less units in the box than the Clifford one. We're buying Clifford and my daughter was none the wiser - quite happy with Emily Elizabeth over her boo-boos.

Anyway, Disney must keep an eye over their shoulders because their close competitor is Mattel and Barbie "as Princess Blah Blah." Yes they stepped in quietly with a movie with sharp computer animation with "Barbie in the Nutcracker" and "Barbie in Swan Lake". Then they realized the marketing potential and shot out "Princess and the Pauper" and now "Barbie & Pegasus". You get your dolls, accessories, videos, books, costumes, etc. So, even if you don't have your own princess, you create one!

I had my doubts about the Barbie movies.. It's a doll. It's not a story with a doll. But, now I see it's different. Barbie is alive and well, and acting in roles - that's ingenius as well. The movies aren't so bad - I do like the bit of feminist angle with the female protaganists who are quite alert in finding their own way around the world and through their troubles. Even my daughter had complained that Sleeping Beauty and Snow White "just sleep." There are more positive heroines out there.

Confession: I have a Beauty & the Beast keychain that I bought back in early 90's.. I was 23 and totally identified with Belle. I was bookish and didn't fall so easily for outward appearances (a la Gaston).

Anyway, I am still using this keychain and my daughter is thrilled to look at it - even thought the plastic has chipped a bit. So, maybe a princess part of you does not outgrow?

By the way, I really felt the Princess on Ice show was worth it when I looked at my daughter. Aladdin was rubbing the giant lamp. Sparks flew out of the lamp just as the genie emerged. She jumped back in suprise, putting her hands on her cheek! I looked over at another point and she had her ears covered because she knew the witch was going to come out. This is real to them in their minds. We're just making it more real.

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