Saturday, March 16, 2019

If I Were Disney CEO Part 35B - The Wonderful Worlds of Disney

A bit of a bonus, as I wanted to dive a bit more into a program that I consider to be a lynch pin of the plans for ABC.  The Wonderful Worlds of Disney.

As discussed yesterday, Disney and ABC's history goes back fairly far.  When Walt Disney and his brother Roy were looking to finance Disneyland, they reached out to ABC, which agreed to finance part of the project in exchange for producing a television program for the network.  From there, the Disneyland anthology program debuted on October 27, 1954, airing weekly on Wednesday nights.

The Disneyland anthology program existed in some form from 1954 through 1983.  From Disneyland to Walt Disney Presents to Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color to The Wonderful World of Disney (and Disney's Wonderful World and Walt Disney).  Following a short gap, the block came back more as a movie program entitled The Disney Sunday Movie.  This time slot still exists as The Wonderful World of Disney, an umbrella title for Disney specials on ABC as well as a home for network broadcasts of Disney films.

I want to get back to the original format.  The one that was part behind the scenes, part testing ground for new material, part showcase of existing material, and all advertisement.

The original Disneyland made use of the four lands of Disneyland to serve as an indicator for the content for the particular show.  Davy Crockett and other programs on American History would appear in Frontier Land.  20,000 Leagues Under The Sea or True-Life Adventures would air under the Adventure Land banner.  Cartoons, Ink and Paint documentaries, and the like would be in Fantasyland.  Cutting edge science presentations like Magic Highway and Werner Von Brauns' Man in Space would fall under Tomorrow Land.

This same model would serve well for an expanded Worlds of Disney, and many of the same categories would apply.  I would propose an expanded list, making use of other Disney themed lands to serve as banners for the content.  The categories would include:

  • Adventureland - A place for True Life Adventure documentaries, National Geographic programs, stories from the animal kingdom, and pulp adventures.  A combination of Adventureland in the parks and Animal Kingdom.  Would have a Tree of Life title card.
  • Frontierland - A place for programming related to American history and expansion. Documentaries and historical fiction programming.  The return of the western or Zorro.  Would have a Big Thunder Mountain title card.
  • Fantasyland - A place for cartoons, fairy tales, and magic.  A place for Disney cartoons, previews of Disney theatrical releases, and theme park specials.  Would have the traditional Sleeping Beauty Castle title card (or if park specials, a title card for each specific park).
  • Tomorrowland - A place for scientific discoveries and science fiction.  For new developments in Imagineering.  What shows us how things work.  For Cosmos and the like. Would have a Spaceship Earth title card.
  • World Showcase - A place for programming related to world history and culture, both fiction and non-fiction.  To preview work in international theme parks and for international audiences.  To explore the cultural heritage behind film releases like Coco or Mulan.  Would have a globe title card (or perhaps an it's a small world title card).
  • Hollywood Studios - A place for programming related to behind the scenes documentaries at the Disney lot or from Disney's other film brands.  Marvel, Lucasfilm, PIXAR, 20th Century Films, or Muppets could go here.  This could likewise host an ABC season preview.  Would have a Grauman's Chinese Theater title card (or perhaps a Carthay Circle Theater card if necessary for brand identification).
  • Wide World of Sports - A place for programming on sports related entertainment and documentaries.  ESPN documentaries, sports films and the like.  Would have a ESPN Wide World of Sports title card.
This would give a greatly expanded framework that could contain the breadth of the current Disney company.  It allows for existing programming and content to fit into the show and provides guidelines for the creation of new content.

All new programming should seek to mimic the magic of those initial Disneyland episodes with Walt.  There will need to be a charismatic host or team of hosts.  Someone preferably with an affinity for the company, like a John Stamos or Neil Patrick Harris.  Beyond that, each of the brand representatives like Kevin Fiege, Pete Docter, and Brian Henson have proved themselves to be capable personalities on camera as well. Disney itself would just need a better spokesperson than Iger.  Of course, if I'm CEO, I'm making myself the host.

I primarily want to capture the club feel that Disneyland provided.  Walt was everyone's favorite uncle.  He brought you behind the curtain. Like Stan Lee at Marvel.  Like Jim Henson with the Muppets.  

If it could nail that, it would provide a strong identity for ABC programming and set the week off right.

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