Wednesday, March 18, 2009

D23: Disney for Grown-Ups

I dropped by my local Barnes & Noble last week, the day Disney launched their new, official fan community, D23. I was searching for the new "Disney twenty-three" magazine and expected to find it amongst the new arrivals at B&N. It was nowhere to be found, so I approached an information clerk, her computer at the ready, and asked about it.

"Do you have 'Disney twenty-three'?"

"'Disney twenty-three'?"

"Yes. It debuted today. Barnes & Noble is supposed to be carrying it."

Type type type. Click click. Type type. Click.

"I can't find it. Are you sure we carry it?"

"Ummm, yeah. Disney's press release said you did."

Click click. Type. Click.

"Is it a kids' magazine?"

"No. It's for fans and collectors."

Type. Click. Type type type. Click.

"We don't have it."

Point 1: This wasn't an auspicious introduction to the world of D23.

Point 2: I freaking hate it when muggles assume everything Disney is for kids. I have a limited edition scale replica of the first Monorail Red in my family room. My two-year old granddaughter is not allowed to touch it. Ever. Even after I'm dead. So there.

I digress.

A few days later, I returned to B&N and was pleased to discover that "Disney twenty-three" had found its way to the sales floor (and no, it wasn't in the kids' section). Sealed in clear plastic, it had a coffee table book look (without the weight) and a great cover photo of a young Walt Disney, wearing a newsboy cap and peering through a motion picture camera. Nice touch. Walt as the young entrepreneur, as far removed from the iconic (and more familiar) Uncle Walt television persona as you could get. Walt is a real person here, not a corporate symbol. Show me more.

Inside, stories range from a look inside the Walt Disney Archives with Dave Smith to photographer Annie Leibovitz's celebrity-strewn reinterpretation of classic Disney moments to a preview of Pixar's May release, "Up." None of the articles are particularly in-depth--no one spins and controls the release of information like Disney--but there are enough behind-the-scenes nuggets to make it worthwhile. It's also gloriously free of advertising. I know, I know. The magazine is one big ad for Disney. But considering the last issue of the now-defunct "Disney Magazine" had ads for Toyota, Kodak and Best Western, among others, it's a welcome relief.

"Disney twenty-three" does go heavy on the superlatives. Leibovitz isn't just a gifted photographer, she's an "American master" with a "singular career." Pixar isn't just a successful film studio, it tells a "stunning story of creative and technical prowess." Tim Burton? I like the guy, but I'm not ready to call him "one of contemporary cinema's greatest visionaries."

OK, maybe I do, but it's different coming from me than when it's coming from Disney to promote a new live-action version of "Alice in Wonderland" that Burton is directing.

A lifetime ago, I did some community theater and was once told by a director to never worry about whether an audience likes you. "They already do" he said. "That's why they're there." I think Disney would be smart to heed that advice. Disney says it's publishing the magazine and developing the D23 website (a phenomenal site, by the way) for fans. If that's the case, then back off on all the gushing. Absolutely, I expect you to be enthusiastic about your past and present output, but I like you already. That's why I'm here

But am I willing to shell out $75 a year for the privilege? Disney has taken a lot of grief in the blogosphere for what many consider a hefty price tag to become an official member of the D23 community. Supporters say it's only $11 more than what you'd pay for four of the quarterly magazines, and hey, you do get a "surprise collectible gift," plus a discount on tickets to September's D23 fan expo in Anaheim. Detractors say why pay for a magazine with old information you can get on the Internet for free and admission to an expo you may not go to anyway. I have to admit, after originally balking at the $75 membership fee, I'm becoming a supporter.

What am I saying? I sprang for the 75 bucks over the weekend.

There's a reason I'll never buy a Kindle from Amazon. As much stuff as you can store on the thing, it'll never replace the tactile joy of flipping pages in a book or magazine. My iPhone and I are joined at the hip, but I still subscribe to my local newspaper, "Entertainment Weekly," "Time," and "Golf Digest." As much information as I can gleen from the Internet, there's still nothing more satisfying than a good read on typeset pages. That's part of the pleasure of "Disney twenty-three" magazine. For all the marketing puffery, it's a well designed, beautifully laid out piece of Disney kitsch I can hold in my hands and revisit anywhere and anytime I like. Add in the extras--hey, I'm a sucker for framable certificates and memberships cards . . . not to mention mystery gifts--and I think it's worth the money.

And no, Ms. Barnes & Noble, it's not a magazine for kids, nor is the website specifically aimed at them either.

I'm happy to be a member of D23. So there.

No comments:

Post a Comment