Today, Mickey Mouse turned 90 years old – after his debut in 1928’s “Steamboat Willie”, which incidentally was Hollywood’s first cartoon movie with synchronized sound. And The Walt Disney Company has outdone itself in terms of celebrating the mammoth occasion with perks such as announcing a two-hour special primetime event on ABC, distributing unbelievably huge cupcakes at Disneyland in Paris, and a dozen new collaborations with fashion designers of the likes of Marc Jacobs. More than thirty new books have been published and released to shelves.
It seems that The Walt Disney Company has its eyes set on using Mickey Mouse’s 90th birthday as a mega thrust in its already explosive marketing machinery! The company’s cross-promotional marketing strategy presently appears to be tweaked for maximum publicity. On Sunday, ABC is set to run the special titled ‘Mickey’s 90th Spectacular’, which is being backed to the fullest extent by the $168 billion conglomerate. It is being reported that some theme parks owned by Disney will continue to host events commemorating the birthday well onto next year.
Executives at Disney have described these efforts as an opportunity to remind its audiences of their widespread brand message, which is important now more than ever, as consumers have started integrating newer mediums such as streaming services into their daily lifestyles. With the gaining popularity of Netflix, Disney is all set to launch its own OTT streaming service, capitalizing on its in-house plethora of ‘magic kingdom’ characters. The timing of Disney’s aggressive expansion is also fueled by hard facts such as the impending expiration of its copyright over the Mickey Mouse character in the next five years. So far, sales from the extended Mickey Mouse franchise, including characters such as Minnie, Pluto and Goofy have accounted for up to $3.2 billion in annual revenue for Disney (according to data published by The Licensing Letter). The entertainment giant now has an uphill challenge of rejuvenating its audiences with more such engaging characters and content served over new-age platforms, to captivate both adults and children with the same level of adulation.
“The challenge for any character, but especially for Mickey since he’s so historic, is maintaining relevancy. And the adults are almost more important than the kids in that way. The grown-ups decide what the money gets spent on.” – Marty Brochstein (Senior Vice President at the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association)