About Those New Disney Bracelets . . . .

The Walt Disney Company is ready to roll out an interesting new initiative.  This spring, at Walt Disney World in Orlando, park visitors will have the option of using new “MagicBand” bracelets.

These aren’t your normal amusement park bracelets that show that you paid the entrance fee.  Instead, they will be embedded with radio frequency identification chips that will allow visitors to enter the park, enter hotels, and buy food and souvenirs.  The bracelets also would tell that approaching Disney character your child’s name before they are introduced and would allow a visitor’s path around the park to be tracked.  They are part of a broader Disney digital initiative to allow visitors to use the bracelets, their smartphones, and other devices to customize their trip to the Magic Kingdom and provide for a better park experience.

00019715Privacy advocates are concerned about the information that is collected as a result of use of the bracelets and whether it could be misused.  The privacy issues doesn’t worry me, however.  The bracelets are optional, and the reality of the modern world is that vast amounts of our personal information is already accessible to corporate America as a result of our smartphones, apps that push data to our locations, Facebook postings, and countless other newfangled devices and contraptions that know as much about us as our family members.  If people are leery about wearing a bracelet that adds to the data mix, they can just say “no.”

I think the bigger issue is that the bracelets allow Disney characters to know your toddler’s name and use it as they approach.  Isn’t that kind of . . . creepy?  How will little kids react if a large plastic-headed creature, much bigger than the delightful character they’ve seen on their TV screen, comes marching up saying their names?  Will they be terrified, or will it feed into the “I’m the center of the universe” mindset that makes some kids intolerable brats?  Or, will it give kids an overly trusting view of the world?  I’m not sure I’d want my kids to think it was normal that some stranger wearing a colorful costume knows their name.

On the flip side, this development has got to make the job of being a Disney character even more painful.  Now, you not only have to wear that stuffy Goofy head and hot, furry costume on those broiling Florida days, you also have to correctly call out the names of MagicBand-wearing tots — all the while keeping a watchful eye out for the brats who want to kick you in the knee or even more tender areas.  How do you think the doting, smartphone-obsessed parents who paid for that MagicBand bracelet to ensure their gifted child has the perfect Disney experience will react if you call their little Timmy little Tommy instead?

I Say, Bring On The Next Star Wars Movie!

George Lucas has decided to retire, and to help fund his retirement he decided to sell Lucasfilm to The Walt Disney Company for $4 billion and change.  The deal not only should provide Lucas with a comfortable retirement, it also means that more Star Wars movies will be made.  Disney has announced that the next Star Wars movie, episode 7, is scheduled for release in 2015.

Many fans have expressed concern about the sale to Disney, how it will affect the Star Wars franchise, and whether the movies will stay true to Lucas’ vision.  I’m not one of them.  I loved the original Star Wars films — I remember watching the first movie, with awe and wonder, in the old University Flick theater on the Ohio State campus, and then promptly watching it again — but I eagerly anticipate a fresh look at the characters and the Star Wars universe.

Beloved film franchises can become creaky and rote over time; they get to the point where only diehard fans can watch them.  Those franchises are injected with new energy when the characters are re-imagined by new creative minds.  The Star Trek and Batman movies are good examples.  Does anyone object that Heath Ledger had the opportunity to give his dazzling interpretation of the Joker?

I don’t understand the concerns, anyway.  It’s silly to worry that Disney is going to produce dross.  It just paid $4 billion, in significant part, to buy the Star Wars franchise and the right to produce new movies.  It’s safe to assume the company isn’t going to run its huge investment into the ground by bringing junk to the big screen.  If anything, the Disney approach might avoid some of the excesses of the later Star Wars movies, which could mean we won’t see annoying “comic” characters like Jar-Jar Binks, leaden, embarrassing, and unbelievable romances, and another exploding Death Star to provide a big finish.  And it’s not as if Disney could over-commercialize the Star Wars characters, either.  This is the franchise that led the way with action figures, comic books, and made-for-marketing characters like the Ewoks.

Lucas always said that he envisioned the Star Wars saga as a nine-movie tale, with the final three movies following the stories of Luke, Leia, and Han Solo and their children.  That’s apparently what Disney is planning for the next installment of movies.  I’ll be interested in seeing what happens to those now-iconic characters.  The Star Wars universe is sweeping, and there are lots of good stories yet to be told. Bring on the next Star Wars movie!