Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Disney Channel - How Anne Sweeney Is Ruining The Network, and Walt Disney's Legacy With It
In 2002, I became one of the happiest kids on the block. No, it wasn't because of my grades, or my friends, or even the fact that it was Christmas time. Nope, all those things were good. What made me happy was that was the year that we got Disney Channel for the first time since 1998.
Two things that really excited me were that House of Mouse (a show featuring Mickey Mouse that I thought was cancelled at the time due to ending its run on ABC's One Saturday Morning once ABC Kids took its place) was back with new episodes, and I had the chance to watch a lot of new shows that I had been missing for the last 4 years. It was, for a kid, and a Disney fan alike, the place to be, and a great alternative to Nickelodeon. Even though Disney Channel changed a lot back when we got it back (a lot of Walt Disney-related programming was taken off the air), there's no denying that Disney Channel was still a good network for kids and families.
But ever since 2004 when Anne Sweeney ended up being in charge of the channel, it steadily got worse and in 2006, Sweeney was given a task. How do you make Disney Channel viable to Nickelodeon? Since 1992, Nick had been getting more and more viewers, and eventually became the #1 TV network for kids. Since Nickelodeon was getting the most viewership of any channel for kids, what could she do?
Simple: Stop focusing on the DISNEY part of the name, and focus on the CHANNEL. Or even better, stop airing so much stuff related to Disney in general. The Disney Channel isn't supposed to entertain people, it's just there to make money and ratings and is the profit driver for The Walt Disney Company.
The idea Anne had was to change the network from a station dedicated to family oriented programming and stuff actually related to Walt Disney himself, to an MTV for pre-teen girls. Shows such as Hannah Montana (which was terrible, overrated to the exact), Wizards of Waverly Place (another overrated show with Selena Gomez, one of the few tolerable Disney Channel stars today, being the show's only saving grace), and their latest shows such as Shake It Up and A.N.T. Farm all focus on kids either being famous or having a secret. Sounds cool, but... well, we all have seen those kinds of concepts before. It's become too generic, and is unfortunately a formula that works for them now. Sure shows such as Lizzy McGuire and Even Stevens we're aimed at tweens, but the entire family could enjoy them unlike now.
Meanwhile, we're seeing the legacy Walt and his company left probably almost 80 years ago suffer as a whole.
Walt Disney believed that a show or a movie he was involved with should not be aimed at just kids and no one else, he always did projects that both kids and adults could enjoy. This trend made a comeback in the 1990s when Disney had their renaissance. The '90s wasn't just the decade for Disney Animation, it was the decade for animation in general. The Disney Renaissance and the animation industry's comeback seemed to come to an end when Tarzan came out in 1999.
Now, it's pretty rare that you can really watch the classics that made Disney popular outside the internet, and most of the stuff Disney Channel airs now are their own original movies and shows... nothing else! To me, the fact that the classic Disney cartoon shorts with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and others are stuck on the internet with the channel that bears the Disney name on it not willing to give them another chance on cable TV... my god, it's shocking! Walt is spinning in his grave over this as we speak.
Back when Disney still had its renaissance in the '90s, they still promoted their animated movies very aggressively, especially on Disney Channel, and it was one hell of a good thing for the company. Sure, they had tween shows back then too (Mickey Mouse Club anyone?), but at least it was neither the majority of the channel's programming back then nor the stuff that overshadowed the animated films Disney itself is known for. To me, the decline began back in 2004.
Since the start of Anne Sweeney's reign as Disney Channel's president in 2004, their line-up has been more of a focus on not producing entertainment the whole family or introducing a new generation to the classic Disney movies and shows made when Walt himself was still alive (especially the stuff with Mickey & Pals), but instead making more shows aimed at preteen girls, focusing on a few original shows, and seeing what sticks. It's more in line with MTV and Cartoon Network in sense that the name is in "spirit" only, and it's irritating as a Disney fan and someone who wants to be an animator someday to see this happen to a once great TV network.