My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅) -- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Something I Never Expected to Write


Well, now, this is unique... I'm posting as a semi-parent... as an adult... as a kid brought up on a steady diet of a certain animation studio's products... as a (semi-former) IT pro & web developer... and as a consumer of mass media -- all at the very same time!

The Pipsqueak is a fan of a certain animated mus musculus and his mouse, duck, dog, and other friends. She is even more a fan of the same studio's slowly-growing stable of royal young women.

(Dude, cut the obfuscating and speak plainly.)

Okay, you're right. <sigh> The Pipsqueak is a big fan o Mickey Mouse & his gang, and an even bigger fan of (most of) the Disney princesses. At the moment, Ariel tops the list; she could be deposed by one of the other "princessess" at any time, but the Pipsqueak's war cry this afternoon was "I want Ariel on your computer!" and very little else would do.  It shouldn't have been a problem; I bookmarked the Disney.Com princess page a long time ago, and Miri & I have visited regularly for at least a year.

Trouble is, Disney's been "updating" and "modernizing" and "improving" their online presence, and -- speaking for ALL the roles I listed in my opening sentence -- the results positively suck.

The biggest problem with the old site was that it was totally Flash-based and would sometimes run slowly. (Okay, let me use the technical term: s.l.o.o.o.o.o.o.w.l.y.) But it had a pretty opening picture with a whole pantheon of nicely-drawn "princesses" that would greet visitors nicely and in personality-appropriate fashion when clicked on. (I put "princesses" in quotes becasue , technically, a couple of them aren't actually princesses... but that's truly a non-issue here.) Each princess' section had hidden picture games, some puzzles, and a bunch on online activities that were tailored specifically to the character whose name was on that section of the website.

A couple of months ago, that site seemed to disappear... and I kept searching for it, so we viewed a lot of YouTube videos instead. Well, today the Pipsqueak really wanted Ariel, and I had very specifically been assigned the job of keeping her out from underfoot so Mom & AJ could get some seder preparations out of the way, so I made a concerted effort to get into the Disney princess site.

The UK version seemed friendlier than the US version, so we went there. The opening page is kinda cool; the princesses do a sort of 3-D shuffle as each moves in turn (when clicked) to the "foreground" and the others move to the "background" so you can pick a particular section of the site... but all the coloring, painting, and similar activities are limited to PDFs you're supposed to print out & color offline. Worse, as good as Miri is with some of the games on my iPhone, the online games are really arcade-style games with a bunch of "attacks" and "enemies" (and poor response to keyboard commands) that had both Miri and her uncle frustrated & unhappy in seconds flat. (One even allowed Ariel to be maneuvered clear off-screen, never to be seen again -- even though we could hear her bumping into things and getting hit on the head in attacks by enemies.)

I finally retreated to the US site, which (despite the total absence of any individualized greetings, personality-based artwork in the sections, hidden picture games & puzzles, or any of the other material that made the old site a regular destination) is still divided into sections for each princess. Or is it? Miri was thrilled when I (finally) clicked on Ariel and we found ourselves in her section... but the games & puzzles she wanted are no longer available on the site, and the majority of videos were for Rapunzel, Tiana or Aurora.

That was through the "Videos" link on the "Ariel" home page, the generic "Videos" link provides access to some cartoons I'm not familiar with, trailers for some Disney films, and a limited number of Mickey/Minnie cartoons. The (very) few music videos are primarily someone singing songs written for newer movies and/or other venues over montages of scenes from multiple animated films. I did eventually find some Ariel-specific videos... as long as we wanted to watch a number of mini-features about the "new" (opened in 2011)  Ariel-themed ride at the Disney parks.

Oh, and did I mention the commercials?  Yes, an unavoidable commercial (15 seconds to 1 minute long) will run before a chosen video. These aren't even plugs for Disney merchandise; they're actual commercials I've seen on TV. The two we had to sit through most frequently this evening were a mercifully short hard-sell on skin softening cream and a long one for a ghost-themed Mario Brothers game that scared the bejabbers out of Miri each time it came on.

We had better luck on YouTube, but there's a real shortage of suitable Ariel material, possibly because the Disney legal crew has managed to get most videos taken offline. There are eleventy-seven versions of "Part of Your World"  (I've seen it so often, I may send Ariel back to Ursula to just. shut.up.) and a few snippets from non-movie Ariel cartoons, but almost everything else is either snips from the Broadway production (whose protagonist Miri insists is not Ariel, just someone singing like her) homemade music videos of often sub-par quality, a few samples of non-Disney versions of "The Little Mermaid" (again, "that's not really Ariel!")... and quite a bit of stuff that I will not allow my not-yet-four niece to see until she's well into her late teens.

Disney seems to be doing an excellent job of running ads for their CDs, of getting people interested in their theme parks and cruises, and of catering to older kids & tweens who don't have a problem with arcade-style games in which Ariel sings to freeze "enemies" before they attack her so she can take items worth points from them. What they used to do a good job at, and now seem to have totally abandoned, was providing online access to different types of content appropriate to multiple ages, that actually followed the theme of individual princesses where it claimed to, that provided a good online "playground" where young children & their families could spend fun time, and that allowed little girls who liked a particular character to sort of step into those shoes without the entire family having to pack up and spend a small fortune to physically visit a Disney theme park.

Considering some of what's in the news lately, it may be a silly thing to be so PO'd about, but, dammit, this is Disney, and the Pipsqueak likes their princesses, and they stopped providing age-appropriate content to concentrate on selling product. (Oh, and don't get me started on the "updating" of the various princesses' look -- for cryin' out loud, Fa Mulan is whiter than Cinderella now!)

Shame on you, Disney Corporation -- WED must be looking down and crying. And I'll be finding other resources for my niece.

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