Disney rewrites script to win fans in India, M Marr, GA Fowler

Tags: Disney, India, household incomes, stationery stores, Ravi Jaipuria, cable television, Indian distributor, Disney characters, local managers, Mickey Mouse, Robert Iger, Bill Cosby, local markets, television shows, television pilots, Disney Artist, animated features, Indian audiences, Bollywood movie, Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor, Sanjeev Kohli, Florida State University, SMALL WORLD Disney, Toon Disney, Yash Raj, Disney Channel, Yash Raj Films, Walt Disney Co., Indian schools
Content: 11/20/2014 WSJ EUROPE
Disney Rewrites Script To Win Fans in India - WSJ
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By MERISSA MARR Updated June 11, 2007 12:01 a.m. ET
MUMBAI, India -- On a dusty movie lot known as Film City here, a soft-spoken director counsels two actors on a love scene for the latest movie from Yash Raj Films. In typical Bollywood style, the closest the on-screen lovers get to intimacy is a longing gaze and a brush of the hand.
Enter Walt Disney Co. , lured by Yash Raj's tradition of family-friendly entertainment. Disney has struggled to make big money in India with its classic American fare. Now it has persuaded Yash Raj to make Disney-branded animated films, with the voices of Bollywood stars.
The joint effort, to be announced
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tomorrow, is part of the U.S. entertainment icon's strategy to remake itself in high-
growth foreign markets such as India. In
many cases, that means discarding
Disney's historic obsession with going it
alone -- and instead joining with local
experts to produce culturally customized
See a stage tour promotion in India for Disney's "Power Rangers" show, and the kids who dig it.
fare. In China, for instance, Disney is teaming up with the state-run China Film
Group to release "The Secret of the Magic Gourd," a movie about a talking vegetable that
grants wishes. In India, it also is tapping local filmmakers to make a Hindi feature film of
its TV hit "High School Musical," which may be set against a backdrop of cricket rather
than the original's basketball.
When Robert Iger became Disney's chief executive in 2005, he said publicly he wanted half of Disney's profit to come from overseas within five years. Only a quarter of the company's revenue last year came from overseas, however, and Mr. Iger says he "still likes" his goal but it could be "difficult" to reach. Instead, he says, the company is "planting seeds today for growth tomorrow."
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For the better part of a decade, Disney has made a priority of building its foreign business in television, movies, retail and theme parks -- a task initially assigned to Mr. Iger himself, when he was made head of Disney's international operations. But it turned out to be a bigger job than anyone expected. Mr. Iger says of those initial hopes: "We were heady and those were heady days." In reality, Disney was "years away from having a global business that rivaled the domestic business."
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Disney's traditional approach was largely to force-feed its U.S. products from its Burbank, Calif., headquarters. The company ultimately concluded the cookie-cutter approach wouldn't work, and now it is going country by country, with a particular focus on five hot markets: India, China, Russia, Latin America and South Korea. "We're building Disney from scratch," in countries such as India, said Mr. Iger, citing the company's founder and namesake: Just "as Walt did in the U.S. over 50 years ago."
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Disney Rewrites Script To Win Fans in India - WSJ
different approach as it seeks to establish itself in India: developing local shows and products, rather than relying on U.S. franchises. Market Potential: India's population under age 14 is bigger than the entire U.S. population, and household incomes are rising fast. Profit Centers: To boost growth overseas, Disney has targeted five hot markets: India, China, Russia, Latin America and South Korea. market.
strategies for the local markets. In China, for instance, where state regulation of television and movies is aggressive, Disney is leading its charge in retail, selling its plush toys and Mickey Mouse clothing to consumers on a nationwide buying binge. In Latin America, where Disney is well-known but historically considered an elite brand, the company is attempting to move into the broader mass
Disney's new approach follows the route of other U.S. institutions' efforts at foreign acceptance. Yum Brands Inc. 's KFC menus are tweaked country by country, for instance, to include rice porridge and bamboo shoots in China. Disney's biggest children's-television competitor in India, New York-based Time Warner Inc., in 2004 launched what's now the second-rated children's channel, Pogo, with generous helpings of homegrown fare to complement its top-rated Cartoon Network there.
Huge Stakes
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In India, the stakes for Disney are huge: The Indian population under 14 years old is bigger than the entire U.S. population, and household incomes are rising fast. But for years, Disney simply sold its U.S. movies and television shows to local distributors and broadcasters. Its movies, in particular, gained little traction in the market -- a problem also faced by other U.S. studios because of the strong Indian film industry. Meanwhile, with India lacking a large-scale retail industry until recently, Disney saw limited opportunity for a consumer-products business. Poor infrastructure discouraged themepark construction.
Disney now has put television at the forefront. Indian's burgeoning middle class places near-obsessive focus on family and increasingly is paying for cable television. The company launched Disney Channel and Toon Disney in India in 2004, and then last year made a rare overseas acquisition, buying Hungama, the third-rated children's channel.
Disney also waded into local productions, spending a year developing and shooting dozens of television pilots and then launching two shows: "Dhoom Machaao Dhoom", about a teenager discovering her Indian identity after living in America, and "Vicky and Vetaal," about a boy and a friendly ghost -- trying to capitalize on Indian fascination with supernatural themes.
The goal is for television success to pave the way for other lines of business. One of those is a "Disney Artist" line of stationery stores, which emphasize school supplies featuring Disney characters to play to Indian families' emphasis on education. The stores sell larger school bags than in the U.S. because Indian schools don't have student lockers, and sell thermos flasks because many schools don't have chilled water.
On a recent weekday in Disney's store in the Gurgaon suburb of Delhi, 4-year-old Aryan Gambhir wore a Disney "Power Rangers" T-shirt and fingered through Disney-branded stationery. He said he also was a fan of Disney's "Winnie the Pooh," and picked out a "Jungle Book" pencil case, "Pooh" balloons and "Mickey Mouse" candles for his brother's birthday.
The store is a joint venture with Ravi Jaipuria, an Indian distributor who helped establish such brands as Pepsi and Pizza Hut in India. Mr. Jaipuria says he and Disney plan to leverage franchise brands and tap the country's mushrooming mall business by opening some 300 stores. The key, he says, is to make the offerings affordable. Disney previously misstepped by selling products in China that cost far more than most people were willing to spend. Disney and Mr. Jaipuria also are discussing possible stores dedicated to franchises such as the "Disney Princess" line of toys as well as making Disney-brand flavored milk and ice cream.
Disney also decided it needed a partner in the rough-and-tumble Bollywood movie industry. With its Yash Raj partnership, Disney landed one of Bollywood's oldest and most successful studios to make "at least one animation film per year," says Yash Raj's chief executive Sanjeev Kohli.
The first venture will be an animated tale featuring the voices of Bollywood stars Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor. But though the stars are big draws in Indian cinema, Indian audiences aren't used to seeing animated features on movie screens. Disney's local movie executive, Shyam P.S., says that Disney will start with simple stories blending singing, dancing, humor and the "in your face" emotion typical of Bollywood.

M Marr, GA Fowler

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