Very interesting. It's a veritable boomtown in the preschool video and tv market these days, what with all the Baby Einstein, Brainy Baby educational schmeducational stuff, and the new Sesame Beginnings DVD's, and a host of independently produced options which I have a hankering to post about next week.
Into the fray jumps... Mickey Mouse. For years, The Mouse himself has been sort of the odd man out of the company he helped create, stripped of any personality or backstory and appearing in nothing more exciting than the background of some Disneyworld otakus' wedding photos and The Walt Disney Company annual report.
But now, according to the NY Times review, anyway, Mickey's new show, "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse," which debuted on the Disney Channel tonight, sounds like the closest Disney's ever come to pure, old-school public TV-style TV. Mickey and Minnie just do shapes and colors and tell little stories, with animated guest stars like Bo Peep. The NYT compares it [favorably?] to Sesame St. and Mister Rogers.
Maybe it's not remarkable to you, but for someone who used to work in the Mouse House, it's nothing short of revolutionary. When I was there, and severa times since [I heard], there were these big brand/creative strategy initiatives to make Mickey "relevant" "again." I had a contraband poster from one such session in my office--a blood red and black woodblock-style picture a mean-looking Rambo Mickey, with bandoliers, machine guns, and a headband. Almost every other attempt at "relevance" has involved a similar "updating" or ironic recontextualization.
But "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" sounds like just the opposite, a pared down, almost...pure...return to some kind of wholesome, just-for-the-kids Mickey. [Never mind that the real old Mickey was a slightly malicious, cynical scamp.]
Watching the clips online, it feels like every other Dora-style kids' show, but with the original Disney characters, who actual kids probably didn't know or care about at all, because they're only exposure to them came from their parents, who, after paying double for the hotel with the Mickey brunch package, were gonna make damn sure the kids got excited.