February 22, 1996
Mickey Does the Web Big Time, Boys and Girls
By LAURIE J. FLYNNlush with its recent takeover of the ABC television network and its ambitions to clean up Times Square with a theme-park-style high-rise hotel, the Walt Disney Company is taking its campaign for family-oriented hegemony into cyberspace.
Beginning today, the world's largest purveyor of wholesome entertainment has its own Web site, a combination promotional brochure, mail order catalog and electronic magazine for kids.
After a 10-day trial run, the new site brings together under a single domain name more than a dozen sites of various Disney properties, including the popular Toy Story site, which has received 21 million hits in its four months on line.
While much of the new site is clearly targeted at children, its intent, said Winifred B. Wechsler, senior vice president of Disney Online, the division responsible for disney.com, is also to offer yet another forum for the scores of nostalgic adults who love "all things Disney," as the company likes to say. And there appear to be plenty of those these days.
The arrival of Disney's Web site comes at a time when Disney movies, theme parks and merchandise are enjoying a surge in popularity. At the same time the Disney Company is enjoying a surge in corporate influence in the wake of its $19 billion takeover of Capital Cities/ABC last month.
Like everything Disney, the Web site is big, with more than 2,500 pages, 434 audio files, many of them song collections, and more than 200 video files, mostly movie trailers. The site uses a newspaper metaphor for its organizational structure, with headlines and some stories changing daily.
Perhaps the liveliest section is Television News, where you can view clips of previews, hear audio clips of favorite characters, including the Lion King's Timon and Pumbaa and Winnie the Pooh, and read a program guide. It is also one of several places where kids can find coloring book pages and puzzles they can print out.
A Music News area includes audio clips of new and upcoming songs. Other sections include Disney Theatrical Productions, home videos and theme parks.
In the next few weeks, the Disney Store will also begin selling toys, clothes and other Disney-branded items on the site, though initially you'll have to place a phone call or send a fax to give up your credit card number (or leave a phone number and someone will call you back). The company is hoping to support transactions on the Web by summertime, Wechsler said.
Likewise, the site will eventually serve as an on-line travel agent for people taking Disney vacations, Wechsler said, though initially only ticket prices, hotel information and event details are available.
Another section planned but not implemented in time for the launch, Wechsler said, will offer supplemental material for the company's CD-ROM and video game business, Disney Interactive.
The Disney Web Site.
Copyright 1996 The New York Times Company