Guest Column: Creating ‘happily ever after’

Great stories aren’t created by the swish of a wand. There is a storyteller’s code that brings the story to life, says Vijay Subramaniam of Disney-UTV

e4m by Vijay Subramaniam
Updated: Feb 12, 2013 7:01 PM
Guest Column:  Creating ‘happily ever after’

Storytelling is the heart of our business and will always remain the key to making human connections with kids and adults alike. I am a believer in great stories, that is why I was drawn to this business in the first place and that is why I continue to love it. Stories that we grow up with form an important part of a family’s DNA – be it a book, a movie, a TV show, a short play or a memorable experience. TV, today, forms an integral part of family entertainment – a vehicle for great stories and lovable characters delivered right into your living room.

Take the example of Mickey Mouse; when we think of him, we think of friendship, loyalty, fun, bravery brought to life through a wonderful story. A well-crafted narrative draws out his persona that we not just relate to but form a relationship with. He represents storytelling in its true form.

While we would all like to believe so, great stories aren’t created by the swish of a wand. There is a storyteller’s code that brings the story to life – one that can transcend generations and enthrall the entire family any time of the day in any part of the world.
2012 saw all of us in the kid’s business relive the magic of wonderful storytelling in multiple ways. Here is how…

You’ve got a friend in me: Kids and their families speak to us all the time and voice their preferences, their recommendations and their entertainment choices. These choices very clearly mirrored a need to find excellence in all that they do while being entertained, make meaningful connections, their hopes, dreams and aspirations, their coming-of-age experiences and the need for escape to a fantasy world.

Kids sought stories and engagements that helped them express themselves, believe in themselves and follow their dreams. And while doing so, they chose stories of family, togetherness, friendship and aspirations; they embraced technology and actively pursued engagement with their favourite stories and characters whenever and wherever they wanted.

We, at Disney Channel, heard their voices, listened to their recommendations and strived to bring them content that reflected their preferences – be it the characters in our popular show ‘Best of Luck Nikki’ – each of them going through extremely relatable situations or the antics and pranks played by the very adorable youngsters – Karan and Kabir, like every other in boy in that age in ‘The Suite Life of Karan and Kabir’ and many such other content initiatives. Walking lockstep with our fans, we presented them with a whole host of options that were both entertaining and endearing.

Strong bonds build strong brands: Every story – be it a timeless classic or a contemporary one that has been attributed as ‘great’ – is heartwarming and everlasting; one that can entertain viewers from age 2 to 80, has to have the ability to reach out to the viewer and build a deep emotional connection at every level of engagement. Take for instance, classics such as ‘Cinderella’, ‘The Lion King’ and such other titles showcased on our ‘Magical World of Disney’ block. They appeal to the brand new generation of kids today, establishing new connections and are equally enjoyed by their parents who get to relive their childhood and revisit their fondest memories. 

We look to build these strong ties with our consumers in everything we do and in every story we tell – take baby Nikki’s journey in ‘Best of Luck Nikki’ – from being a pampered baby to now becoming the big sister to the new baby in her family;  the complementary relationship between the two brothers Phineas and Ferb, that take them on the most imaginative adventures; Gaurav Juyal, our vibrant host of Art Attack, providing fun to follow instructions, positive reaffirmation and motivation, egging everyone along to make their next masterpiece – every action demonstrates spectrum of emotions expressed that make the entertainment relatable in  the real world of our consumers and their everyday experiences, leading to strong emotional connections with them.

In return, we are rewarded with their loyalty and trust in Disney channel, the brand. This is of utmost importance to us in our journey with them. In the future, consumers are going to turn towards strong brands to lead them and help them navigate the wide universe of entertainment in a digital world and we believe that our brand will be their preferred choice in doing so.

Local flavor expands universal appeal: For any story to be memorable, it is imperative to get the local texture right to bring a greater sense of belonging and identity. Disney is known world over for its wonderful stories with universal themes and values, endearing characters. Adding local relevance and bringing in local idiom only enhances its appeal further. We took the rich narrative of these stories, added a strong local dimension to it and created successes that both kids and families enjoyed and continue to do so. Best of Luck Nikki, The Suite Life of Karan and Kabir, Luck Luck ki Baat, Raksha Bandhan with Phineas, Ferb and Candice, and many more stories that work brilliantly, is engaging, built around universal themes such as friendship, family and togetherness, with a rich narrative that most importantly told in a manner and language that best appeals to our audience.

Curiosity leads, creativity follows: TV is a forward looking business – the next story, the next episode, the next character and the next season is what matters and this curiosity is the difference between a successful show and a truly memorable one.  Walt Disney once remarked, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”. Our childlike curiosity fuels our creativity which reflects in our content, our marketing engagements and any interaction we have with our consumers. 

The Disney experience was brought to life by making viewers relive the story with ‘A Suite Life for You and Your Family’ inspired by our show ‘The Suite Life of Karan and Kabir’ wherein lucky families spent an entire month and led the five star life of Karan and Kabir. Similarly, the audience was thoroughly entertained rather refreshingly with favourite characters Donald and Daisy Duck jiving to popular Bollywood tracks. And then there was Disney Channel’s Jet Set Go, where a special plane carried 38 families from across the length and breadth of the country, to the happiest place on Earth – Hong Kong Disneyland, where they created and shared their most wonderful memories together. We went down newer path, evolving with our consumers at every stage that made every engagement entertaining and unique to both kids and families alike.

Happily ever after: Great storytelling, compelling experiences that create fond memories, stronger emotional connections through local narrative and top notch quality driving wholesome family entertainment will continue to drive us through the New Year. The magic continues. Do stay tuned.

The author is Executive Director, Kids Network, Disney-UTV

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