A conversation with...
Leisa Sadler, GM, Branded Media Content Australia/New Zealand
Leisa Sadler joined Disney Channels Australia/NZ as GM, branded media content in March 2011. Prior to her Disney role she spent five years as VP, operations MTV Networks, Australia/NZ, and previous to that she worked for Nickelodeon Australia for a decade in various management roles including COO from 2002 until 2006. Six months on from joining Disney, Leisa shares her perspective on the direction of children’s programming in Australia, how Disney utilises multi-platforms to engage kids and gives an update on Disney XD.
What are some of the exciting trends in production and storytelling that you are finding with children’s programming?
Great storytelling remains timeless and with Disney Junior we truly bring the magic of storytelling to life. Disney Junior takes our rich heritage of stories and classic characters, and brings them into a contemporary environment. Sharing memories from personal Disney experiences with your child or grandchild creates a very special emotional connection and resonates across generations. Jake And The Neverland Pirates is a great example of this, familiar characters Captain Hook and Smee, are enjoyed alongside Jake and his friends. Core messages that really shine in Disney Juniors storytelling reflect valuable life lessons and development experiences. Our new princess Sofia, coming in 2012, will illustrate to preschoolers that it’s not the dress and trimmings on the outside that make a princess but how you are on the inside. Seeing these messages come to life in a fun an engaging way through high quality creative is very rewarding.
Across our Disney Channel content we’re creating richer and deeper experiences for our audience to connect to our programs. Kids want to know more about their favorite characters, they want to truly engage with the story behind the TV experiences and they love “innovating and playing” with the story on TV. Innovation is behind all that we develop at Disney, creating new exciting one on one experiences that can then be shared among their friends. Recently we created an opportunity for kids to build their own Phineas & Ferb clip online. They could play around with it, selecting animation, backgrounds and music to create their very own personalized online animated Phineas & Ferb story which they could then share with their friends. The initiative garnered over 75,000 online entries and huge social media buzz. It’s these trends that kids embrace which really push us to seek out dynamic, fresh opportunities to evolve our storytelling.
Last month you premiered Disney Junior’s first local production the animated series “Guess How Much I Love You: the Adventures of Little Nut-brown Hare” which will also air in the US. Will there be more Australian production on the slate for 2012?
Guess How Much I Love You – yes, we were very proud to premiere this beautiful adaption from the book series and continue Disney’s tradition of storytelling. We are focused on bringing our wonderful stories to Australian audiences, increasing the awareness of our popular characters. Our stories and characters represent universally positive values: imagination, fun, entertainment, innovation and laughter – stories of friendship, adventure, fun and triumph. We’re always looking for creative opportunities to bring a local flavor to our lineup, building a connection to our audience. Some recent examples include a local rendition of the well known “Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes” song, which became Disney Junior’s “Heads Shoulder Ears and Bows” with local kids performing with Mickey & Minnie in Australian settings. On Disney Channel we’re just about to launch a locally created series of Phineas & Ferb interstitials where Aussie kids share funny moments from the show and take off their favorite characters in their backyards and school grounds.
The Walt Disney Company is known for connecting with kids (and adults) at every possible level. Can you share some innovative examples of this from your last 6 months with the company?
The multi-platform experience that Disney Junior delivers has been a real highlight of 2011, in terms of how innovative content can travel beyond media and have multiple touch points with audiences. Disney Junior has fired on every creative cylinder right across Disney – from the theatrical support on the content side-screenings of “Minnie’s Bow –Tique”, to new programming on the Channel, and Handy Manny & Disney Junior character apps. At retail, in-store Disney Junior presence at major Australian retail outlets to online, where Disney Junior attracted over 100,000 visits in the first seven days, doubling the average amounts of visits and the number of visitors continues to grow in record numbers – the multiple consumer touch points will continue to grow in 2011.
Towards the end of 2011, Disney Channel will also be supporting the coronation of Rapunzel at Kensington Palace in London. The welcoming of Rapunzel at the 10th Princess into the Royal Court of Princess will be the kick-off of Princess led events with retail, theatrical, consumer products and online all painted a shade of pink for this very special event.
Have you implemented changes to the sales and marketing strategy at Disney and/or how you are working with the platforms?
At Disney Channels, our focus is our audiences. We want to share the best stories, create the most magical experiences and tell stories in innovative new ways. We take a 360degree view and our marketing strategy plays a key part in our plans. We aim to create the best in branded entertainment, to use technology to make our content even more compelling and engaging and build an emotional connection with our audiences. We build this connection through our content and franchises, our interactive offering, social media and marketing. We continue to work with both FOXTEL and AUSTAR to constantly explore and enter into new innovative ways to extend our reach and relevance among audiences.
Little boys around Australia are itching for Disney XD, is there any update on when/if you might launch that channel?
DXD is an exciting new brand in the Disney stable and rating extremely well across our international channels, we’d be very excited about an opportunity to bring DXD the channel to Australian boys when the time is right for our platforms partners. Disney Channel has some very popular shows which we know boys love. We launched Pair of Kings earlier this year and it’s already achieved a very strong boy fan base, and Phineas & Ferb is very popular amongst boys (as well as being loved by our girl audience).
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