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That Old Disney Magic

1 Apr, 2007 By: John Latchem

Buena Vista Home Entertainment's April 3 DVD release of Jump In! is primed to become the latest in a string of recent hits for Disney Channel that capitalize on a Disney formula dating back more than 50 years.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Disney studio was well known for creating wholesome family entertainment with a recognizable cadre of talent, making good use of stars such as Annette Funicello, Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran, Hayley Mills and Kurt Russell in such movies as Old Yeller, Swiss Family Robinson, Babes in Toyland, The Parent Trap, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Toby Tyler and The Monkey's Uncle.

While the studio's theatrical division still enjoys its share of success with animated and big-budget productions, the old ways haven't completely disappeared.

In recent years, Disney Channel has applied the classic formula to DVD, cable television and cross-promotional branding, introducing a new generation of up-and-comers such as Hilary Duff, Brenda Song, Christy Carlson Romano, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu, Raven-Symon?, Shanica Knowles and Kyle Massey.

“Disney Channel does seem to have its stable of stars,” said Lori MacPherson, GM, North America, Buena Vista Worldwide Home Entertainment.

Much as it was with the old “Mickey Mouse Club,” many of the stars gain exposure through a Disney Channel series before being showcased in Disney Channel original movies, such as Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior, The Cheetah Girls (and its sequel) and last year's High School Musical.

“Ashley Tisdale will be on ‘The Suite Life of Zack & Cody,' then star in High School Musical. Raven has her own show, but also stars in Cheetah Girls. It really brings exposure to a lot of our titles,” MacPherson said. “Retailers like to be able to set up displays to showcase the Disney Channel brand.”

MacPherson points out that last year's Disney Channel Original Movie event, High School Musical, is the best-selling TV movie on DVD ever. The movie has sold nearly 5 million copies on DVD, according to Home Media Research.

A stage tour of High School Musical kicks off June 26, and the Disney Channel movie High School Musical 2: Sing It All or Nothing!, currently in production, is slated for an Aug. 17 premiere. The sequel reunites the core cast from the first movie, including Bleu, who has developed a sizable fan base, according to MacPherson.

With all the success of the burgeoning “HSM” franchise, it's interesting to note that Jump In! premiered Jan. 12 with the highest-ever ratings for a Disney Channel original movie in terms of total viewers (8.2 million) and kids 6-11, and rated second highest all-time among tweens 9-14.

“It doesn't just appeal to tweens,” MacPherson said. “It's a movie adults can enjoy as well. We are targeting well beyond the Disney Channel fan base.”

Jump In! stars Bleu, Knowles (“Hannah Montana”) and Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee) in a coming-of-age story about a Brooklyn teenager, Izzy (Bleu), whose father wants him to become a champion boxer. His heart isn't in it, but he's fascinated by double-dutch after watching his neighbor Mary (Palmer) compete. Mary wants to use Izzy's athletic skills in the city championships, and even though he's having fun, Izzy doesn't want anyone to know he's participating in such a “girlie” sport.

Adding to the family angle, Izzy's father is played by Bleu's real-life dad, David Reivers.The $26.99 Jump In! DVD also includes two music videos, the making-of featurette “Inside the Ropes,” and a double-dutch instructional video hosted by Bleu.

The Jump In! soundtrack, featuring several songs from the cast members, including Palmer and Bleu, is a top-selling CD. And Bleu's debut solo album, Another Side, hits shelves May 1 from Disney-owned label Hollywood Records.

“We want to create big events across multiple venues,” MacPherson said. “It's nice to be able to expand these promotions throughout the whole company; not just Disney Channel, but also Walt Disney Records and Disney DVD.”

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