Grumpy Cat goes Disney: Online celebs pitch in for new theme park push

Nov. 05, 2013 | 6:54 p.m.
Grumpy Cat poses with Grumpy the dwarf at Disneyland. (Disney)

Grumpy Cat poses with Grumpy the dwarf at Disneyland. (Disney)

Grumpy Cat was just one of about two dozen Internet stars that turned up at Disneyland in Anaheim Tuesday as part the company’s unveiling of its new marketing push, dubbed Disney Side, which is attempting to harness the power of social media “all stars” to promote the parks.

The new campaign is designed to encourage people to express the “Disney side” of their personalities, and includes original contributions from stop-motion Vine animator Ian Padgham, Instagram photographer Lauren Randolph, wacky video personality Mark Malkoff, “CuteGirlsHairstyles” YouTube-r Mindy McKnight, singer Tiffany Alvord, fashionable dog Trotter Pup, Ridiculously Photogenic Guy Zeddie Little and “How to Be a Dad” blogger Charlie Capen, among others.

The 24 creators chosen by Disney have a combined fan following of 30 million and have generated an estimated 2 billion views online.

“We looked for people with a solid following who we thought could create content that would be a good fit for Disney,” said Leslie Ferraro, executive vice president, global marketing and sales for Disney Parks & Resorts.

While a portion of the new promotional campaign will include a traditional media push in print publications, movie theaters and on television, much of the Disney Side content is digital —  YouTube shows, Vine shorts, songs and photography with the potential to go viral.

Some of the videos, like MysteryGuitarMan’s 97-second short about a regular guy finding his “Disney Side,” feel like ready-made TV commercials. Others, such as Mary Doodles’ drawing video, are ideally viewed on a laptop.

Mike Tompkins, who recently amassed 23 million views from his one-man a cappella rendition of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” and Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are,” recorded a new version of “When You Wish Upon a Star,” adding a distinctive beat to the song.

He also directed and edited a video for the cover.

“We shot the video in front of the castle with Mickey Mouse,” Tompkins said. “We were shooting right before the park opened. It was a surreal moment. There were very few moments in my career where I’ve gotten chills, but shooting with Mickey was one of them.”

Disney executives say creators were given guidance about the sorts of pieces the company was looking for and received access to the park and costumed characters for video segments. For the most part, though, the contributors had freedom to pursue their ideas.

The Disney Side campaign could be a win-win for the parks and the participants: Disney has the potential to benefit from associations with popular online brands, and the artists and personalities themselves stand to enjoy increased exposure from the project. (For Tompkins, the Disney video simply marks a pit stop between his tour with the Jonas Brothers and the release of his own album next year.)

Little, the Ridiculously Photogenic Guy whose handsome mug was first snapped in the middle of a race in Charleston, S.C., welcomed the opportunity to be photographed grinning next to some of Disneyland’s most famous attractions. It was was a fun way to spend his vacation time away from the New York restaurant he’s currently managing, he said, though he’s ready to get back to his day job.

“I’ve got to get back and make up for time lost,” Little said.

Grumpy Cat, a Snowshoe Siamese accompanied by her handler, Tabatha Bundesen, also has other responsibilities. Though the feline stopped by the Anaheim park for a Disney Side photo shoot with Grumpy the dwarf and to visit Pluto’s house, the appearance on Tuesday was scheduled between time working on a range of projects.

“She has her second book coming out, we’re working on a movie, she’s got T-shirts and a coffee drink called Grumpaccino coming out,” Bundesen said.

— Patrick Kevin Day | @patrickkevinday

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex


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