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How many times can a lion’s death cause tears to be shed?

The number is apparently quite high, if one takes a look at all the Lion King segments, tributes and fandubs videos that can be found on YouTube. Finnish, Chinese, Swahili and French Canadian editions receive thousands or even millions of hits and hundreds of comments. People in their teens, twenties and thirties remember when they first saw the movie, lament the death of Mufasa and call Scar every nasty name in the dictionary.

You’ve forgotten who you are so you forgot me

Call it a nostalgia fest. A mindless dwelling on childhood memories. A copyright infringement. I agree. It is all that and more. More specifically, it is an excellent marketing tool for the Disney Classics.

Disney is a media conglomerate that licences from theme parks to stuffed animals. The capacity of these products to reproduce the “magical” feeling that was felt during the first consumption of a specific media product adds value to them. This media product can be a television series/feature film like Hannah Montana or an animated movie, like Tangled. Such products may have a short or long life-spam and they serve the needs of a specific audience. However, from an economics point of view, investing on a product that has the capacity to continue generating revenues after many decades is more profitable decision than a short-lived blockbuster.

I just saw the real world

Another question that should be posed is if the audience that seems – by the videos’ comments sections – to be highly engaged with these movies is a dynamic audience that has the necessary resources and is actually willing to send them on a Disney product.

The answer is no… and yes. No, because it is less likely that they will go and spend money on a stuffed animal for themselves. Furthermore, if their average age is around 25 – that’s to say, the people who were children when the movies from the Disney second golden era (1980s-1990s) come out – they are too young for Western standards to have children (as it is obvious, this article discusses in broad terms the Western viewers). However, they can function as the agent who will introduce the movies to a younger audience, consisting of future children, younger relatives or friends’ children. They will take them to Disneyland and they will buy them the toys. They will consider consuming a Disney product as sharing a beloved childhood experience with younger generations.

Therefore, the people who produce the Disney YouTube videos invest time, work, passion and creativity without asking for a financial reward. They execute the laborious task of selecting the segments of the movies, adding subtitles, answering the viewers’ questions and creating marketing tools that remind users why these movies are so beloved.

I’d rather die tomorrow than live without having known you

A tangible recent example of how longitudinally successful a movie can be is the Lion King that was re-released in 3D last September. The movie went to gross so far in the US alone $93,883,136. 3D may assist the maximization of profit, but compelling storytelling and pre-established word of mouth has certainly played a far more important role in the success.The company is also re-releasing in 3D other four Disney/Pixar movies within the next two years: Beauty and the Beast, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc and the Little Mermaid.

Therefore, it can assumed that quality is a safe investment for a multi-national media conglomerate and the reproduction of short clips in many languages that demonstrate this essential asset of the company’s products is an unexpected marketing tool that can have a positive effect on its revenues in the long run. In combination with the company’s struggle to re-capture its past glory, the reproduction of best-off moments can also have a positive effect on Disney in general as a brand.

However, this may not be the case with films or series produced by smaller companies that are not associated with other products or the revenue of these other products is smaller. The reproduction of favorite moments or whole episodes online may provide them with popularity in unexpected geographical territories, but this does not necessarily brings profit to the company. Such a case is anime series Naruto, which has never been broadcasted by a Greek channel, however it has a very strong fanbase in the country. With the dissolution of geographical boundaries due to the internet and the increasing number of people learning foreign languages, the viewers who are interested in gaining access to a foreign cultural product will simply bypass the local broadcasters. This only results to the loss of revenue for the industry which primarily hurts the production of independent and alternative content.

Tale as old as time, Beauty and the Beast

In conclusion, websites like YouTube can be a double-edged sword, especially for small companies and projects of smaller scale. Quality, on the other hand, and high production values is by far a safer bet in the animation industry. It will bring revenues in the short or long run and lasting glory to the studio. It will also motivate people to become loyal costumers and try over and over again the company’s products, even after a decade of disappointments and a series of terrible straight-to-DVD sequels to the Classics.

However, Disney was, is and will remain the company that relies on the strongest branding concept in the world: the promise of a fantasy land where there is no pain and the ending is always happy.