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Ditching Disney for a year Add to ...

Lisa Ray and her family are ditching Disney.

For a full year, Ms. Ray, her husband and daughters, aged 8 and 12, plan to avoid everything owned by the House of Mouse - from movies and TV stations to Marvel Comics and the Muppets.

They made the vow after the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood pressured the Walt Disney Company to offer refunds for its Baby Einstein videos, she says. Following the CCFC's victory, according to the New York Times, Disney contacted the Judge Baker Children's Center at Harvard University, which had housed the campaign for more than a decade. Early this year, the CCFC was evicted from the building.

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The incident was "unacceptable," says Ms. Ray of Minneapolis, Minn., who is blogging about her family's pact.

She explains why a vacation from Disney isn't Mickey Mouse work.

There are lots of issues in the world . Why target Disney?

It isn't that we aren't concerned about other causes in the world. But I am a proponent of decreasing the amount of advertising that kids see.

What is the significance of Disney's encounter with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood?

It said something to me about the power that corporations have today in our lives. In discussing it with my family, I commented that it's too bad we can't boycott Disney because it's impossible, it's so huge. And my 12-year-old daughter said, well, why don't we try it for a year?





You lose something when the only story that gets told is the Disney version.


This sounds like a Disney-free diet. But 95 per cent of diets end in failure.

We talked about it for months before we started. It took my 8-year-old a while to get on board and my husband did take some convincing. I had to talk him through the problems - the early sexualization of Disney's tween stars and the lead in Disney's kids' necklaces. I think the thing that won him over was what's happened to some beautiful stories and folk tales after Disney has gotten their hands on them. You lose something when the only story that gets told is the Disney version.

What didn't you know about Disney's holdings?

I knew it was one of the top media conglomerates, but I certainly wasn't aware of how many online properties they own. Hulu.com is a website where you can view movies and videos and old television shows - it's been, for me, our biggest loss.

I take it your husband isn't an ESPN addict.

He's not, but he is a big football fan. When it comes to Monday Night Football, he had to really think about it. I believe he's going to be listening to it on a local radio broadcast.

People talk about the "Disney magic." Do you have any fond memories of Disney?

I definitely have a fond memory of what was then called The Wonderful World of Disney, an hour-long show on Sunday nights. You saw the castle and the lights and everything. But otherwise it really wasn't a big part of my life.

What is Disney's role in kids' lives today?

Disney is building this brand awareness from toddler age up. When a little girl likes pink and sees a Disney princess, it ends up on everything - on the T-shirt, the shoes, in the grocery store, on the bread package, on her backpack. I think what that does is it limits imagination, limits choices. It's a method by which they create cradle-to-grave consumers.

Disney does good works, too. There's a wildlife fund, charitable donations worth $209-million a year and a volunteer program in 42 countries.

That's a really good point, but again, it just happened that the impetus for what we were doing involved Disney.

Recently, you let your eight-year-old see Toy Story 3 with her friends. Doesn't that undermine things?

The invitation came to see a movie and we made all the plans. Then we found out the movie was Toy Story 3. We kind of stopped and said, "Oh boy, what do we do - call the family back?" We just weren't comfortable doing that. But I don't know if I would make the same decision again.

What can your kids learn from this project?

What they are learning now is to do a bit of research on a product to find out where it comes from and who made it. Also, I think it's good to learn that you can do without something. You're not going to curl up and die.

How will you deal with Disney-related gifts?

For most people who know us, I don't think that would be their first choice of gift anyway. But I guess if somebody gives us a gift that's Disney-based, we will accept it and be gracious about it. Then we'll probably put it away for the remainder of the year.

What will you do when the year is up?

I'm guessing that we will make a decision to accept some things back in our lives, or maybe we'll realize that we never needed them in the first place. I honestly don't know.

This interview has been condensed and edited.





Follow on Twitter: @AdrianaBarton

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