Walt Disney wants to put a modern twist on classic fairy tales, and not just in the way they are depicted on the TV screen.
When the company’s Disney Junior cable network launches “Goldie & Bear,” an updated take on everything from “The Three Bears” to “Jack and the Beanstalk,” it will do so by making the series available on September 12 via its Watch Disney Junior streaming-video mobile app to users who subscribe to the cable network, and then on TV about two months later, creating a vehicle that blends a taste of the Brothers Grimm with video-on-demand.
“We are trying to keep these classic stories, and classic characters, in kids’ minds,” said Nancy Kanter, executive vice president of original programming and general manager of Disney Junior Worldwide. With school systems placing more emphasis on math, science and analysis of documents, perhaps there’s less room for Tom Thumb and Hansel and Gretel? “We thought it was really important that kids still had a touchstone to these time-honored tales,” she added.
Each episode of the new program, which will debut on Disney Junior in November, includes two 11-minute stories that show Goldie and Bear — reunited after an infamous “porridge incident” — in the midst of escapades with their neighbors in Fairy Tale Forest, all of whom have roots in familiar storybook figures. The protagonists might help Jack and Jill get up a hill or ask the Big Bad Wolf to consider others’ feelings before blowing down the houses of those who reside within.
Walt Disney has reason to support the fairy-tale business. Much of the company’s famous, revenue-generating intellectual property has its roots in time-told tales of princesses and kings and young people gaining knowledge from woodland creatures. The company has a pipeline of live-action movies based on characters found in its treasury of animated fairy-tale classics: 2014’s “Maleficent” is based on 1959’s “Sleeping Beauty,” for example. The Disney Junior series “Sofia the First” makes regular use of various princesses from Disney’s stock of animated classics.
The tales “are deceptively simple and deeply complicated,” and, as such, are durable, explained Harvard professor Maria Tatar, a specialist in children’s literature and a member of the board of advisers for Disney Junior.
Disney Junior has released new series digitally in the past, and found itself rewarded for the effort, said Paul DeBenedittis, senior VP of programming strategy for Disney Channels Worldwide. When “Sherriff Callie’s Wild West” launched on Disney Junior in 2014, the company made episodes available for digital consumption first. The company found that “Callie” had one of the best premieres on the network, even with episodes available ahead of time, he said. “Miles From Tomorrowland,” a series that debuted on the network in 2015, was preceded by a group of digital shorts made available beforehand, DeBenedittis said.
Making the shows available for mobile and on-demand consumption allows kids to “engage multiple times early on,” he explained, “which is really important to launching a show.” The company will also roll out more than 20 “microgames” throughout the fall. Each will focus on a classic fairy tale or nursery rhyme character.
Six episodes will be made available for digital viewing. Eagle-eyed parents who watch with their kids may spot Humpty Dumpty, Mama Bear and the Cow Who Jumped Over the Moon, among others, as the programs unspool.