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Disney Bows Social-Like App to Feed Kids Bite-Size, Nontoxic Content

Disney has created a secure sandbox for preteens to get a taste of social media — without the risk that they’ll run into something age-inappropriate, scary or offensive.

More important, for Disney, the new Disney LOL app eliminates the danger that a tyke will see something other than a Disney-branded piece of content (apart from select third-party ads).

Basically, Disney LOL is a stunted version of Instagram or Pinterest, stripping out user-upload, commenting and “like” features. The apps and related website are stocked with micro-content like GIFs, memes, short videos, games, jokes and trivia pulled from the media conglom’s properties including Walt Disney Studios, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel, Disney Channel and Disney XD.

The owned-and-operated Disney LOL app, created and maintained by the Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media unit, also promises to let the company better monetize snack-size social content versus other platforms like Facebook or Snapchat.

“We thought, Wouldn’t it be interesting to create a feed-like experience we could control and program in our own unique way?” said Michael Hundgen, director of content strategy and editorial for Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media. “There’s so many properties at Disney. We can use this to rally around tentpole releases and showcase new content.”

While Disney LOL will probably appeal to some moms and dads looking for a safe plaything to hand over to their offspring, older and savvier youngsters will likely be turned off by the all-Disney-all-time feed and lack of actual social features.

Disney’s Interactive Media group produces some 6,000 pieces of content every month for distribution on social channels, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr and Snapchat. All told, Disney has 1.15 billion followers across those platforms generating 325 million views per month. And the company figures it can grab a portion of that action with its walled-off, kid-safe and all-Disney spin on social.

The Disney LOL app, available for iOS and Android in the U.S. and Canada, includes 6- to 15-second interstitial video or GIF ads. At launch, advertisers in the app include toy makers Lego, Hasbro and Spin Master.

“First, we wanted to provide a family-friendly place to see all this really great content from Disney and all our brands,” said Hundgen. “And second, this lets us monetize (content) with best-in-class ad sponsors.”

Disney LOL will feature 100-120 new pieces of content per week, updated daily, with more than 1,000 at launch. They’re designed to capture the flavor of Internet-speak and memes but without snark or nastiness (example: Ariel from “The Little Mermaid” signing Ursula’s voice-stealing contract with the caption “tl;dr” “too long; didn’t read”). Hundgen said much of the content will be repurposed material distributed on other social channels but that his group will be producing more content for Disney LOL.

The app lets users share content Facebook, Twitter and other social nets if they have access to accounts on those services, or save video and images to a device’s camera roll. Clicking the “heart” icon saves a piece of content to your favorites, and the app users browse by genres like “fun,” “fail,” “cute” and “throwback,” as well as search for specific characters or properties.

In addition to Disney LOL, the company this week launched the Mickey Video app, which features popular short-form (up to five minutes) Disney videos for kids and families. Content includes season three of “Mickey Shorts” (20 videos); classic cartoons and character pages featuring Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto; and short-form content from Disney-Pixar. The app is available on the iPhone, iPad and on Apple TV.

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