As Walt Disney Co. continues to expand globally, the entertainment empire is targeting children yet to be born in Africa and Indonesia as its next generation of satisfied customers.
The studio has been making big gains in Asia, Latin America and other developing markets, and Andy Bird, who as chairman of Walt Disney International is in charge of everything the corporation does outside of America, has a plan to keep that momentum going for decades to come.
“I’m trying to map a strategy for the company which may be over 20 years into the future,” he said. “We look at generational effect by thinking in terms of today’s children becoming parents themselves.”
Building global awareness and affection, especially in emerging markets, is part of his ongoing work to keep the Disney name synonymous with family entertainment.
The strategy for now focuses mostly on China, where a new Disney theme park and resort is set to open in Shanghai in the spring, and India, where Disney-branded Bollywood films are now being produced. The two countries are experiencing the greatest growth of middle-class disposable income.
But Bird is also looking into other markets and sees big opportunities in Indonesia, the largest economy in Southeast Asia and one that continues to expand. Disney isn’t building a theme park there just yet, but has an office in Jakarta overseeing a fast-growing business in TV, theatrical productions and consumer products.
“There are 250 million people in Indonesia and an emerging middle class,” Bird said. “The whole area is fascinating and 74 percent of the population in Southeast Asia is under 34.”
He thinks that region offers trade opportunities for other L.A.-based businesses, not just Disney and other giants.
“Businesses here in L.A. need to maybe start thinking of themselves not on the West Coast of America but on the east coast of the Pacific Rim,” he said.
Hill and dale
Speaking at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills recently after giving a talk there to the British American Business Council, Bird, an Englishman, explained that growing Disney’s international footprint includes work in even the most undeveloped areas.
Working with nonprofit organizations, he said Disney has recently hosted humble film screenings in remote African villages, projecting studio films on bed sheets.
“We’re bringing cinema to places that have never seen movies before,” said Bird, sounding keen to win new converts to the Disney brand even in the most far-flung places on the planet.
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