NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Disney Productions, the fantasy factory that Walt built 60 years ago, is turning gold.
Mickey, Donald, Daffy, Goofy and all their friends landed 20 gold albums in 1983 -- a total of at least 10 million albums sold -- and things are looking even brighter in 1984 for the Magical Kingdom's musical arm, Disneyland Records, a wholly owned subsidiary that accounts for up to 70 percent of the children's record business.
The company's success is partly due to the fact that kids of the late 1950s and early '60s who grew up watching the Disney classics have married and started having children.
'Now they're buying them for their own kids,' Disneyland Records marketing man Stephen McBeth said during a promotional stop in Nashville.
Classic story albums like 'Peter Pan,' 'Snow White,' 'Bambi,' 'Pinocchio,' 'Three Little Pigs,' 'Cinderella' and 'Lady and the Tramp' continue to be the backbone of the Disney's business, but for three years Disney has been trying something new: tweeking kids' ears with contemporary sounds.
The first contemporary experiment was 'Mickey Mouse Disco,' a triple-platinum album where Donald Duck caught disco fever. Next came 'Mousercise,' the pre-teen's answer to mom's Jane Fonda exercise record. It is approaching platinum status, or sales of 1 million records.
The newest record is 'Mickey Mouse Splashdance,' featuring dance-a-long, sing-a-long songs inspired by the hit movie 'Flashdance.'
There is reggae, new wave, techno pop, and rock -- all provided with Disney's traditional wholesomeness that made Walt the king of family television.
'Everybody now sees children's records as the golden egg,' McBeth said. 'New kids are coming along all the time. Every couple of years you turn over and get a new crop of kids.
'There was a period from about 10 years ago up to two to three years ago when there was a decline in birth rates, but now the trend has reversed. In fact for everybody in the children's business banner years are predicted.
'I know in my own generation most of my peers are having kids left and right,' said McBeth, 28.
'Splashdance' is different from the others because it is not a theme record. Where the disco album dealt entirely with disco and 'Mousercise' with the muscle-flexing craze, 'Splashdance' is just a contemporary sounding album.
'When you go triple platinum with an album like 'Mickey Mouse Disco' and you go gold on an album like 'Mousercise' you kind of sit around and say this is pretty nice but what can we do to keep the ball rolling?' McBeth said.
What Disneyland Records did was look to the marketplace for the latest trend.
'We looked around last summer and thought dance music was going to be big so we came up with the idea. Do we call it Mickey Mouse Dance or Mickey Mouse Dance Party? Both had an archaic sound so we decided to just go with 'Splashdance' because it had that contemporary trendy sound. We went to songwriters in Los Angeles and said we need a song called 'Splashdance.''
McBeth said the record company's approach is that the album must be contemporary, upbeat, 'lots of fun,' and it's got to feature the Disney characters -- and Disney morals.
'We do seek in our albums to not change our image,' McBeth said. 'Disney is family entertainment based on generally accepted -- or even more on the conservative side -- wholesome values. When a mother picks up one of our records she knows it's not going to have sex, violence, strong language or anything like that on it.'
That may be why Disney never released a punk album during the peak of that craze.
'Before we decided to do a dance record there was some talk of doing a 'Mickey Mouse Punk' record,' McBeth said. 'It goes back to the image. Punk would be moving very strongly into the gray area.'
While kids won't be punking out, they may be videoing the latest Mickey Mouse song. McBeth said Mickey Mouse musical videos are in the works.