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Disney's mouse of the year
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An American mouse that celebrated its 80th birthday in November is hoping to share the joy and cash in on the upcoming Chinese New Year.

Just like Chinese children, who often wear new clothes with the arrival of the new year, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, two of Walt Disney's most beloved characters, will also be dressing up in new apparel.

Red, the color that symbolizes passion and fortune in Chinese culture, is the main tone. Mickey wears a red coat with the Chinese characters "wish you a rich year" written on it, while Minnie's one-piece features another Chinese blessing: "blossoming wealth".

The new threads are part of a collection from Chinese-American designer, Vivienne Tam, for the Year of the Mouse, Disney's campaign to establish an emotional connection with increasingly affluent Chinese consumers.

Disney sought the services of the Guangdong-born and Hong Kong-raised designer because of her Chinese background as much as her international reputation, says Stanley Cheung, executive vice-president and managing director of Disney in Greater China.

"The designer we were looking for had to understand and respect Chinese traditions and culture," he says.

The series' eight set of clothes all feature Mickey Mouse, the Magic Kingdom's trademark character. The fabric is mainly Chinese silk, red in color, and traditional cheongsam buttons are featured in most designs.

"Disney has a long term commitment to China and respects and understands the local culture," Cheung says.

Other than the new clothes, Chinese New Year elements are also being highlighted at Hong Kong Disneyland. In the Dragon Procession, Mickey and Minnie will greet visitors in their new Chinese costumes, following the Chinese gods of fortune, health and longevity, who give out gold coins.

At the same time, six Chinese singers will sing a theme song specially composed to celebrate the New Year called Small Small VIP. The music videos are to be filmed in Hong Kong Disneyland.

A series of consumer products featuring the Chinese New Year are also hitting the market, such as Mickey and Minnie dolls in golden garments worn by ancient Chinese kings and queens, as well as Mickey-themed accessories designed by Hong Kong-based jewelry companies.

The campaign is similar to the stamp Disney released early last year using the Winnie the Pooh character, to celebrate the year of the pig in 2007.

But in the year of the mouse, Cheung says Disney has for the first time adopted multiple platforms for a Chinese campaign, underlining the fact that the Chinese market is a priority in its global strategy.

"Disney's platforms and products are all about story-telling. And we feel that it is very easy to tell stories in China, because Disney's values have much in common with Chinese traditions, such as the importance of children and family, the respect for traditions and aspiration for ideals," Cheung says.

(China Daily January 9, 2008)

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