Revealing Photo Threatens a Major Disney Franchise
A very interesting article about the Miley Cyrus nude photograph controversy, showing the difficulty for a company like Disney to keep control of a lucrative franchise with pre-teen fans.
Fifteen years old, topless and wrapped in what appears to be a satin bedsheet in the June issue of Vanity Fair. Did Miley Cyrus, with the help of a controversy-courting magazine, just deliver a blow to the Walt Disney Company’s billion-dollar “Hannah Montana” franchise?
The cover of the June issue of Vanity Fair and the photograph of Miley Cyrus, inset.
Some parents reacted with outrage over the weekend when the television program “Entertainment Tonight” began showing commercials promoting a scoop: Ms. Cyrus, the star of the wholesome Disney Channel blockbuster “Hannah Montana,” had posed topless, albeit with her chest covered, for the Vanity Fair photographer, Annie Leibovitz.
Screen grabs of the photo quickly popped up online, sparking a blogosphere debate. “Bonfire anyone?” wrote Lin Burress on her marriage and parenting blog, Telling It Like It Is, referring to the mountain of Hannah Montana retail items — makeup, shoes, clothes — in the marketplace. “Parents should be extremely concerned,” Ms. Burress said in an interview. “Very young girls look up to Miley Cyrus as a role model.”
It is doubtful that one photograph — especially one that is tame in the context of an Internet awash in nude photographs of other starlets — could dent the Hannah Montana machine, said several Wall Street analysts. Retail sales for the franchise are expected to total about $1 billion in 2008. A motion picture is in the works for 2009 and Ms. Cyrus signed a seven-figure book deal with the Disney Book Group last week.
But keeping a teenage entertainment franchise on track in an age when stars are monitored around the clock by bloggers and paparazzi is extremely difficult, even for a company with the experience of Disney. Executives are constantly battling to keep minor slipups from growing into full-blown controversies.