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Stop paying for those commercials

November 21, 2002

Some years ago, when Disney took over operation of the California

Angels from Gene and Jackie Autry, the marketing minds that had made

Disneyland a tourist icon were asked to produce the same results at

Anaheim Stadium. So for about three months, those of us who came to

watch baseball were inundated in Disneyisms that had nothing to do

with the game.

There were oompah bands playing on the infield grass between

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innings, a corps of dancing girls performing on top of the dugouts,

spectators bobbing in a tank for baseballs, races for kids in the

aisles and a dozen similar activities that I've been able to blot

from my memory. Because there was no escape from the incessant,

relentless noise for the sake of noise, it was impossible for the

fans to second-guess the team manager.

It apparently never occurred to these overpaid marketeers that the

only entertainment that would attract more paying customers -- as so

magnificently illustrated last season -- was a winning team.

The response from the people who came to see baseball and got

Mickey Mouse was instant, outraged and uncompromising: floods of

angry letters to the newspapers covering the Angels, scores of phone

calls to Disney and the Angels' front office, reactions ranging from

disinterest to contempt at the ballpark.

And the most important reaction of all: tepid attendance. So

Disney got the word. All of the cute stuff stopped. Slowly, the

energy and money devoted to window dressing were redirected to the

product on the field. It took a few years, but tickets were being

scalped for $1,000 or more at Edison Field in October. For baseball.

I bring up this bit of history now because my wife and I broke our

pattern and went to a movie over the weekend, the overpraised

throwback to the 1930s and '40s called "Far From Heaven."

Because there was a long line at the box office, it was clear that

we needed to get a seat while we could. That meant we were part of a

captive audience force-fed 20 minutes of hard-sell commercials before

the previews came on.

So I went into the movie full of anger at the people who subjected

me to this. I don't think that is the mental climate in which the

creators of this film would like it to be seen. I also don't think

that is of the slightest interest to the flacks pushing these

commercials.

My wife and are movie buffs. On average, we probably see a

half-dozen movies a month throughout the year -- and more when our

son is home. We are accustomed to and mostly welcome previews,

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