Disney Spreads Christmas Joy
On Dec. 20, the Walt Disney Company invited youngsters to the cultural capital for an evening of magic.
Published: December 26, 2013 (Issue # 1792)
For nearly a century, Disney’s stories have kept generations of children rapt with attention thanks to unforgettable characters such as Beauty, Simba and Ariel. In Russia, they’ve also given more than 700 very lucky children an early Christmas present they’ll never forget.
On Dec. 20, for the seventh year in a row and for the third time in St. Petersburg, the Walt Disney Company, in collaboration with several local charities as well as the Russian government, invited youngsters to the cultural capital for an evening of magic at the Musical Comedy Theater on Ulitsa Italianskaya.
“Aladdin,” the rags-to-riches story of a young boy and his discovery of a magic lamp, was the highlight of an extraordinary evening. Colorful costumes, memorable characters and intricate choreography brought delight and joy to the faces of every girl and boy.
Aside from kids from the Leningrad Oblast, children affected by the summer’s devastating flooding in the Far East were flown in for the holiday extravaganza.
At the end of the evening, all attendees received a gift bag featuring toys, a coloring book, a puzzle, a mug, a lunch box and sweets.
The Walt Disney Corporation has now given over 6,000 children from all over Russia a chance to embrace the magic of the holiday season in the past seven years. This year’s guests came from the Republic of Sakha, Primorsky and Khabarovsk Krai, Magadan and Amur as well as from the Jewish autonomous oblast.
The event is one of two in Russia this year. On Dec. 14, 600 children were treated to a production of “Moidodyr” in Moscow, Chukovsky’s classic fairytale about a talking washbasin, at the Bolshoi Theater. This year’s show was the first in St. Petersburg since 600 people were treated to “Sleeping Beauty” at the Mikhailovsky Theater in 2011.
“Giving back to communities is one of Disney’s founding principles,” according to the company website. “Today, we continue that tradition as we seek to do our part in improving and enriching the lives of children and families, as well as contributing our time, resources and energies to communities around the world.”
Their commitment to charity work, along with the recent opening of several merchandise stores in Russia, is part of the expanding influence of the American creative giant overseas. Since “Hercules” was dubbed into Russian 15 years ago, Disney has launched its own Russian television channel, online radio station, and computer and video games catering specifically to a Russian-speaking audience. Disney now has the highest sales of any movie studio in Russia and accounts for 26 percent of the film market’s revenue.
“Luckily, Disney movies appeal to universal values, and they are adored by cinema audiences around the world,” said Marina Zhigalova-Ozkan, managing director of Disney’s Russian and CIS operations, speaking to The St. Petersburg Times. “Russia is no exception. For instance, boys in every country played pirates long before the first of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies was shot.”
Disney’s most recent release in Russian, “Frozen,” features the voices of acclaimed jazz singer Anna Buturlina and pop star Dima Bilan. The movie raked in more than 377 million rubles ($11.4 million) in its first week. As of Dec. 22, the movie has earned nearly $200 million worldwide since its release, 44 percent of which has been earned abroad.
Such matters meant little to the assembled crowd of children at the Musical Comedy Theater on Dec. 20, however. One can imagine though that, for these kids, recent hardships became unimportant as they were transported to another world filled with magic and wonder, if only momentarily.
“Keep dreaming,” said Zhigalova-Ozkan before the curtain was raised on “Aladdin” last Friday. “It is only by dreaming that your dreams can come true.”
This report contains material from The Moscow Times.