Monday, May 7, 2012
Disney's delightful Christine Service: South Africa's multimedia magic maker in the house of the Mouse.
She's not a princess, but she does run a kingdom. And as such she holds the keys to an envied, magical corporation which produces the stuff that fairy tales are made of. Literally.
Her prototypical magic words are not Abracadabra, Hocus Pocus or even Alakazam. It's just a single word.
The delightful Christine Service, the country manager for The Walt Disney Company in South Africa and looking after the rest of Africa, once again took to the stage at the end of April in Cape Town to wave the magical wand of her powerful brand in front of press, advertisers and a wide array of stakeholders at the latest Disney Showcase, days before The Avengers exploded globally.
With press flown in from Durban and a similar Disney Showcase again held in Johannesburg the next day, the house of the mouse unveiled the upcoming slate of new movies, TV shows, merchandise, video games, music, DVDs and live action entertainment events (yes, Disney on Ice Worlds of Fantasy is coming …).
Again, Disney was / is / remains pure dazzle. Christine Service who manages Disney's vast, and growing, operations in South Africa and Africa didn't really need to put on a show. Like that other "D" – Discovery Networks – Disney remains a pure blue blood, blue chip entertainment brand. Nobody's forced to buy it. But when kids and tweens hear ''Disney" they simply want it.
Like Apple's Steve Jobs, Christine Service at the latest Disney Showcase simply stood next to a podium on which rested her Apple Mac. Behind her, a big cinema screen inside Ster-Kinekor at Cavendish, lit up in blue. It simply stated: "The Walt Disney Company. Dream With Us."
Christine Service dimmed the lights and smiled. "I know I said last time we want to keep the Disney Showcase small and intimate, but what we have to show and share with you today …" – and she waved with her hand like a wizard to the big screen behind her – "deserves bigger attention."
The attention of course is over a "little" movie you might have heard of. It's The Avengers – the latest superhero movie set to break box office records globally and coming from the Marvel stable which is part of The Walt Disney Company. The Avengers opened in South Africa and elsewhere globally before America, was an instant hit, and now has "monster hit" also written over it in North America.
The Disney Showcase and the movie's release co-incidentally co-incided. A quality presentation, filled with quality content.
And so it is with virtually all of the myriad of new, upcoming and rereleased Disney brand extensions in South Africa over which Christine Service holds sway and is nurturing carefully: its quality entertainment which sells itself.
Beyond The Disney Channel (remaining firmly number one with kids viewership wise of all the dedicated kids channels on MultiChoice's DStv), Disney Junior (the number two TV channel overall under all dedicated kids channels on all of DStv) and a plethora of highly sought after TV properties of current TV hits as well as new ones, Christine Service clearly knows that she doesn't need to hype up anything.
When you put up an image of Nemo which instantly elicits "oohs" from the audience, you know the content speaks for itself. And Disney's content is its kingdom - a kingdom which is carefully being build and protected.
Where – whether because of fear, ineptitude, restrictions or production problems – bigger TV executives in South Africa will often struggle to, or not even show a brief clip of their biggest upcoming TV and movie properties. Not so with Christine Service. She always gleefully shows whole trailers of movies and TV shows.
When she shows a full trailer of a new upcoming movie and earnestly goes, "And this wasn't one of those trailers you often see from some places where all the jokes and all the good scenes are already in the trailer. The whole movie is filled with laugh-out loud jokes and moments just like these ones," not a journalist or an ad buyer has reason not to believe her.
As country manager for South Africa and all of non-French speaking Africa, Christine Service is responsible for all of The Walt Disney Company's operations in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. What helps of course is if you actually live the brand -something she clearly does.
I've met Christine Service a few times now, I've interviewed her, and we've chatted casually over tea and muffins. As a mother herself, she always readily shares funny anecdotes, like stories about her children. At Disney's latest upfront she casually dropped this time to the audience that her kids refer to Disney's 101 Dalmations as "the spotty dogs movie".
With a career of more than 12 years at Disney, seven of the last ones based in Johannesburg, Christine Service has a Bachelor of Science in engineering from the University of Waterloo in Canada as well as an MPhil from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. All proving that when you work with kids - helping to craft new dreams and constructing magical kingdoms - you do need to be really very clever.
Christine Service is a Disney damsel not of distress, but of delightful multimedia magic. The Mouse can be proud.