Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Kelly Peña, or “the kid whisperer,” as some Hollywood producers call her, was digging through a 12-year-old boy’s dresser drawer here on a recent afternoon. Her undercover mission: to unearth what makes him tick and use the findings to help the Walt Disney Company reassert itself as a cultural force among boys.
Ms. Peña, a Disney researcher with a background in the casino industry, zeroed in on a ratty rock ’n’ roll T-shirt. Black Sabbath?
“Wearing it makes me feel like I’m going to an R-rated movie,” said Dean, a shy redhead whose parents asked that he be identified only by first name. Jackpot.
Ms. Peña and her team of anthropologists have spent 18 months peering inside the heads of incommunicative boys in search of just that kind of psychological nugget. Disney is relying on her insights to create new entertainment for boys 6 to 14, a group that Disney used to own way back in the days of “Davy Crockett” but that has wandered in the age of more girl-friendly Disney fare like “Hannah Montana.”
Walt Disney Expert Uses Science to Draw Boy Viewers