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Never mind about Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. What about Disney at Daytona?

Never mind about Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. What about Disney at Daytona?

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Hey, gang!

Yep, it's that time again. Try-out Tuesday. Where we try out new ideas for columns at the site as well as let new writers take a stab at landing a gig here at JimHillMedia.com.

Well -- this time around -- I'm pleased to introduce you all to one of my older pals on the planet, Jeffrey Lange. Jeff and I actually met at a Disneyana event (I.E. a World Chapter Mini-con) nearly 15 years ago. And we've been very good friends ever since.

Lange's actually had a pretty profound impact on my life over the years. EX: Jeff's the guy who originally introduced me to my ex-wife, Michelle Smith (AKA the Fabulous Disney Babe) as well as inadvertently allowing to connect with the wise and patient woman I currently live with, Nancy Stadler (AKA the poor female who has to put up with my incessant yammering about the Walt Disney Company). Lange's also been a very big booster of the idea of me making a living by writing about the Mouse for the Web. (So now -- finally -- you all know who to blame ...)

Anyway ... for years, Jeff (and his lovely wife, Flo-is-always-right Lange) have made numerous appearances in various JHM stories. But Lange has never written his own article for the site ...

Until today.

What made Jeff finally decide to write an article for JimHillMedia.com? Because this coming weekend, his two favorite interests -- the Walt Disney Company and NASCAR -- come together in a most unusual way. How so?

Well ... here, let's let Lange explain in his own words.


2004 finally brings together two of my favorite Florida past times: attending the Daytona 500 as well as visiting the Walt Disney Company Resort.

In years past, I would usually try to combine my winter visit to Walt Disney World with attending speedweek over at Daytona Beach. From a financial point of view, this always worked out great for me. As the flights down to Orlando were usually a whole lot cheaper than flying straight into Daytona. Plus staying at one of the WDW resorts was usually a whole lot more enjoyable than staying at one of those hotels over at the beach.

Plus -- by cramming as much fun as I possibly could into a single trip -- I'd really make the most of my time in Florida. Weekdays, I'd spend racing around the Disney theme parks. Weekends, I'd spend watching cars race around the track. It was (as I like to say) absolute bedlam.

It wasn't like I was the only one doing this with the huge number of people that I've seen over the years walking around Daytona wearing Walt Disney World shirts (and -- for that matter -- the large number of people that I've seen parading through the theme parks, proudly wearing their NASCAR shirts), I knew that there was some considerable overlap between the two fan communities. Which is why I always wondered why Daytona and Disney never got together to do any cross promotion.

Well, clearly I wasn't the only one who was wondering about this. I don't know if it was someone inside of Disney who first came up with this idea or whether it was someone over in Daytona. Personally, I don't really CARE who it was who initially came up with the idea. All that matters is that -- starting this coming weekend -- NASCAR and Disney are finally working together to make the Daytona 500 seem like a more magical, family friendly event.

A key part of this cross promotional effort will involve a specially-designed Mickey Mouse show car, which will lead the first pace lap around Daytona International Speedway.

Why put Mickey on the pace car? "The Mickey-branded event car at The Daytona 500 is (just) one part of (our company's) ongoing celebration of Mickey Mouse's 75th Anniversary," said Philip Shaw, senior vice president of Global Innovation for Disney Consumer Products. "(Which is why we are) proud to have Mickey included in the race."

Daytona International Speedway President Robin Braig added: "The Daytona 500 and Disney enjoy reputations (that are) steeped in tradition and family entertainment. (Which is why it's) only natural that we (would finally) come together at NASCAR's most prestigious race."

(A more interesting question might be: Why put Mickey on the pace car, rather than on one of the vehicles that will actually be competing in the Daytona 500? Well, supposedly it was Disney management that put the kibosh on that idea. Evidently, there were concerns about ... Well, what the public might think if the vehicle that Mickey was painted on were to crash and its driver were to be injured or even killed).

Anyway ... One of the key components of this cross promotional deal between Disney and Daytona was a very juicy licensing agreement. Which would allow for the sale of a wide variety of racing items featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Peg Leg Pete. For example: T-shirts and collectible die-cast vehicles featuring the Daytona 500 and Disney graphics are currently available at regional retail locations throughout the southeast, including Wal-Mart and Kmart stores.

(Now don't get depressed if you're a Disney/NASCAR fan that doesn't live in the southeast and/or doesn't have a Wal-Mart or Kmart near you. I was actually able to pick up some official Disney/Daytona 500 t-shirts at a Disney Store at the Solomon Pond Mall in Berlin, MA.. A weekend or so ago, that store had 3 shirt designs for adults and 2 for kids in stock as well as a different design sweatshirt for sale.

The best part of the deal was that the Berlin, MA. Disney Store had all of its Daytona 500 related merchandise on sale for 33% off. Plus -- if you spent over $40 -- the store knocked $10 off of the price of your purchase. So -- as you might imagine -- I really stocked up on this cool Disney/Daytona 500 stuff.

"So -- aside from the sale of t-shirts and stuff -- what's the Walt Disney Company doing to help promote its participation in this year's Daytona 500?" you ask. Well, would you believe a road trip?

For several weeks now, a caravan of show cars -- each a Chevrolet Monte Carlo with a Disney character prominently displayed on its exterior -- has been making its way from Central Florida to Daytona Beach. This "Road to Daytona" promotional program involves some of the cars making appearances at area Wal-Marts and Chevrolet dealerships en route to Daytona International Speedway. This Daytona 500 preview events will feature live remotes from area disc jockeys as well as giving race fans the opportuny to have their pictures taken with the cars.

Of course because Disney themed cars will be making appearances outside of Wal-Marts, is it really such a surprise that some of these stores will have miniature versions of these same cars on sale inside? Produced by Team Caliber, this replicas of the Disney character cars -- each adorned with a special paint job specifically themed to capture Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy or Peg Leg Pete's personality -- will be available in both 1:64 and 1:24 scale size.

I should warn all you Disney collectors out there: These Daytona 500 fantasy cars have already proven to be quite popular with both NASCAR and Disney collectors. A number of stores out there have already sold through their shipment of 1:64 and 1:24 scale cars in this series. So -- if you're looking to pick up a miniature Mickey Mouse pace car -- you'd better race on out to your local Kmart or Wal-Mart now. Otherwise, it looks like eBay is your only hope.

Anyhow ... "What about the race itself?" you ask. Well, if you don't already have tickets to Daytona Speedweek, be sure to watch NBC this coming Sunday, February 15th. When -- for the first time ever -- the Daytona 500 will be broadcast in high definition.

Which means that you should really be able to see the detail on that Mickey Mouse pace car.


For further information on NASCAR and the Daytona 500, I suggest that you head on over to www.nascar.com. Where, if you click on through to that site's Superstore, you'll be able to find plenty of cool "Disney at Daytona" related merchandise available for sale.

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