'Minnie 'n Me' to Help Merchandise a Mouse : Marketing: Disney Records division hopes that an Anaheim girl's songs will create a new lifestyle for youngsters, giving them their own hero and their own best friend.


"Minnie 'n Me, Songs Just for Girls," the first release from Walt Disney Records' new live-artist recording division, is due out this week on CD and cassette.

Accompanied by a massive merchandising of Minnie Mouse-themed product, it's not just an album, it's a "lifestyle campaign," according to Mark Jaffee, vice president in charge of the division.

With such titles as "The Girls of Minnie Street," "Funderful, Wonderful Friends," "Jump Rope Rap" and "Party Slumbering," the songs on the album feature lyrics about pets, doing chores, future goals, being friends and "dressing sharp." (There are two classics: "Animal Crackers in My Soup," and "Swinging on a Star.")

All are sung by Christa Larson of Anaheim, an appealing, 11-year-old veteran who cut her teeth on a two-year national run of "Les Miserables."

She's the Me in "Minnie 'n Me" and represents all little girls whom Disney hopes will be attracted to the new Minnie "philosophy."

"It's a little girl's lifestyle," Jaffee said. "The songs, dancing, the upbeat flavor of the video that we filmed a couple of weeks ago--in essence, it's an entire way of looking at little girls, how they think, look and interact.

" 'Minnie 'n Me' gives little girls their own hero and their own person who can be their best friend," he added.

The video, which begins airing in September on the Disney Channel and Disney-owned KCAL Channel 9, is "the first ever short-form video for children made around one song ('The Girls of Minnie Street')," Jaffee said.

In the video, "you can see and feel 'Minnie Street.' If everybody was part of this lifestyle," he said, "here's what it would look like. It features 60 girls dancing, all sorts of activities, humor, bright colors, fun and friendship."

Even though he acknowledged that the video will be used "for promotional purposes," Jaffee objects to its being perceived as a commercial for the album and related merchandise. "It's not like an ad for products," he said. "The kids have to be clothed in something. They're clothed in Minnie-type clothing to create a visual look.

"You're not going to say, 'I need to get this specific item.' It's like any rock video that uses certain clothing or props." All the polka-dotted bedroom accessories, decorations and clothing, Jaffee said, "created the look we wanted to convey on Minnie Street."

Material manifestations of the Minnie lifestyle will be available for purchase in stunning variety, however. More than 50 "Minnie 'n Me" licensees are selling everything from clothing to sunglasses, stationery, bags, wallpaper, rugs, dinnerware, backpacks, posters, buttons, jewelry, toys and more.

Minnie's "best friend," Christa Larson, who is scheduled to use her perky smile to promote the album during a round of national appearances, is the calm at the center of the publicity cyclone.

Jaffee described Christa as "natural," and indeed, although she's been in the spotlight since she was 5, Larson, who lives in Anaheim with her parents and an older sister, comes across as unspoiled and very much her age.

During a recent interview, when asked how she felt about being a role model for her peers, she said, "I kind of like it. It makes you feel good about yourself when people look up to you."

The little girl with the big voice and wide blue eyes doesn't think she wants to be in show business forever, however. Doing "Les Miserables" eight shows a week for two years was tiring, and even though "Minnie 'n Me" was a lot of fun--"especially the dancing"--Larson is "not sure I want to do this for the rest of my life. I've wanted to be an artist since I was little," she said, "and I also want to be a marine biologist."

She was hesitant when asked for advice for girls her age, but after a moment's consideration offered, "Have fun and be yourself. Try to reach your goals in life, keep trying, never give up, and be good to each other."

But despite Christa Larson's engaging presence in "Minnie 'n Me," it's Mickey's familiar female friend who gets top billing. The album represents Disney's intent to develop new children's artists, rather than focusing solely on recordings tied to Disney movies and cartoon characters.

"Christa is our first recording artist," Jaffee said. But, "we're in the process of signing a number of children's artists who are not children. In essence, we're creating music that we think satisfies the needs of the audience."

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