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Barbie's, the Mouse's Sites Offer a World of Fun

November 09, 2000|KAREN JONES | karen@kjnyc.com

On name recognition alone, Disney and Barbie are hard to beat. To stay viable in the digital age, however, high-profile Internet sites need to be easy to navigate and deliver a top-notch experience for parents and children. Disney.com and Barbie.com have hit the mark with redesigned Web sites teeming with new stuff.

Disney.com

You would expect a Web site under the Disney banner to be big, and that's just what Disney.com at http://www.disney.com is. Designed to suggest a virtual theme park--something in which Walt Disney Co. has 45 years of experience--Disney.com is fun, inviting and packed with content for children and their parents to explore.

Disney.com features six main neighborhoods, similar to how Disneyland and Disney World divide their parks into sections. Each neighborhood offers its own form of entertainment. Fun for Families offers activities such as crafts, recipes and family-focused travel guides. Kids get bored on long trips? Pack a backpack full of small toys and puzzles to keep them occupied. Fun for Families also includes the Pets and Animals Channel, where kids can read about chimpanzees from Dr. Jane Goodall or play games such as "Pterodactyl Peninsula."

Zeether features lots of interactive entertainment for kids, including games, chat and music as well as links to Zoog Disney, Disney1.com and Radio Disney. All three allow users to tinker with their favorite Disney TV and radio shows.

The Playhouse is designed for younger children and offers Mouse House Jr. and Worlds of Disney, where fans enjoy favorites such as "Bear in the Big Blue House" and "Rolie Polie Otter."

The Studio is an "all things Disney" section with extensive information on Disney TV shows, musicals, movies, videos and trivia. There is also a Shopping section featuring Disney merchandise and a Vacations area to help plan--no surprise here--Disney-themed vacations

Disney.com also just debuted a new version of Blast.com, the "learning-focused environment" featuring games and activities that reinforce reading, math and creative-thinking lessons. There is a parents' guide to Blast, but it should be noted that this is still a subscription-only section.

In all, Disney.com delivers a nice, free interactive package.

Barbie.com

Regardless of whether you view Mattel's Barbie as an anachronism or rite of passage, it is hard to argue with Barbie.com's mission statement: "To engage, enchant and empower girls." That said, Barbie.com at http://www.barbie.com clearly wants to bring Barbie into the digital age. Unlike many sites that strive to be gender neutral, this is definitely a girls' club.

The simple home page features Barbie sitting in a virtual living room. Here, any item clicked takes users to a separate section. For example, click on the animated calendar and up pops the Barbie Calendar with instructional activities planned for that week. There is also a Barbie Poll with probing questions such as "What's your favorite sport?" Girl's Story posts stories from girls across the country.

Fashion and Barbie go hand in hand, so, naturally, there is a Fashion Fun section. Here girls can mix and match the latest fashions and try them on a virtual model. Or they can dress up digital Barbies. There is also a fashion magazine cleverly titled B-Scene and My Design, where girls create their own dolls.

After all that work designing styles, girls can try out the Barbie Puzzle and Shoe Hunt games in the Games section, which also provides updates on the latest Barbie software from Mattel Interactive.

Girls can also create animated stories in Story Maker, a really cute area where users choose a character, mood and setting then view a cartoon based on the choices. There is also a Party Planner to design a beach, picnic or slumber party and then create a guest list and pick the right mix of music.

*

Karen Jones is a freelance writer specializing in children's interactive media.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Kids' Web Sites

Disney.com A huge site covering all things Disney

* http://www.disney.com

Barbie.com Full of interactive fun for little girls

* http://www.barbie.com

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