Disney stars on stage for North Korea's young leader
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PYONGYANG, North Korea -- Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh took the stage in North Korea during a concert for new leader Kim Jong Un, in an unusual performance featuring Disney characters.
Performers dressed as Minnie Mouse, Tigger and others danced and pranced as footage from "Snow White," "Dumbo," "Beauty and the Beast" and other Disney movies played on a backdrop, according to still photos shown on state TV.
The inclusion of characters popular in the West -- particularly from the United States, North Korea's wartime enemy -- is a notable change in direction for performances in Pyongyang. Actors and actresses also showed off new wardrobes, including strapless gowns and little black dresses.
In recent years, performances such as the "Arirang" mass games featured performers dressed as panda bears in homage to North Korean ally China.
This appears to be the first time Disney characters have been included in a major performance, though Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse have been popular among children for several years. Backpacks, pencil cases and pajamas imported from China often feature Disney characters, and stories such as "Dumbo" have been translated into Korean for North Korean schoolchildren. However, it is unusual to make such images a central part of a North Korean performance and to publicize it on state TV.
Zenia Mucha, chief spokeswoman for The Walt Disney Co., said the use of Disney characters in the North Korean performance was not authorized by the U.S. entertainment company.
U.S. sanctions prohibit the import of North Korean goods to the United States, but do not ban sales of American consumer products in North Korea unless they involve officials or companies on the U.S. Treasury Department's sanctions blacklist.
The performance was Friday by the Moranbong band, which was assembled by Mr. Kim himself, the Korean Central News Agency said.
Mr. Kim, who is in his late 20s, has sought to project an image of youth, vitality and modernity.
First Published July 9, 2012 12:00 am