Disney Europe is probably the last organization that I’d expect to distribute a commercial that would become viral for Filipinos in the US and all over the world, but people ranging from The Wife to the head of the Filipino Affinity group at work shared their video with me. Even Number One Son had seen it before I did. When I looked into it, I found that the commercial has more behind it than just a shameless attempt to sell Disney merchandise.
The commercial originated as part of a Disney UK fundraiser for the Make-a-Wish foundation. A share of the money from sales of the vintage Mickey Mouse doll (you can see it on the right) goes to the foundation. You might not think that there are many Filipinos in the UK, but my cousin worked there, and Filipinos make up a disproportionate number of the UK health workers that have died from COVID-19. If it isn’t obvious to you, “Lola” written on the card in the commercial means Grandmother in Tagalog. The star lantern is a traditional Filipino Christmas lantern called a Parol.
The UK singer Griff, who performs Love is a Compass, the featured song of the commercial, is an interesting part of this story. Perhaps I am giving Disney too much credit for being clever about its choices, but Disney picked a singer who looks Filipino! She is actually Chinese and Jamaican. You can see her perform the song in the video below. Proceeds from downloads of the song also go to the UK Make-a-Wish foundation.
This video has struck a chord with throughout the Filipino diaspora, from the US to Singapore and of course, the UK. The sadness of being far away and alone during the holidays and being away from the extended family and extended celebrations during Christmas is familiar feeling to a people from a country that has made its labor a major export and source of revenue through remittances. Also, dealing with elderly parents and grandparents is something very familiar to me and many others. My own children and parents are the same age as the young woman and her grandmother. I also appreciated the funny touches like a giant spoon hanging in the wall in the background – detail was a focus of the production of the video, similar to other Disney shorts like Bao and Float.
Making heart string tugging holiday videos is a pretty good marketing tactic. 2019’s Filipino Star Wars video, and Apple Chinese New Years iPhone movies are but two examples. I really don’t mind, though, as the appeal in these have a universal quality, as a variety of people, not just Filipinos, have been moved by this video.