Jonas Brothers Headline Disney's 'Camp Rock'

The movie Camp Rock, featuring the young musical group the Jonas Brothers, debuts today on the Disney Channel. Disney hopes Camp Rock will be the new High School Musical.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And let's go from older workers to younger viewers. "Camp Rock" debuts today on the Disney Channel. In case you've missed the weeks of promotion, the movie stars the teen pop family act the Jonas Brothers. Disney wants to follow up on the success of a previous tween hit, "High School Musical." NPR's Nate DiMeo reports.

NATE DIMEO: Claire Hatch is 16.

Ms. CLAIRE HATCH: They think it's a phase and it'll go away.

DIMEO: And to say that much of her bedroom is wallpapered with pictures of the Jonas Brothers...

Holy cow.

Ms. HATCH: Yeah, you weren't really prepared for that, were you?

(Soundbite of music)

DIMEO: The bedrooms and iPods of America's youth are being systematically taken over by the Jonas Brothers. There's Kevin, the oldest at 20 - he's the sweet one - Joe, the 18-year-old heartthrob, and 15-year-old Nick - he's the sensitive one.

(Soundbite of song, "Year 3000")

JONAS BROTHERS (Musicians): (Singing) One day when I came home at lunchtime I heard a funny noise. Went out to the back yard...

DIMEO: For those well clear of their own teenage years this might all sound familiar, especially if you loved J.C. from 'N Sync or Joey from the New Kids or Donnie Osmond or Davy Jones from the Monkeys. Music writer David Smay says that the Jonas Brothers are different from their forbearers. They're backed by a marketing leviathan called the Walt Disney Company.

Mr. DAVID SMAY (Music Writer): They control the product. They can put it on the Disney Channel. They have a radio station - Radio Disney - which has a very far reach. And they can just pound on their market all day, and it's a huge, huge cash cow.

Ms. ANN DONAHUE (Billboard Magazine): The music industry is obviously not in the greatest shakes right now.

DIMEO: Ann Donahue is a senior editor of Billboard magazine.

Ms. DONAHUE: But the music side of Disney has been very smart, because they also incorporate the other entertainment properties they have within the conglomerate. So also the fact that Disney is obviously targeted at the people who are still buying music, albeit in a digital form, I think that is also part of the reason why they're doing so well.

DIMEO: Chip McLean is also doing well. He heads Disney's enormously successful concert arm. He coordinates with the Disney Channel and Radio Disney in merchandising and their various record labels to make sure everyone's on the same page about how to define and package one of their brands. Or if you prefer, teenagers.

Mr. CHIP McLEAN (Walt Disney): Another division may release something and then six months later we're out in the market touring around for a few months and then six months later they come back with the next installment. You know, kind of keeping the momentum going.

DIMEO: Billboard's Ann Donahue said the band was dropped from Columbia, its original label, last summer. Then Disney stepped in. Now the push for the Jo Bros - as the fan shorthand goes - is in full gear with strategically planned releases that will keep the brothers very busy for the next couple of years.

Ms. HATCH: And that is premiering on June 20th at 8:00, 7:00 central.

DIMEO: Like any true fan, Claire Hatch has all the release dates and points of purchase memorized. The Disney machine has made sure of it.

Ms. HATCH: And then they should be coming out with a TV show called "J-O-N-A-S," which stands for Junior Operatives Networking As Spies.

DIMEO: History tells us that the Jonas era will one day end. Jonas t-shirts will be dropped off at Goodwill. And picture frames once filled with Jonas pictures will instead be filled with pictures of real boyfriends. If Disney can keep the phenomenon going for a year or two, they and the Jonas family will make an outrageous amount of money. If not, they're priming other Disney Channel personalities who are waiting in the wings. But for fans like Claire Hatch, none of that matters right now.

Ms. HATCH: These boys have really changed my life. I just don't think that something that really can change my attitude on life that profoundly is just going to go away in a couple months.

DIMEO: And she's right, because her joy is real. And her first all-encompassing love of music and unattainable boys is real, too. Also, the Walt Disney Company needs her to buy tickets to the Jonas Brothers 3-D movie that's set for release in the first quarter of fiscal year 2009.

Nate DiMeo, NPR News.

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