The Morning News has a fascinating piece on a chain of theme parks called KidZania that allow kids to role-play a variety of jobs. The crazy part is that it’s all corporately sponsored as a way to get children interested in what big brands have to offer:
Children can play surgeon, detective, journalist, courier, radio host, and dozens more jobs. They can buy and sell goods at the KidZania supermarket, take KidZania currency that they earn to an operational bank staffed with adult tellers, and be security guards escorting KidZania currency around the park. They can assemble burgers and pizzas, which they can then eat, or give makeovers to other paying children. At the planned KidZania Santiago, Chile, minors will be able to play at being miners. One-size-fits-all costumes supersize the cute factor. The result of all this is mass-produced adorability.
But at the heart of the concept and the business of KidZania is corporate consumerism, re-staged for children whose parents pay for them to act the role of the mature consumer and employee. The rights to brand and help create activities at each franchise are sold off to real corporations, while KidZania’s own marketing emphasizes the arguable educational benefits of the park.
To put it another way entirely, the candy cigarette has found a rightful heir. And it’s coming to the U.S. within the next two years.
The best part is that KidZania’s U.S. president is Cammie Dunaway, former Nintendo EVP. Seriously, read this story.