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LET DISNEY BUILD US A MICKEY MOUSE BRIDGE

The debate over the Peace Bridge design has taken on a life of its own. Passions have been inflamed, meetings have been held, litigation has ensued and proposals have abounded.

Forget everything you've heard. I have a much better idea.

To get you into the right frame of mind, consider the growing propensity in America and Canada for seizing every possible opportunity to turn life into one long marketing moment. Sports stadiums boast corporate monikers, schools are financed by corporations using not-so-subtle ad placement and supermarkets have evolved into one long encounter of ads, promotions and strategic product placement.

In keeping with the times, it seems only appropriate to make the most of the bridge project as the quintessential marketing opportunity. And this leads me to an obvious solution.

I propose that we simply turn over the bridge project to the Disney Corp. Let Disney build it and run it. And here are a few humble suggestions to aid in the planning process.

Picture yourself as the happy traveler driving up to the new bridge. You gasp in wonder as your car approaches the mighty new span, which you notice is built in the shape of the famous Mickey Mouse ears. Much better than that boring "single ear" design of the original Peace Bridge.

As your car reaches the entrance area, you hear the strains of "It's a Small World" coming from loudspeakers. Your vehicle winds its way through a maze while you enjoy the view of shrubbery trimmed to look like Ariel and her mermaid friends.

At the toll booth, you are greeted by toll-takers dressed like the Seven Dwarfs. Unfortunately, your toll-taker happens to be Grumpy. Nonetheless, after crankily counting your change, he sends you on your way with a hearty "Hi-Ho!"

There is a traffic tie-up and you must wait a few minutes on the bridge. But not to worry. You are entertained by the "Pocahontas" video playing on enormous monitors located every 30 feet along the bridge supports. Meanwhile, a bridge employee dressed like Snow White strolls up to your car window and asks if you would like to buy a Minnie Mouse watch. Depending on your precise location on the bridge at the moment of purchase, the charge will be put through in either U.S. or Canadian currency.

Soon you smell enticing bakery aromas pumped continuously from large vents on the roof of Ye Olde Gift, Book and Coffee Castle located at the foot of the bridge. There you purchase a duty-free Pluto sweat shirt, leaf through a Walt biography and munch on Peter Pan cookies. Strolling Bear Country Jamboree musicians entertain you as Princess Jasmine rings up your order.

You finally reach the Customs booth, where you are greeted by a 6-foot 5-inch, 250-pound agent dressed as Tinkerbell. In a high, character-appropriate voice, he demands to know your citizenship and where you are going. When you provide satisfactory answers, he waves you on with a flourish of his magic wand.

Should your answers fail to satisfy, you will be escorted to a dungeon. There the evil Queen will consult her magic mirror, interrogate you and, if appropriate, summon her soldiers to drag you off and hurl you over the side of the bridge. Meanwhile, more fortunate travelers wait in line at the Customs booth, humming along to Disney tunes.

So you see, when viewed as a marketing opportunity, the bridge possibilities are truly endless. Tourists will come from near and far just to experience the Mickey Mouse Bridge. As for me, I look forward to the fireworks, parade and shaking Snow White's hand at the opening ceremony.

ANNE F. DOWNEY is a trademark and business attorney. She lives in Boston.
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