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Mobile ideas; Disney is hoping iPhone character becomes film 'star'

The Walt Disney Co. has used mobile games to promote its movies, but now it's trying something new: launching a cuddly character in a game in the hope he makes it to the big screen someday.

In a first effort at the new strategy, Disney is launching this week an animated alligator named "Swampy," whose bizarre quest in the 99-cent iPhone game "Where's My Water?" is to keep clean.

The reptile, unlike his in-the-wild counterparts, lives under a big city and mostly hangs around in his bathtub, waiting for iPhone owners to dig a digital trench that allows water to flow into his poorly connected plumbing.

Disney Mobile general manager Bart Decrem says one goal of the launch is to incubate new characters that can cross over into other Disney business units like movies and merchandise.

"Maybe five years from now, wouldn't it be great if there was a movie that started up on the App Store?" Decrem said.

He said mobile devices are becoming central to kids' lives and Disney wants to make sure it is there.

"To me, this is where a generation of kids is growing up. And it's really critical for the success of the company that we be there and telling stories and introducing characters to a new generation of kids," he said.

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