It was back in February 2022 that Bob Chapek outlined his three "strategic pillars" for the future success of the Walt Disney Company and one of them was "Storytelling excellence". As part of this pillar, Chapek spoke of Disney's "franchise ecosystem" in relation to 'innovation' and explained that Disney would aim to use new technology to develop and initiate original ideas as well as using the concept of the metaverse.
Headed by former Disney consumer-products executive, Mike White, a small division of approximately 50 members were employed to find ways to tell interactive stories in new technological formats using Disney's vast array of Intellectual Properties.
Well, according to wsj.com this division has been eliminated as part of the 7,000 job cuts with all members apart from Mike White having lost their jobs.
The concept of the metaverse has been much hyped in recent years and many thought this would be the perfect way for Disney to expand into the future whilst enhancing storytelling which sits at the heart of its business. Through exploring experimental environments such as VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) coupled with Disney's expansive library of characters and IPs it would surely have been exciting times for Disney fans.
At the end of December 2021, Spectrum News, reported that The U.S Patent Office had granted The Walt Disney Company a patent to create a virtual-world simulator in a real-world venue. This essentially meant that Disney would be able to create immersive digital/ virtual theme park experiences while inside a Disney theme park.
As well as this, the patent also includes the ability for Disney to create a handheld device that when shone onto a surface will bring objects to life. How this patent differed from AR, where computer-generated images appear through a device, is through the use of projections. This would enable Disney to project images that you would usually see through a phone screen or head set onto a real surface. Thus meaning no headsets or goggles and the experience can be enjoyed by multiple users at the same time.
The possibilities for the Disney metaverse seemed endless. At this point little is known as to what the division was working on and if this work will be continued in any way elsewhere. We know, Mike White has not been let go and await news of where his skills will be used within the Walt Disney Company.
It does feel somewhat short sighted to be eliminating the metaverse division at a time when storytelling is still being pushed as a main focus for the Walt Disney Company for the future.
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