Disney Buys Maker Studios

on Monday, Mar. 24th

If you had any doubt as to how big a deal YouTube multi-channel networks have become, you’re just not paying attention.

Variety reports:

The Walt Disney Co. is acquiring Maker Studios, a top YouTube multichannel network, for $500 million with a performance-based earn-out of up to $450 million, the Mouse House announced.

The “performance based earn out” part means that the final deal could be worth as much as $950 million.

Warner Bros. and Google have been pumping money into Machinima, while Fullscreen has had venture funding from no less than Comcast. Maker bought up the video platform Blip.tv just a few months ago, as part of a general trend towards consolidation in online video.

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Game Industry Shake-Ups: Disney Cuts Job, Major Sony Exec Leaves

on Thursday, Mar. 6th

Two big stories in the games world today.

First up: a wave of expected cuts hit Disney Interactive today. 700 lay-offs as the Mouse House consolidates its interactive division. Variety has the nuts and bolts details, but the gist of it is this: Disney is focusing its efforts. Disney Interactive has a broad mandate: everything from websites to mobile and console games. A younger company might structure such business units differently, rather than aligning them all under the same structure.

Disney Interactive found one of its biggest successes yet in the form of Disney Infinity, the console game that mixes collectible figurines with video game play, this past holiday season. There’s no reason to expect that this franchise will be particularly hurt by the cuts, even with 26% of the total staff of Disney Interactive being let go.

Mass layoffs are a fairly common occurrence in the games industry; which isn’t to say they are any less painful for those who find themselves with pink slips. It does serve as an abject lesson for those who enter the industry with stars in their eyes. The business involves absurdly long hours as a game is rushed to market, and when the release date hits the ax often follows soon after.

Game production at large studios resembles the rhythm of film and television production in this way. Staffing is ramped up as production heads towards release, and then the team is winnowed back down when the job is through.

The other big news: Sony’s Jack Tretton, the face of Sony Computer Entertainment America as its CEO and President, is stepping down. He’s been with the company from the beginning, and has played a key role in the launch of every Playstation console. 19 years on the job seems to be the limit, however.

This turn was unexpected by the gaming press, and comes on the heels of the news that the fan-favorite creator of the Uncharted series has left the Sony owned Naughty Dog studio. IGN reports that Henning was forced out of the studio as part of an internal power struggle.

This is supposed to be the quiet months for the games industry, but I guess those don’t happen anymore. Next week Titanfall hits, which Microsoft needs to be a smash hit in order to change the industry narrative over the new generation of consoles.

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Are Disney’s MagicBands A Glimpse Of All Our Tomorrows?

on Wednesday, Jan. 22nd

MailChimp’s Chief Data Scientist John Foreman isn’t a theme park kind of guy, but he couldn’t wait to get his hands on Disney World’s new MagicBand technology–wearable RFID tags that act as park admission and a means to customize park visitor’s experiences.

In an insightful and witty (“If the NSA were smart, it would buy Candy Crush Saga, change the permissions, and be done with it.”) piece up this week at GigaOm, Foreman uses his first hand account of his family’s trip to the park to take a deeper look at how online tracking methods are leaking out into “meat space”:

“Meat space” (coined by William Gibson in Neuromancer) is a term for the physical world where our bodies (meat) move around and do meat-like things (for example, eat, jog or go clubbin’). The interesting thing about the term is it’s a play on “cyber space” — meat space is an internet-first way of viewing the world.

Is this a dream of the future that excites you, or gives you night terrors?

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Image courtesy of: Disney Research Labs

Disney Up To Its Magic Tricks Again

on Tuesday, Aug. 13th

I feel bad.

I feel bad because I’ve known about Disney’s AIREAL technology for weeks now and I didn’t share the stories with you.

AIREAL is a new low cost, highly scalable haptic technology that delivers expressive tactile sensations in mid air. AIREAL enables users to feel virtual objects, experience dynamically varying textures and receive feedback on full body gestures, all without requiring the user to wear a physical device.

Consider this video from the wizards at Disney Research Labs my mea culpa. If it doesn’t satisfy, this write-up at Wired will make you even more anxious to try the system out.

Follow Noah Nelson on Twitter (@noahjnelson)

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Disney Launches Alternate Reality Game About Founder

on Tuesday, Jul. 9th

The mad scientists at Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development are up to their tricks again. This time the Imagineers are taking pieces of Disney history to create a story–The Optimist–that will culminate at the yearly Disney fan expo D23 in August.

Alternate Reality Games blur the line between the real world and fantasy, it's right there in the name: alternate reality. Part of the fun is figuring out what's in-game and what is real, which means that using historical facts as the backbone of an experience helps keep the illusion of reality in place, but can also lead to players learning a thing or two.

(more…)

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Disney Does The Fan Generated Content Thing, Too

on Thursday, Apr. 11th

So earlier today I waxed poetic about EVE Online and how the company behind it, CCP, is using feedback from fans and user generated content to help define its ficitonal universe.

What should I find warming my inbox but a pitch by Disney for their new “Kingdom Keepers Insider app”.

This groundbreaking app will give fans the ability to follow along as Ridley Pearson writes, voting on plot points, character involvement, and locations – even contributing ideas for dialogue!

Now I had no idea what Kingdom Keepers was until about five minutes ago, and I’m definitely not the target demographic for a kids fiction series about the holographic dream projections of teenagers who fight Disney villains for control of the theme parks and cruise ships.

Okay, I was ONCE in that demographic, but that was at least a year ago.

What’s fascinating here is that at the very least there is an attempt to create the appearance of direct interaction between creator and audience. This for a work that is aimed squarely at a generation that has never known a world without the internet.

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Source: Auralnauts (after Lucasfilm)

WATCH THIS: Dance of the Fates

on Friday, Apr. 5th

One of the great things about the past few years is just how much Lucasfilm has encouraged its fan community to rework its material and make it their own. Which could be changing drastically as Disney, new masters of the Star Wars universe, restructure the smaller company (read: lay nearly everyone off).

If the attitude towards remixing work changes, we could lose great projects like Star Wars: Uncut and this great video from the Auralnauts, makers of the fantastic Holiday Bane.

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Disney Cuts Cable Cord: Chooses Netflix

on Tuesday, Dec. 4th

Cord cutters rejoice!

2011 wasn’t the best year for Netflix, we all know that, but the video streaming company is ending 2012 on a high note, one that all but ensures their future through the end of the decade.

Netflix has signed a deal with the Walt Disney Studios to become their streaming partner– replacing their deal with pay cable channel Starz. That makes Disney the first of the “Big 6” Hollywood studios to leapfrog cable for streaming. And of course, Disney isn’t just Disney: it’s Marvel, Pixar and soon it will be Lucasfilm as well.

As reported in the New York Times:

Library titles like “Dumbo,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Pocahontas” will become immediately available on Netflix, Disney said. Netflix will begin streaming new-release Disney films starting in late 2016, when the existing accord with Starz expires. The deal announced on Tuesday includes direct-to-DVD titles.

2016 seems so very far away, but it also means that the second, if not the first, of the new Star Wars movies will never have a cable TV premiere. How’s that for living in the future?

Anyone who has been thinking Netflix is a sinking ship better switch to decaf.

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Calm Down Nerds: The Force Is Strong With This One

on Tuesday, Oct. 30th

If you are currently freaking out about Disney aquiring LucasFilm for 4 billion in cash and stock… and thus buying Star Wars lock, stock and barrel, you clearly never rode Star Tours as a kid.

The first time I got on that ride a strong desire to merge these two companies overtook me. I was all of nine years old when that happened.

George Lucas has wanted to let go of the mantle of Star Wars for a long time now. One could even argue that he wanted to let it go before the prequels. Now he can. Now the next generation can step up.

While Disney has had some missteps in their studio of late they are also the shepherds of the mighty Marvel franchise and Pixar. If anything the studio seems to do better with IP that they acquire–that comes attached with talent– then they do with their own.

Having just spent time at the parks this weekend I can also say this much: I hope we get a full-blown Star Wars park out of this.

The only thing I’m concerned about is this: I hope Dark Horse Comics gets to keep the comic book license. They’ve done right by the franchise for almost 20 years now.

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Disney Gets Ready to Give Grants For Transmedia

on Wednesday, Oct. 17th

The Walt Disney Company is looking to give away a bunch of money and support to transmedia storytelling projects.

The initiative is called “Living Worlds“, and is spearheaded by Disney’s Imagineering Research & Development division. Its purpose: “to expand the art of transmedia storytelling by encouraging designers to bring their own immersive stories to life.”

The project, which was announced today at the StoryWorld 2012 conference in Los Angeles, will see its website launch on Monday.

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To Build The VR Education of Tomorrow One Scholar Turns To The Past

There are plenty of folks in the education technology field who are excited about virtual reality as the next great educational tool.

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We’re Closer To Our Photorealistic VR Future Than You’d Think (INTERVIEW)

A look into the virtual world of tomorrow with USC researcher Paul Debevec.

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Prepare Yourselves For The Personal VR Video Revolution

Virtual Reality is rapidly approaching a watershed moment.

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Spoiler Alert: Hollywood Isn’t Taking Cyber Security Seriously (LA Film Fest)

Tonight at the Los Angeles Film Festival, squeezed in between movies and red carpet events, a symposium on Cyber Security is being held at the Grammy Museum.

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Rent Video Straight From Social Media Via Gumroad

The people who brought the “Buy Now” button to Twitter are going all-in on film distribution.

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