Back in November 2021 Disney’s Chief Executive Officer, Bob Chapek, announced that the company was preparing to take the leap into virtual reality saying that: “Our efforts to date are merely a prologue to a time when we’ll be able to connect the physical and digital worlds even more closely, allowing for storytelling without boundaries in our own Disney Metaverse.”
More recently, in February, Disney announced it had appointed Mike White, Senior Vice President for Consumer Experiences & Platforms, to lead its strategy for the Metaverse. White, who has worked at Disney for a little over a decade, will be responsible for connecting the dots among the company’s initiatives that blend “physical and digital worlds.”
In related news, former Disney CEO Bob Iger has recently announced that he is investing in and joining the board of Genies. Los Angeles-based Genies lets users create their own digital avatars for use in virtual worlds.
Investment in the Metaverse makes perfect sense for Disney. A key opportunity for growth for the company is in emerging markets, including the Metaverse. Following the live-action adaptations of animated movies, starting with The Jungle Book back in 1994, it feels like the natural next step for Disney to leverage its substantial assets to create persistent, immersive, virtual Disney worlds.
Disney has a huge back catalogue of globally recognized intellectual property at its disposal, in the form of brands, movies, characters and stories. While there are a number of Star Wars themed VR games already available, imagine riding your pet Rancor into Mos Espa alongside a gang of bounty hunters, including Boba Fett himself! Or flanking the Avengers’ Quinjet. Flying over the artificial trash planet of Sakaar as Iron Man. How about immersing yourself in environments usually found on the National Geographic Channel? Explore the Amazon rainforest, experience a volcanic eruption, or live the impact of climate change in 2050. While we recognise that Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge
Disney need not limit itself to game-like experiences. Imagine a drawing masterclass, taught by Walt himself, or a Bob Bird screenwriting class, or learning about the art of film directing, by Turning Red director Domee Shi. What about user-generated content? New Disneyland rides, designed, tested and built by Metaverse visitors, the most popular of which can be constructed in Disneyland parks around the world. As Walt said: “If you can visualize it, if you can dream it, there's some way to do it.”