Disney unveils bold initiatives, to launch sports streaming service

The Walt Disney Company has unveiled a host of initiatives and partnerships aimed at transforming the landscape of digital entertainment and gaming.Under the leadership of CEO Bob Iger, Disney's first quarter earnings for 2024 showcased a robust performance, underpinning the company's ambitious plans for sustained growth and innovation.ESPN was a major focus Wednesday with a number of key announcements that showcased the evolution of the sports network. Iger noted that ESPN “continues to deliver meaningfully for the company and will be a key value driver in the future.”Among the key highlights:1. ESPN's Digital Evolution: Disney, in collaboration with Fox and Warner Brothers Discovery, is set to launch a new streaming sports service in fall 2024. This joint venture will provide consumers with unparalleled access to a comprehensive suite of sports channels and content, catering to the evolving needs of sports enthusiasts.2. Disney's Entry into Gaming: Disney announced a groundbreaking relationship with Epic Games, heralding a transformative union between Disney's storytelling prowess and Epic's cultural phenomenon, Fortnite. This venture promises to redefine the gaming experience, offering fans an immersive universe where they can engage with beloved Disney brands and franchises in innovative ways.3. Taylor Swift Exclusive on Disney+: Disney+ will become the exclusive streaming platform for Taylor Swift's historic concert film, "Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour (Taylor’s Version)." Scheduled for release on March 15, this collaboration underscores Disney's commitment to delivering compelling content to audiences worldwide.4. Moana Sequel and Studio Slate: Disney revealed plans for a feature-length animated sequel to the beloved film Moana, slated for release in November. This announcement is part of Disney's commitment to delivering captivating storytelling experiences to audiences of all ages.Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, expressed his enthusiasm for these developments, stating: “Ultimately, our mission is to make ESPN into the preeminent digital sports brand, reaching as many sports fans as possible and giving them even more ways to access the programming they love, in whatever way best suits their needs. One way will be through the new streaming sports service coming this fall that we announced yesterday in conjunction with Fox and Warner Brothers Discovery. This service will bring together our collective portfolios of sports channels and direct-to-consumer services – on a non-exclusive basis – providing consumers with more of the sports they want in a single place.”

Disney+ Hotstar partners with Xapads in MENA region

Disney+ Hotstar and Xapads have forged a dynamic partnership to transform the advertising landscape in MENA Region.This collaboration signifies a strategic move to enhance Connected TV (CTV) advertising capabilities in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). This partnership aims to unlock new possibilities for advertisers and underscores Disney+ Hotstar's commitment to staying ahead in the ever-evolving media landscape.The collaboration is focused on improving ad solutions and bridging the gap between brands and the audience in the MENA region. Advertisers may gain exclusive access to premium inventory, providing them with unique opportunities to engage with the audience on the Disney+ Hotstar platform.Ramneek Chadha, COO of Xapads, expressed excitement about the collaboration, emphasizing that Disney+ Hotstar's influential position in the streaming realm, combined with Xapads' expertise in digital advertising, will yield outstanding results for advertisers. Chadha highlights that advertisers will have direct access to premium CTV and connected device audiences in the top 10 metropolitan areas.Dhruv Dhawan, Head of Ads at Disney+ Hotstar, emphasized the platform's continuous search for innovative ways to empower advertisers. He believes that the collaboration with Xapads will help Disney+ Hotstar make significant strides in the MENA region, facilitating the growth of their advertiser base.Gagan Uppal, Country Head for MENA at Xapads, envisioned that this partnership will bridge the gap between brands and the audience, making content and advertising more engaging and accessible. Advertisers will have exclusive access to premium inventory, while the audience can enjoy compelling content and live streaming of matches. Uppal looks forward to witnessing the incredible stories and experiences that will unfold as a result of this development.

Lanny Smoot: Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame

Lanny Smoot, a Disney Research Fellow and longtime member of Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development, is being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He is the first Disney Imagineer to receive this prestigious recognition and only the second individual from The Walt Disney Company to be inducted—the first being Walt Disney, honored posthumously in 2000 for the multiplane camera. Smoot and his fellow Class of 2024 inductees will be formally honored in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 9.Upon learning of his induction, Smoot said, “I was honored and humbled at being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. With all of the inventing greats, however, I caught a true lump in my throat when I realized that I was only the second person at The Walt Disney Company being presented with this honor, and the first person was Walt Disney himself.”For nearly three decades, Smoot has continued to push the boundaries of technology to bring to life awe-inspiring, one-of-a-kind experiences to Disney guests around the world. Throughout his illustrious career, he has worked as a theatrical technology creator, inventor, electrical engineer, scientist, and researcher, resulting in more than 100 patents—an incredibly rare feat that makes Smoot one of the most prolific Black inventors in American history, based on patents issued, according to Disney patent attorney Stuart Langley. Of that total, 74 of his patents were created during his 25 years at The Walt Disney Company.“At Disney Experiences, we’re committed to world-class storytelling, creativity, and innovation in everything we do, and Lanny Smoot embodies every one of those ideals,” said Josh D’Amaro, Chairman, Disney Experiences. “As Disney’s most prolific inventor, Lanny continues to amaze all of us with his artistic ingenuity, technical expertise, and endless imagination.”Among his many accomplishments, Smoot is credited with giving Madame Leota her ability to “float” in the Séance Room at the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland Park; crafting the state-of-the-art extendable lightsaber used by Disney Live Entertainment; inventing the Magic Playfloor interactive game experience on the Disney Cruise Line; producing the immersive Fortress Explorations adventure at Tokyo DisneySea; and designing the virtual and interactive koi ponds at the Crystal Lotus Restaurant at Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel.When deciding which of his patents to highlight as part of his National Inventors Hall of Fame induction, Smoot selected “Where’s the Fire?” at Innoventions, previously featured at EPCOT. This interactive exhibit promoted fire prevention through engaging challenges; guests “shined” a special flashlight on the walls of a house and, through the magic of his technology, exposed hidden fire dangers and learned how to prevent them from happening.Smoot is the recipient of many awards and honors, including three Thea Awards from the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) for his work on the attractions Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and Kim Possible: World Showcase Adventure, as well as the Ghost Post limited-time experience inspired by the Haunted Mansion. In 2020, Smoot’s expertise in theatrical technology earned him the esteemed title of TEA Master.Smoot’s forward-thinking inventions have also empowered the theatrical community to create new entertainment, illusions, and magic. He is currently working on the HoloTile floor, the world’s first multi-person, omni-directional, modular, expandable, treadmill floor. It allows any number of people to have a shared virtual reality (VR) experience, walk an unlimited distance in any direction, and never collide or walk off its surface. The HoloTile floor can also be an insert in a theatrical stage, allowing performers to move and dance in new ways, or stage props and structures to move around or appear to set themselves up.Prior to joining Disney, Smoot completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering at Columbia University. Before Disney, he worked at Bell Laboratories, followed by Bell Communications Research. While at Bell, he received patents for his role in the early development of video-on-demand technology, video conferencing, and more.

Disney studio Pixar considering workforce reduction

Walt Disney-owned Pixar Animation Studios is considering workforce reductions as it wraps up production on several streaming projects. The news, following recent layoffs at other Disney subsidiaries, raises questions about the future of the animation studio.Rumours of a 20% staff cull swirled, but an insider close to the matter dismissed such speculation, emphasizing that the exact number of job cuts is still being determined. The source attributed the potential downsizing to a workforce surplus, built in anticipation of streaming productions that are now nearing completion. Pixar's Emeryville, California studio, reportedly expanded its staff to handle these projects, leaving redundancies once they finish.The potential layoffs align with Disney CEO Bob Iger's broader shift towards prioritizing profitability in their streaming strategy. Rather than focusing solely on in-house productions, Disney seeks to control costs by acquiring content from external sources. This pivot echoes June 2023's layoffs at Pixar, which saw 75 positions eliminated, including executives tied to the underwhelming performance of "Lightyear."Despite potential downsizing, the source assured that Pixar's theatrical releases remain unaffected. Further, while "Elemental," the studio's latest foray, had a shaky debut, it ultimately collected an impressive $500 million globally, suggesting continued box office appeal. Additionally, Disney's 2006 acquisition of Pixar revitalized the Disney Animation division, highlighting the studio's enduring value.While the precise scope and impact of the potential job cuts remain unknown, the news casts a shadow of uncertainty over Pixar's future. Balancing cost control with creative freedom will be a delicate dance for the iconic animation studio as it navigates this new streaming landscape.

Viewers open to ads on streaming platforms: Hub study

Viewers are open to and tolerant of advertising on streaming platforms – especially when ad loads are reasonable, when users’ bills are lower, and when they have the option to choose a premium ad-free options if they so desire, according to Hub Entertainment Research’s TV Advertising: Fact vs Fiction study.As more and more streaming services adopt an ad-supported model, the importance of understanding advertising’s role in the TV ecosystem – and in viewer’s subscription and viewing decisions – has never been more important. While Netflix, Disney+, and Max work to draw subs to their new ad tiers, Amazon and AMC+ recently announced their push to ad commercials to their streams. Soon there may be few truly ad-free streamers left – if any.Time and again consumers are seen choosing content first – whether or not they can watch it ad-free.The sixth wave of the study continues to track use, viewing behaviors, and perceptions of ad-supported TV, exploring the interplay between advertising, cost, and content.Consumers, who were intolerant to ads in 2023, are now open opt to ad-supported services to save money.Contrary to popular belief, consumers' patience for advertising has its limits. In a level playing field, nearly four out of ten viewers would opt for a streaming service with fewer ads. Additionally, advertisers benefit from reduced ad loads, as almost half of consumers pay more attention when ad breaks are shorter. A streaming service with a more reasonable ad load tends to elevate the perceived quality of its advertisers.The consensus among viewers is that two standard-length ads per break constitute a reasonable amount of advertising. Viewers generally find ad breaks acceptable if they last one minute or less, but the tipping point occurs at ninety seconds, beyond which most viewers deem the break unreasonable.There remains substantial potential for streaming platforms to expand their ad-supported offerings. A significant proportion of consumers remain unaware of the lower-cost ad-supported options provided by most streaming services.Consumer acceptance of advertising in streaming video is on the rise, presenting growth opportunities for ad-supported offerings. The Hub TV Advertising: Fact vs. Fiction survey consistently indicates that a majority of viewers prefer an ad-supported video subscription if it costs less than an ad-free one over the past two years. In the latest survey, this preference is notably higher than it was in June 2023.The acceptance of advertising in streaming video is widespread, and there is still untapped potential to attract new subscribers. Many consumers are unaware that streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, and Max have introduced more affordable ad-supported tiers. Aggressively marketing these economical options can draw in viewers who have not subscribed due to perceived high costs.

Remembering Disney Legend Glynis Johns

Disney Legend Glynis Johns passed away from natural causes on Thursday, January 4, in Los Angeles, her manager confirmed. She was 100 years old.Perhaps best known to Disney fans as feminist Winifred Banks in the Academy Award®-winning Mary Poppins (1964), Johns became everyone’s favorite sister suffragette. Walt Disney himself personally selected her to play the career-defining role, having been drawn, like many a moviegoer, by her sparkling screen persona. His choice of casting was spot on, as film critic Leonard Maltin pointed out in his book The Disney Films: “She lights up the screen the minute she appears [in Mary Poppins],” he wrote. “She makes every minute count, and her amusing suffragette song is most enjoyable.”Inducted as a Disney Legend in 1998, Johns was born to Welsh parents on October 5, 1923, in Pretoria, South Africa. She made history when she received a degree to teach dance by age 10. By 12, she won 25 gold medals for dance in England and, by 13, appeared in her first film, South Riding (1938). Her first adult role came in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 49th Parallel (1941), released in America as The Invaders and starring Laurence Olivier, Leslie Howard, and Raymond Massey. By 19, she became the youngest actress to play the lead role in the theatrical production of Peter Pan.She became associated with The Walt Disney Studios in the early 1950s, when it began to produce live-action films in England.She starred as the capricious Mary Tudor in 1953’s The Sword and the Rose, co-starring Richard Todd. As Helen Mary MacGregor in Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue (1953), she played the spirited wife of a Scottish freedom fighter. A decade later, in 1964, she returned to Disney to star in Mary Poppins. The hit musical amassed 13 Academy Award® nominations and garnered five Oscars®.Johns also starred in such television shows as General Electric Theatre and The Cavanaughs, as well as her own series, Glynis. She appeared in other series including Batman, Cheers, and Murder She Wrote, starring another Disney Legend, the late Angela Lansbury.In 1960, Johns won an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mrs. Firth in The Sundowners, starring Robert Mitchum. Later, she received a Tony Award® in 1973 for her stunning stage performance as Desiree Armfeldt in the original cast of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. About Johns, Sondheim once said that her rendition of “Send in the Clowns” remained his favorite.In all, she performed in more than two dozen theatrical productions and more than 50 feature films, including Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband (1947) starring Paulette Goddard and Dear Brigitte (1965) starring James Stewart. She also appeared in a children’s TV anthology version of The Secret Garden alongside Derek Jacobi, for ABC.In 1994, Johns returned to The Walt Disney Studios to co-star in the Touchstone comedy The Ref. The next year she appeared in Hollywood Pictures’ smash hit While You Were Sleeping, starring Sandra Bullock. Johns was also featured in archival footage in the documentary Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: The Making of ‘Mary Poppins’ (2004) from Buena Vista Home Entertainment and the HBO documentary Six by Sondheim (2013).

Disney launches ‘May Your Wishes Come True’ campaign

Disney has launched a holiday campaign called 'May Your Wishes Come True', which focuses on the power of wishes for its centenary anniversary. The campaign includes the first live-action festive ad, titled 'A Wish For The Holidays', which takes inspiration from the soon-to-be-released Walt Disney Animation Studios' movie Wish and will launch in more than 50 countries.The ad is directed by Grammy Award-winning Nigerian / British director Meji Alabi and was shot entirely in Cape Town, South Africa, and features scenes representing six geographical locations and languages.It tells the stories of families and friends worldwide who are united by a universal wish to be together with their loved ones during the holidays, recognising a range of festive traditions.The ad includes the globally recognisable song A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes from Cinderella, rearranged to enable multiple performers to come together with one united voice. English-language voice of Asha and Academy Award-winning actress and singer Ariana DeBose delivers the opening line in the English version, and voice actresses in markets around the world sing it in other languages.The ad has been globally produced by Ridley Scott Associates across the United States, the United Kingdom and South Africa and developed in collaboration with the Disney Parks, Experiences and Products internal advertising agency Yellow Shoes.Joss Hastings, VP of Global Marketing at Disney consumer products, games and publishing, says: "Holiday traditions may look different around the world; however and wherever you're celebrating, we all share the wish to be with the ones we love during this special time of year."Inspired by Walt Disney Animation Studios' new movie Wish, the advertisement brings voices from around the world together as a global choir for a powerful rendition of the iconic A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes. We hope fans enjoy the new twist on a Disney classic as we celebrate 100 years of storytelling and the integral role that music has played," adds Hastings. According to Disney, the global premiere of the advert comes hot on the heels of the recent unveiling of a co-branded celebratory aircraft livery in collaboration with LIFT airlines to kick off 'May Your Wishes Come True'.<div class="video-container"><iframe src="" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

Disney the most talked about stock on social media

Disney is the most talked about stock on social media, new research has revealed. The entertainment giant has the highest number of videos published and viewed, and the most hashtags used across TikTok and Instagram.  The findings come from a new study by online trading provider City Index, which analysed every company in the S&P 500 based on how much content on their stocks and shares had been created and viewed on TikTok and Instagram. The study revealed that there have been 80 million views of videos with the hashtag of #disneystock, #disneystocks, or #disneyshares, the highest amount out of all the 500 companies that were included in the in-depth analysis. Those views have come from 6,151 videos – also the largest amount in the study – as creators discuss the company’s financial performance, and whether it is a good time to invest in the stock.  In total there are 44,177 hashtags related to Disney stocks and shares, and the company’s share price has been around $85 in recent weeks. It is down more than $100 from its all-time high above $200 in March 2021, which came after California health officials confirmed theme parks would be allowed to reopen as COVID restrictions eased. The second most popular stock on social media is Netflix, which has more than 13 million video views on TikTok and Instagram. The global streaming service is the subject of 1,384 videos about its financial performance, with 4,635 hashtags mentioning #netflixstock, #netflixstocks or #netflixshares. Netflix shuttered its mail order DVD business at the end of September, and its most recent earnings report revealed it had added 5.9 million new subscribers in the second quarter of 2023. The company’s stock price is currently around $380, which is down from its all-time high in November 2021, when it peaked just above $690. Amazon places third in the ranking with more than 5.9 million video views about its stocks and shares, along with 17,278 hashtags, and 725 published videos. The company reported that for the second quarter of 2023, ended 30 June, it had net sales of $134.4 billion, while its share price has steadily risen this year, and is currently around $128. Social media’s fourth most popular stock is Tesla, which has 739 videos dedicated to it on TikTok and Instagram. They have received more than two million views, while there are 1,898 hashtags related to the electric car company’s stocks and shares. Tesla’s share price is around $260 and it has a market capitaliszation of $813 billion, which is the second highest out of the companies in the top five, behind Amazon on $1.32 trillion. Fifth in the social media stocks ranking goes to Walmart, with more than 4.7 million views of videos discussing its financial performance, along with 2,570 dedicated hashtags. The top ten is rounded out by Costco in sixth, Microsoft in seventh, 3M in eighth, Nike in ninth and Starbucks in tenth.  Commenting on the figures, a spokesperson for City Index said: “This data paints a fascinating picture of which companies’ financial performance attracts the most interest, excitement and discussion on social media. The companies at the top of the list are some of the biggest brands in the world, which highlights how the general public are most comfortable approaching the complex world of the stock market through the businesses and brands with which they are most familiar.  “The strong appetite for advice and guidance on trading is demonstrated by the fact that videos on the top ten companies in the list have more than 117 million views in total. As trading continues to become more accessible to people who aren’t working in the finance industry, and following the rise of so called ‘meme stocks’ over the past two years, it will be interesting to see how the discussion of the best trading and investment opportunities continues to develop on social media.” The study was conducted by City Index, an award-winning, multi-asset financial services provider with 40 years' experience in supporting clients – providing instant and secure access to global markets.

Mickey Mouse, explores magical spots around Abu Dhabi

With just a few days remaining before the launch of the all new edition of Disney On Ice presents Mickey and Friends to Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena, Disney icon, Mickey Mouse, explores the UAE’s capital. Taking place from 12th to 16th October, families, friends and Disney fanatics are set to enjoy the all new interpretation of this magical show.This beloved character has been spotted throughout Abu Dhabi at iconic destinations including the Louvre, Etihad Arena and Breakwater, as he prepares himself for the launch of this new, glittering performance. Mickey’s thrilling journey throughout the city has delighted fans as they see their favorite character in unlikely locations and building buzz and anticipation for the upcoming show.Following his adventures throughout the city, Mickey will now be preparing for this exciting take on Disney On Ice, and he will be joined by Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy on a journey to discover his favorite memory of all time. Using Mickey’s “Mouse Pad,” show hosts encourage fans to be part of the action and help the gang venture though Disney stories, sharing memorable moments from treasured tales. Along the way, families sail away with Moana as she displays courage to save her island on a high-seas adventure with the demigod, Maui. Families will continue the journey to the wintry world of Arendelle as royal sisters Anna and Elsa discover true love is the most powerful magic of all and experience the mysterious magic of Fantasia as a Sorcerer’s Apprentice makes brooms come to life. “Live Your Story” alongside Disney Princesses as they use perseverance, determination and hard work to inspire Mickey and children around the world to share their favorite Disney memories.