Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

We’ve just passed the latest iteration of Disney’s biennial D23 Expo. Of course, CEO Bob Chapek had a lot to say about the company’s increased focus on streaming, and how technology would affect the next 100 years of Disney. Brandon Blake, entertainment lawyer with Blake & Wang P.A, picks out the main takeaways.

The M Word

Despite a lot of posturing around Disney’s entrance into the Metaverse last year, this year the ‘M Word’ was notably absent from much of the discourse. However, with a lot of talk of ‘next-generation storytelling’, it is clear it’s still on the cards. 

There was also a lot of talk surrounding data usage, especially from the theme parks as well as user behavior on their streaming services, to better tailor the ‘Disney lifestyle’ for consumers. This grows on groundwork we’ve already seen laid, with Mike White recently appointed to oversee their new ‘Next Generation Storytelling and Consumer Experiences’ entity. Wild promises of augmented technology and other digital expansions were also hinted at, including the premier release of an 8 minute short film on Disney+ this week which incorporates augmented reality. The idea is that, over the next decade, we will see Disney+ move past a movie service platform into an ‘experiential lifestyle’ platform, bringing the theme parks into the digital space and creating digital experiences through media.

The Importance of Streaming

With their 100 year anniversary looming, its clear Disney is keen to reinvent itself for the coming generations. We heard little of their looming responsibility to buy out Comcast’s share in Hulu, although there was some discussion on whether these two entities would merge now that Disney+, too, is catering to older audiences. 

ESPN and the importance of sports streaming to the current streaming landscape also got a shout-out. Apparently several offers have been made for the sports business- and its powerful advertising drawcard. 

Much talk was also made of the future of Disney’s content plan, suggesting that their ‘speed of expression’ would hit its full potential in 2023 now the pandemic rush to adapt productions to new venues is in the past.

Of course, alongside these airy talks of the general future of the company, D23 also brought us some trailers, panels, and concrete facts on popular Disney IP and franchises- most especially Star Wars and Marvel, with some extra details on the planned fifth and sixth phases being revealed. We also saw some stand-along IPs get attention, including the upcoming release of childhood favorite, Willow. Meanwhile, a sequel to Inside Out seems to be in the works for Pixar.

While not driven by Disney itself, we finally also saw some backlash to internet ‘insiders’ and ‘scoops’ hit the press, as much of the presentations turned out to disappoint fans relying on this ‘insider evidence’ for what to expect. Hardly a Disney problem, but an interesting new wrinkle of the digital age we may see have more repercussions down the line.

All in all, it was an interesting take on the planned future for what has become one of the world’s largest streamers, and their hoped-for directions of growth.