Disney CTOs Talk Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) devices are now in consumers’ hands, shifting the way teams across The Walt Disney Company produce content for audiences around the world.

At a recent event hosted by The Walt Disney Studios’ Technology Innovation Group (TIG), employees from across the Company gathered at its headquarters in Burbank, California, to discuss the impact VR has had and will continue to have on Disney experiences.

Disney|ABC Television Group Senior Vice President (SVP) and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Skarpi Hedinsson talked about innovations from his side of the business, as they are focused on making news and programming even more immersive. Just recently, ABC News had the top VR video on Facebook in 2016 with its 360 tour of Times Square during January’s record-breaking winter storm—it was viewed more than 18.3 million times. Hedinsson also mentioned the effort to introduce VR into the filming process of ABC series. “We did a piece with Quantico where we went all the way into the writers’ room and crafted a story offshoot from the main story arc and shot it all in 360,” he said.

“Our angle with VR is on cinematic storytelling,” The Walt Disney Studios SVP and CTO Jamie Voris said during the panel. The Jungle Book was the studio’s latest experiment with VR, and the team created four different experiences for a variety of platforms. One highlight Voris shared was the unprecedented, simultaneous release of an interactive 360 video and VR experience that placed viewers in Mowgli’s shoes as he met King Louie. And in May, the team launched the Disney Movies VR app that places users inside the themed worlds of Disney, Lucasfilm and Marvel movies.

In the global marketplace, Walt Disney International SVP and CTO Emmanuel Frenehard expressed that VR will play an important role in bringing the magic of Disney in new ways to virtually ever corner of the world. Overseas, the release of the DisneyLife digital platform has already begun to transform the experience, enabling families to discover the brand beyond single interactions like watching a movie, reading a book, or visiting a Disney park.

The panel agreed that close collaboration between Disney’s businesses would continue to be a catalyst in creating even more VR content to share stories in never-before-seen ways. Frenehard summarized the momentum on the technology at the Company best by saying: “We are all working as one company, in unison, toward looking at VR.”