Disney Tech Executives Front and Center at CES

Startups, brand names in innovation and thousands of curious techies flocked to Las Vegas, Nevada, last week to display and view the latest products and developments in electronics at CES (the International Consumer Electronics Show).

On Thursday, several Disney tech executives were invited to talk about the magic behind the scenes at the “Making Disney Magic: Connecting Digital and Physical Worlds” session—how research and collaborating across disciplines are the keys that are essential to creating future of entertainment experiences at the Company.

Disney Chief Information Officer Susan O’Day; John Frelinghuysen, executive vice president, Digital Media Strategy and Business Development, Disney/ABC Television Group (DATG); Jon Snoddy, executive vice president, Walt Disney Imagineering; Michael White, senior vice president and chief technology officer, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media (DCPI) were a part of the panel, moderated by Shark Tank star and entrepreneur Daymond John, where consumer trends and the future of technology were discussed with a packed house of industry insiders and press alike.

When asked about kids’ expectations with toys today, Michael elaborated on DCPI’s approach. “Kids are digital natives,” he said. “The way we look at technology at Disney—and this is a little bit different being that at CES technology is front and forward—if we do our jobs right, you never see the technology. The technology is in service of the story and to kind of create the magic, but it’s not there to be front and forward.”

Jon concurred with Michael about keeping technology hidden and highlighted the way WDPR is bringing our stories and characters to life in new and innovative ways. “Our robotics work is where we’re truly advancing the state of the art, but doing it in a way that no one walks away thinking ’that was an interesting robot,’ they walk away saying that story moved me,” Jon detailed. He also spoke about the strong partnership with ILM that is paving the way for more immersive attractions to be developed. “Now with ILM, Industrial Light & Magic, being part of our company, we’ve really integrated them into our process,” and that work is leading to even more engaging experiences at Disney Parks around the world in the near future.

Susan O’Day talked about how fostering a culture of technology is encouraged and embraced by employees and leaders at all levels across the Company. “Bob Iger, our CEO, recently said to the top 400 executives [at Disney]—and he’s always embraced technology—that, ‘I expect all of you to have a love affair with technology.’ What happens then is that the people that are accountable to produce these incredible products and incredible experiences really integrate technology into everything that they do. She added, “So when we try to create a tech culture, it’s not hard to do because it’s ubiquitous. It’s all throughout Disney.”

In the multi-screen world of Disney/ABC Television Group, John highlighted ABC’s hit show Quantico, and how digital streaming has contributed to its success in attracting viewers. The impact [is] really being driven by new viewers coming to our on-demand experiences, including our ABC WATCH app, finding the show, starting to binge on the show, and then coming back to linear TV. It’s an example of a show where digital has really supported the total audience growth.

To view the full “Making Disney Magic: Connecting Digital and Physical Worlds” session, check out the video above.