Disney Appoints Metaverse Chief to Blend Physical and Digital Worlds
Disney has named a new leader for its metaverse plans to coordinate the development of its interactive digital worlds. Long-time Disney media executive Mike White will now be senior vice president of next-generation storytelling and consumer experiences as the company works on staking a claim in the rapidly growing metaverse arena.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek appointed White to take up the metaverse work in addition to his current role. White has been leading work on the Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution consumer experiences, including technology and digital experiences for the many brands under Disney’s umbrella. He’s worked for Disney for 11 years, joining the conglomerate after being CIO for education technology developer the Apollo Group. White’s new position will let him gather all of the various projects that could be related to the digital environments and AI-powered characters populating the platforms and set a standard for them applicable to the company’s theme parks and home experiences.
“For nearly 100 years, our company has defined and re-defined entertainment by leveraging technology to bring stories to life in deeper, more impactful ways,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek explained in a memo to the company about the appointment. “Today, we have an opportunity to connect those universes and create an entirely new paradigm for how audiences experience and engage with our stories. This is the so-called metaverse, which I believe is the next great storytelling frontier and the perfect place to pursue our strategic pillars of Storytelling Excellence, Innovation, and Audience Focus. Teams across the company are exploring this new canvas, and I have been blown away by what I’ve seen.”
Disney has been ramping up its interactive voice AI and virtual reality experiences over the last year or two. The company has partnered with Amazon to incorporate Alexa extensively. A custom version of the Alexa voice assistant is coming to Disneyland hotel rooms, and there’s a unique “Hey, Disney” voice assistant built on Alexa now available. The collaboration extended even to new Alexa skills like the “Frozen Sing!” karaoke “Star Wars: C-3PO Translates!” guide to Wookie and Droid languages.
Disney’s first mention of the metaverse came up last year when it announced a new theme park AI named Genie, set to be added to the My Disney Experience and Disneyland apps. As startups and tech giants race to plant a digital flag in the metaverse, entertainment juggernauts like Disney will likely be quick to try and get ahead, so their intellectual property isn’t held prisoner on a different platform they don’t control directly.