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04.13.17 | 7:39 am

Here’s Rey: Disney launches girl-focused “Forces of Destiny” digital shorts, products

Star Wars Celebration is kicking off this week in Orlando, and ahead of the Star Wars: The Last Jedi reveals and the activities around the franchise's 40th anniversary Disney has announced a new campaign designed to tackle that lingering problem of female fan service (remember the "where's Rey?" controversy during The Force Awakens' release?). 

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy unveiled Star Wars: Forces of Destiny, a new series of digital shorts and products focusing on the untold stories of some of the universe's prominent female heroes like Princess Leia, Rey, and Jyn Erso (in the case of the last two, actresses Daisy Ridley and Felicity Jones will return to provide their characters' voices, and the series will be hosted by Lupita Nyong'o as her Force Awakens character Maz Kanata). The shorts will also be accompanied by a line of apparel and toys that are being referred to as "adventure figures" to avoid the stigma of "dolls." 

04.10.17 | 8:51 am

Disney has huggable humanoid robots on its mind

A new patent application filed by the Walt Disney Company imagines a "Soft-body robot for physical interaction with humans." First spotted by the Orlando Sentinel, the patent says prototypes of the robot—designed to be "huggable and interactive"—have already been tested by Disney engineers. A patent application doesn't necessarily mean such a product would ever see the light of day, but the Sentinel spoke with a theme park writer who speculated that Disney may one day want to introduce soft-body robots to its theme parks, where they would interact with children. Read the full patent here. [h/t Ars Technica]



[Image: USPTO]

03.20.17 | 2:55 pm

Disney researchers can catch a real ball while wearing a VR headset

One of the truisms about virtual reality headsets is that no matter how fantastical and wonderful the worlds that you visit are while you're wearing them, you're blind to the real world around you. Sure, HTC's Vive has a see-through camera designed to make it safe to wander around in a room where a baby might crawl in front of you. But you're still largely blind to the physical environment around you.

Disney, though, thinks you should be able to mix the real and the virtual, and its researchers have come up with a system that cleverly mixes the two. In a video it released, researchers are shown tossing an actual ball (with motion-capture sensors attached) to each other while one sports a VR headset. The idea is that their system is able to track the ball's trajectory and display it virtually to the person wearing the headset, allowing him or her to reach out a hand to actually catch it. It's not entirely clear how this would be used outside the lab, but imagine Disneyland VR experiences where you could toss things back and forth with friends while immersed in Disney-esque VR worlds. 

02.14.17 | 6:58 am

Disney cuts ties with PewDiePie over anti-Semitic videos

The YouTube sensation, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, has seen his joint venture with Disney severed after he posted nine videos since last August that contained anti-Semitic jokes or Nazi imagery, reports the Wall Street Journal. PewDiePie and Disney's joint venture, Maker Studios, produced apps, videos, and merchandise. A spokesperson for Maker Studios said:

"Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate. Maker Studios has made the decision to end our affiliation with him going forward."

11.01.16 | 1:39 pm

Hulu signs ABC, Disney, ESPN, and Fox for new live television service

Hulu's upcoming live television service will feature some big names. The streaming company on Tuesday announced agreements with the Walt Disney Company and 21st Century Fox for the new service. ABC, ESPN, Fox, Fox Sports, and Fox News are all among the properties owned by those media giants.

No launch date or pricing information have been announced for the service, which will offer broadcast and cable TV streamed live over the internet. Hulu previously confirmed a similar agreement with Time Warner and its channels, including TNT, TBS, CNN, and the Cartoon Network.

The new streaming service will include an "intuitive and personalized interface," and  both live and on-demand content," the company said.

09.26.16 | 4:13 pm

Update: Twitter sale could happen in the next month 

Disney, Salesforce, and now Microsoft are all exploring a potential bid for Twitter, according to CNBC's David Faber. Sources tell the financial news outlet that a sale could be coming in the next 30-45 days. Among those not interested: Facebook.

09.01.16 | 9:51 am

Bollywood ending: Disney is done making movies in India

Following a number of underperforming Bollywood films, the Walt Disney Company confirmed it will stop making movies in India. Some of its recent Hindi-language films—including Mohenjo Daro and Fitoor—were made on modest budgets (by Disney standards) but still lost money. Disney instead said that it would focus on Hollywood movies that could play well in India. The studio had a rare crossover hit this summer with The Jungle Book, which appealed to both Indian and American audiences, and has turned out to be one of the biggest hits of the year.

Variety has more on this

[Photo: Razvan/iStock]

08.09.16 | 5:06 pm

Disney buys $1 billion stake in MLB streaming service BAMTech

As rumored, Disney is acquiring one third of Major League Baseball's streaming company BAMTech. The $1 billion deal spins off BAMTech from MLB Advanced Media, MLB's umbrella digital business. Disney will pay the $1 billion in two installments—one now and one in January—and will have the option of becoming the majority owner.

BAMTech is also teaming up with ESPN to launch a direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service that will cover "live regional, national and international sporting events," according to Disney's statement.

The news of the acquisition was coupled with Disney's quarterly earnings release today, which exceeded analyst expectations and reported $14.28 billion in revenue—in large part due to the success of films like Finding Dory, Zootopia, and The Jungle Book. Revenue at Disney's film division, in particular, was $2.85 billion, up 40% from the same quarter last year. 

07.12.16 | 8:50 am

littleBits at a crossroads: educational tool or toy?

Last we checked in with littleBits, the New York-based maker of modular electronics that function like digital-age Legos, the startup was unveiling a $299.95 kit designed for classrooms.  "Let's use invention as a way to engage the students, to allow them to create things that are relevant," founder and CEO Ayah Bdeir told Fast Company

Then, a surprise: Today littleBits announced that it had been accepted into Disney's prestigious startup accelerator, alongside peers like a toy subscription company called Pley. So is littleBits a curriculum tool, or a toy with ancillary educational benefits? 

Many companies like littleBits argue that they can be both, and that classroom learning should be fun. But the blurry line between the two is often confusing for parents and teachers, who rarely have the time or the training to determine which product claims are backed by data. Let's hope that Disney encourages littleBits and other companies with classroom potential to commission third-party research on their impact, even as they look to the toy aisle for sales growth. 

07.12.16 | 7:01 am

Here are the 9 new startups in the 2016 Disney Accelerator

The startups run the gamut of myriad disciplines including cinematic virtual reality, robots with human-like facial expressions, and artificial intelligence, reports TechCrunch.

Ader: a marketplace that matches brands with e-sports influencers

Atom Tickets: a mobile app that allows cinema-goers to buy tickets and concessions in advance with social aspects, including allowing users to invite friends to the movies

Hanson Robotics: a Hong Kong-based creator of human-like robots with a facial expressions

Jaunt VR: a maker of hardware and software tools enable cinematic virtual reality content creation

LittleBits: an educational toy maker that makes easy-to-use electronic building blocks for children

Nom: an online live-streaming video community for foodies

OTOY: a holographic content company working in light-field rendering in relation to AR and VR

Playbuzz: a content-creation platform that focuses on mobile-friendly formats that are optimized for social sharing

Pley: a toy subscription company—think Netflix or RedBox for toys

07.01.16 | 12:09 pm

Disney buys 33% stake in MLB’s $3.5 billion digital business

Disney also has the option to buy another one-third stake in the video-streaming unit. 

Read more.

06.23.16 | 4:33 pm

Disney princesses are harming your daughters

A new Brigham Young study found that 96% of girls had viewed Disney princess media and 61% played with princess toys at least once a week. A year later, those who engaged with "princess culture" were more likely to engage in gender-stereotypical behavior. The study said that girls exposed to the princesses could be more susceptible to having a negative body image and lower self-confidence. 

Read more in Time