The formation of Disney Online Studios combines the talents of several of Disney Online’s pioneering Internet teams in order to accelerate development of new immersive online entertainment for kids and families. Among the groups joining the team are the creators of Disney.com XD following the 2007 launch of the interactive broadband destination that combines games, video and community elements.
The newly formed group will also include Disney Online’s Virtual Reality Studio, a group that started in Disney’s Imagineering division before moving online to create ground-breaking virtual worlds including Disney’s Toontown Online and recently launched Pirates of the Caribbean Online. In addition to the existing resources, there will also be a significant expansion of the development, community, operations and publishing teams to more fully address growing opportunities in the online games and community space.
“Online games and community continue to be a key focus of our entertainment content,” stated Yanover. “As the number one ranked site for kids and families, Disney.com reaches more than 27 million unique visitors a month, and far and away the top reason guests come to our site is for games and other interactive online entertainment.”
Parkis will lead the Disney Online Studios team in publishing content that spans virtual worlds, casual online games, interactive and creative activities, and social communities. The team will publish both internally and externally developed initiatives that utilize existing Disney characters and stories, as well as original intellectual property created specifically for the unique online medium of storytelling.
Taking on an expanded role within Disney Online Studios will be Mike Goslin, vice president of Virtual Worlds and one of the lead developers of Toontown and Pirates of the Caribbean Online, who has been appointed to guide the development of online virtual worlds and communities.
“Since the company’s inception, Disney has specialized in creating worlds where characters interact to tell amazing stories,” Yanover said. “We believe this new team will continue that tradition of bringing Disney characters and franchises to life. Both Steve and Mike bring a wealth of experience, creative talent and vision to this exciting new space.”
In addition to expanding and growing Playhouse Disney Preschool Time Online, Pirates of the Caribbean Online and Toontown, Disney Online Studios has previously announced development on virtual worlds built around the Disney Fairies franchise, which will be launched later this year, and the animated film “Cars.” Already more than 4.5 million personalized fairies have been created at DisneyFaries.com, which will ultimately become the gateway to the virtual world. The team is also actively looking to build and publish more virtual worlds and an expanded array of online games, interactive activities and social environments for kids and their families.
Disney’s portfolio of Virtual Worlds also includes Club Penguin, which was acquired in August 2007. Club Penguin, headquartered in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, is managed by co-founder Lane Merrifield and reports directly to Steve Wadsworth, president of WDIG.