Disney reportedly abandons metaverse plans which former CEO Bob Chapek described as 'the next great storytelling frontier'

Mar 28, 2023 in "The Walt Disney Company"

Posted: Tuesday March 28, 2023 6:50am ET by WDWMAGIC Staff

According to the Wall Street Journal, Disney has abandoned its plans for Bob Chapek's metaverse vision.

In a February 2022 memo to Cast Members, former CEO Bob Chapek said that he believes the metaverse is "the next great storytelling frontier and the perfect place to pursue our strategic pillars of Storytelling Excellence, Innovation, and Audience Focus."

To execute his metaverse strategy, Chapek created a new role of Senior Vice President, Next Generation Storytelling and Consumer Experiences - filled by Mike White, who previously led Consumer Experiences and Platforms in Disney's Media and Entertainment Distribution group.

Reports suggest that Disney has eliminated the entire 50-person team working on the project, although Mike White remains at the company.

WSJ also reports that Disney has abandoned plans for an Amazon Prime-style membership program.

Speaking to WSJ about the membership service in August 2022, Disney's Chief Communications Officer Kristin Schake said, "Technology is giving us new ways to customize and personalize the consumer experience so that we are delivering entertainment, experiences and products that are most relevant to each of our guests. A membership program is just one of the exciting ideas that is being explored."

Disney is currently in the process of restructuring its business, with CEO Bob Iger setting a target to eliminate 7000 jobs by the summer.

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Brer PantherMar 29, 2023

Word. It's not just that all new attractions need to be IP-based, they have to be based on IPs that are popular right now. Was this even a problem in the 1990s and the 2000s?

RteetzMar 29, 2023

I mean who really cares? Metaverse, next gen storytelling, blah blah blah it’s all in that same realm. The general public doesn’t give a rats butt what you call it.

TomboyJanetMar 29, 2023

It's what they said they were going to retheme Spaceship earth to make moana grandma spaceship earth. come to think of it disney loves to oversaturate with certain ips. There were SOOO many star wars things in 2016 Disneyland. Moana in Epcot Moana in DAK......Toy Story all over..... Walt didn't make all the Fantasyland dark rides themed to Snow White. It's just wasting space. So many other things can be made. How bout a Tangled ride? Robin Hood? Tarzan? (I miss Tarzan Rocks he's a hunk!) YOW!

HauntedPirateMar 29, 2023

They continually use the word "storytelling" but I don't think they know what that even means anymore. It's become just another buzzword thrown about because it sounds good and "Disney-ish".

GimpYancIentMar 29, 2023

The axe wielding B.I. (yeah, Mr. grow it big himself) is working at trimming away the dead wood. Streamlining is the appropriate corporate term. Marketing could use some trimming!

ToTBellHopMar 29, 2023

I guess Bob and then Bob just weren’t meta enough.

CaptainAmericaMar 29, 2023

It's a timeline issue. In late 2021, "metaverse" was a nebulous term that wasn't really defined, so Chapek used it casually to refer to these ideas about blending physical and digital experiences, future mediums for storytelling, etc. As the months went by and Facebook claimed the space (and the term), "metaverse" came to mean "a video-game-esque digital environment where people interact using virtual reality headsets," which is what the term means in common parlance today, in 2023. So when people write "Disney has abandoned their metaverse plans," people read that as "Disney has abandoned their plans to build a video-game-esque digital environment where people interact using virtual reality headsets." But Disney was never building a video-game-esque digital environment where people interact using virtual reality headsets. They were building a thing that may have fit the 2021 loosey-goosey definition of "metaverse," but they were never building anything that resembles the 2023 definition of "metaverse." When Chapek said "metaverse," "metaverse" didn't mean anything. Once it came to have a concrete definition, the rug was pulled out from under him and he had to go back and clarify "wait, no, not that... that's not what we're doing." Yes, the reporting that this group has been let go as part of the first wave of 2023 layoffs is accurate.

wdwmagicMar 29, 2023

That reads to me as Chapek just trying to differentiate Disney's product from Facebook. But in essence, he believes it to be a very similar thing. I don't see how any of this though makes reports of abandoning these plans to be fake news.

CaptainAmericaMar 29, 2023

I'm not a journalist and I don't pretend to be, it's not my job to get the story straight. Chapek used the word "metaverse" in a February 9, 2022 interview on CNBC's Closing Bell. From that point forward, he clarified multiple times that he misspoke when using the word and that "metaverse" was an inaccurate term for what they were working on. When Disney hired an Apple executive to be a VP in this area, Variety reported "According to Disney, because the term “metaverse” means different things to different people, the company under White’s lead has coalesced efforts under the Next Generation Storytelling banner and defined a strategy focused on creating “new canvases for storytelling and audience engagement” spanning digital, physical and virtual experiences." In an interview on September 15, 2020, Chapek had the following exchange with David Faber (the context here was sports in particular). CHAPEK: We’re hard at work in our offices, both on the East Coast and the West Coast, figuring out how we make a more friction free sports environment for our, our viewers. And obviously, some of these things take the cooperation of a lot of the people in the ecosystem, whether they be the leagues, whether they be other broadcast partners, but we foresee a world where ESPN, even more than ever, is the pinnacle of all your broadcast needs and we’re excited to continue working on that and at some point, when we’re all fully baked, we’ll come and— FABER: When do you think that’ll be? When do you think that’ll be at some point? I mean, how long do you wait until we sort of have a real sense of what the plan is? CHAPEK: Yeah. Well, we don’t have an exact timetable right now because it depends how fast these things evolve. But we’re really pleased with some of the conversations that we’ve had throughout the industry in terms of what’s the future of sports and how do we have a step function in the consumer experience so that it’s not just sort of your father’s old sports experience, but something that’s bigger and greater. You know, we talk about next gen storytelling, we talk about sports betting, we talk about things like Peyton and Eli those curated, custom, customized ways to experience sports and it’s all about how do you use technology, not for technology at sake, but to advance the storytelling, advance the integration so that instead of it being a lean back experience, it’s a lean forward experience where you’re integrated and you’re involved in the way that you want to be whether it’s got to do with fantasy sports, sports, betting, or whatever else is on the horizon. FABER: Right, so I mean, maybe we’re in the metaverse here to somehow with with, I don’t know in the middle of a football game. CHAPEK: Well, that essentially is what we’re referring to when we talk next gen storytelling. Typically we don’t use the metaverse name for it because we believe that we’ve got a unique take on it as a Walt Disney Company. But that is exactly what it is. It’s that seamless integration of being able to not only consume the game, but actually impact your version of the game whatever that is. FABER: But you feel confident that these ideas which are not fully formed as yet but you’re clearly working on will sort of create a new growth trajectory for a great cash flow producing asset but one obviously that well, you said it’s part of the melting ice cube that’s cable. CHAPEK: And we certainly know the tailwinds that we have, you know, with these new ideas so we feel confident in them. But we also know that there’s headwinds in terms of that melting ice cube of the cable universe and we believe that, you know, ESPN can become something as great as it’s ever been and more than we ever conceived of. "Metaverse" is a nebulous term that makes people think of Mark Zuckerberg's digital avatar sitting around a conference table with Jim Cramer. This was never that, and was never anything like that.

wdwmagicMar 29, 2023

You keep saying this, but are not adding any other details.

CaptainAmericaMar 29, 2023

It was never a "metaverse division." Literally fake news.

SpectroMagicianMar 29, 2023

I find it extremely comical anyone thought the metaverse was going to be a major thing, especially after seeing the first demo of it.

HakunamatataMar 28, 2023

Many things sound worse than they are.

UNCgolfMar 28, 2023

DVC members were the only people that came to mind as obvious potential purchasers (especially with all the restrictions on annual passes), but I guess cruisers make sense too if they go regularly. Still feels like it would be a niche product rather than something interesting/worthwhile for most people -- as I said, though, that doesn't mean it wouldn't be a profit center and worth doing.