It seems Disney will no longer pursue a “Metaverse” as the entire department has been laid off. The company began the first in a series of 7,000 layoffs yesterday, and the Wall Street Journal reports the Next Generation Storytelling department of 50 employees has been cut.
Next Generation Storytelling
The department, championed by former CEO Bob Chapek, was set to bring Disney into the business of virtual reality beyond video games like “Star Wars: Tales From The Galaxy’s Edge.” Though Disney avoided the “Metaverse” term, the lines were drawn between Meta’s VR community and what Disney could do.
In 2022, they hired Mark Bozon (formerly of Apple Gaming) as the Vice President and Mark White as Senior Vice President for the new Next Generation Storytelling division with the explicit intention to turn “their metaverse strategy into executable plans.”
One of the purported uses for the Next Generation Storytelling was to bring “the theme parks to your living room.”
“In order to reach the 90% of people that will never ever be able to get to a Disney park, we have before us an opportunity to turn what was a movie-service platform to an experiential platform and give them the ability to ride Haunted Mansion from a virtual standpoint,” Chapek said.
The idea of combining theme parks with media experiences was brought up last year by Parks, Products and Experiences Chairman Josh D’Amaro, but in the reverse situation: adding layers to the theme park experience. “It provides us with unending opportunities at these theme parks. It can bring Main Street alive in ways that you’ve never seen it before, never thought about it before. You can have the whole theme park participate in a game that culminates in a celebration at the hub at the top of Main Street,” D’Amaro said.
They reportedly also abandoned the membership program we reported on, rumored to be something akin to Amazon Prime. “When a family comes to our parks, we know exactly what you did. Let’s say you stay a week. We got seven days, 24 hours a day. We know everything that you do in the park,” Chapek had said of the program, “And if you give us the permission and ability through the membership app, we’ll program your Disney+ experience, not according to what you watched last or what other people who watch this show, but to what you did, what you experienced.”
Two more series of layoffs are coming this year as Iger moves to reduce costs. Senior Vice President of Production for Hulu, Mark Levenstein, and Jayne Bieber, senior vice president of Production Management & Operations for Freeform, were the first executives to be let go this week. The layoffs will not affect front line Cast Members at the theme parks.
Layoffs will impact about 4,000 employees, with the rest of the cuts coming from open roles. Additionally, targets have been given for reducing spending and headcount to each of these departments. Iger is reportedly on “a push for profitability” as his return to the company continues.
For the latest Disney Parks news and info, follow WDW News Today on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.