David Bloom is a Deadline contributor.
It was a reasonable question after Disney showed 37 minutes of its upcoming Pixar animated film Monsters University and about 15 minutes of its Jerry Bruckheimer-produced The Lone Ranger Sunday night at the big Regal theater by the Los Angeles Convention Center, introduced in part by Disney President of Production Sean Bailey.
That said, on the eve of the massive Electronic Entertainment Expo, the company did talk a fair amount about Disney Infinity, the game platform debuting in August that uses miniature figurines of Disney characters to activate virtual game experiences on all the major game machines. The new platform is basically a cross between two popular games: Skylanders, which uses a similar figurine-based hybrid approach, and Minecraft, which lets users build their own virtual worlds. The difference is these game worlds will be stuffed with Disney characters.
For the first time Disney is letting its characters from one movie universe play in family-friendly games set in other worlds, such as having Jack Sparrow from The Pirates Of The Caribbean race a horse in The Lone Ranger or have a toilet-paper “shootout” in the “Monsters” world. Players also can mix and match movie universes and characters to build their own game experiences. The player-created worlds can be uploaded to Disney, which will “curate” the best of them for download by other players.
When asked why the company broke with decades of strict Mouse House discipline that kept its character universes from bleeding into each other, Disney’s John Blackburn said, “It’s fun. How many people outside of Disney have asked for this for so long?”
The cross-world approach recognizes how children normally play with their various physical-world toys, said Blackburn, GM and vice president of the Disney-owned game studio Avalanche Software.
“If I have Lego sets for Star Wars and for Indiana Jones, you can’t tell me how to play with them,” Blackburn said. Getting Disney executives to allow that reality to come to Disney games wasn’t a simple process, but the key was winning the trust of Pixar’s John Lasseter.
The Infinity starter set will cost about $75 and feature figurines for Jack Sparrow, Mr. Incredible from The Incredibles and Sulley from the Monsters universe. Nineteen characters from five different movie universes will be available initially, in a variety of add-on configurations for prices ranging from about $5 to $35. About 30 characters will be available in the near term.
Just as interesting as what Disney execs talked about Sunday night was what wasn’t discussed: games for Marvel, such as those with characters from the Avengers universe, or for the six Star Wars movies coming over the next several years. The company recently laid off many of the LucasArts game designers it inherited with its $4 billion purchase of George Lucas’ movie empire, and many questions remain about whether Disney Interactive will make Star Wars games as regularly as LucasArts did. Blackburn would say only: “This is a game platform for our future growth.” Han Solo and Thor should be on their way soon enough.