Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is a new interactive experience that debuted on February 22 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. Jonathan Ackley, Senior Director and Show Producer Interactive of Walt Disney Imagineering, and his team spent four years designing and producing the game. Ackley gained early insights into interactivity as a game designer at Rocket Science Games and then by designing critically acclaimed adventure games for LucasArts, such as The Curse of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, and Sam and Max Hit the Road. Ackley’s interests in nontraditional, nonlinear storytelling gave him an awareness of the possibilities for integrating new technologies into location-based storytelling.
Before Ackley’s work on Sorcerers, he tested interactive storytelling ideas through the Kim Possible attraction, also at Walt Disney World, treating it as a research and development project on using wireless technology (through Verizon). Ackley immediately saw the advantages that Disney had for environmental storytelling. In an interview with Ackley, he said, “We have themed environments. We are in a unique position to make you the main character in an adventure story. We’re really lucky that we have such great stories and characters to draw from.” The end result is that Sorcerers is an intriguing effort that pushes the boundaries of shared interactive experiences for families with children. Ackley described these experiences as opportunities for players to assume the roles of their favorite Disney protagonists as they make their way through the game. Families can share memories of their favorite films across generations and or create new stories as they play.
The objective of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is to save the Magic Kingdom from Disney villains, including Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians, the Evil Queen from Snow White, Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog, and Scar from The Lion King. These villains were all recruited by Hades, ruler of the underworld and the archvillain from Hercules. Players become apprentices to Merlin, the sorcerer from The Sword in the Stone, who is Hades’ chief opponent. In order to save the Magic Kingdom, players must stop the villains from capturing the shattered pieces of Merlin’s crystal ball.
Image courtesy of Geoff May at Wikibruce
On Monday, January 16, Alcatraz premiered on Fox. The time travelling drama focuses on the mysterious disappearance of 256 prisoners and 46 guards from Alcatraz in 1963. In 2012, the inmates suddenly begin to return. To kick off the premiere, Fox partnered with Ford to produce Legends of Alcatraz, an alternate reality game set to run throughout the show’s first season.
Approximately a week before the show’s premiere, a number of blogs including /Film, Collider, ComingSoon.net, The L.A. Times’ Hero Complex, Wikibruce, and 5.0 Mustang Magazine started receiving mysterious metal boxes containing a series of artifacts offering a glimpse into the world of Alcatraz. Circled letters on one of the pages, a magazine clipping, led to the LegendsofAlcatraz.com website. Ford’s promotion of the 2013 Mustang throughout the campaign so far is overt: one of the newspaper clippings received by bloggers promoted a Mustang commercial that aired during the series premiere, while the Legends of Alcatraz url redirects to a url prominently featuring Ford branding.
The first puzzle references the notorious 1950 Alcatraz Spaghetti Riot. Solving this puzzle, sends viewers to GPS coordinates for the first drop or live event, set to commence next weekend at Alcatraz between January 27th and 29th. Viewers are directed to the alcatrazlegends Twitter account for additional puzzles.
Image by D. Christensen
Columbia Pictures’ The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will have its wide-release premiere on December 21st alongside two other blockbuster films, The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn and Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Embracing its self-proclaimed status as the “feel-bad” movie of the season, David Fincher’s adaptation of the best-selling Stieg Larsson novels developed an elegiac, mysterious transmedia campaign to help break through the clutter centering around the Tumblr account, Mouth Taped Shut. The campaign came to a conclusion last week, rewarding players who saw it through to the end with free advance screenings of the film in select cities.
A number of websites branched off of the Mouth Taped Shut tumblr account, most strikingly What is Hidden in Snow, a collection of photographs featuring 47 artifacts from the film recovered by players over the course of the campaign. The site takes its name from a translated Swedish proverb, “What is Hidden in Snow, Comes Forth in the Thaw,” and captures the film’s central mystery. In the movie, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) hires Millennium journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) along with investigator and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) to find out what happened to his niece Harriet. Harriet was murdered 40 years before the start of the movie. Her body was never found. Vanger has since received a beautifully mounted framed flower from the dead young woman each year on his birthday.
Image by Mike Hedge and Tiffani Bearup
Lance Weiler’s most recent project began with a simple yet provocative question: can a robot reboot education? To answer that question, Weiler collaborated with fellow Workbook Project contributor Janine Saunders in creating Robot Heart Stories with a team of more than 50 creative professionals.
For the project, students in a Los Angeles elementary school class and a Montreal media workshop teamed up to send Laika, a small female robot scientist, from Canada to California. As a team of award-winning photographers drove the robot across country, the 42 students fueled Laika’s journey with stories, videos and letters. Photographers and other artists brought the children’s work to life and, in turn, uploaded their work to the website.
While this ambitious project focused on the two groups of students, aspects of the campaign were open to the world. Anyone could create a heartpack, origami robots that could be painted, colored or photographed in different settings. Those images were also uploaded to the Robot Heart Stories website. Other classes used the project for experiential learning projects. This collaboration had virtual and real world implications. The website notes that “everything you submit helps the robot’s heart meter reach full strength, AND it helps raise money for underpriveledged [sic] students.”