In 1923, Walt Disney and his brother Roy founded a company that would eventually become The Walt Disney Company. Out of respect for that seminal moment in the company’s history, Disney’s official fan club adopted D23 as its name. With the company’s 90th anniversary fast approaching, Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development has partnered with Walt Disney Studios to produce The Optimist, a six-week long alternate reality game culminating in an event at the D23 Expo.
The Optimist focuses on a young college student named Amelia as she strives to learn more about her recently deceased grandfather, Carlos Moreau, for a documentary film she’s planning on shooting. To Amelia, her grandfather Carlos was an inveterate storyteller whose life remains a mystery. Her efforts to learn more about Carlos’ life and legacy through his personal effects are documented on her blog StoryOrbit.com. A series of documents are beginning to paint a picture of Carlos Moreau’s life: after selling a short story called Orbit’s Story to Disney, Carlos fostered a close relationship with the company that saw him collaborating with Disney’s Special Projects team on the 1964 World’s Fair. While the focus of the game so far lies squarely in uncovering Carlos’ past, Amelia provides a personable front for the investigation as she balances research into the annals of Disney with her college studies.
According to Disney Parks, over the next six weeks players will piece together “an imagined story of Walt Disney, the Imagineers and other visionary thinkers and their potential involvement in a secret project that sought to build a better future.” Through this fictional lens, players are given the chance to share their familiarity with Disney’s often unbelievable history. For instance, when The Optimist introduced players to the Lott Family Construction company as a fictional collaborator on Disney’s exhibit at the 1964 World’s Fair, players were quick to point out that M.T. Lott Real Estate Investments was the name of a shell company set up to purchase land for Walt Disney World. Similarly, a phone number written on the back of a napkin led to players discussing one of Walt Disney’s favorite restaurants.
Because this blending of real world people and places might make it difficult to identify the line between fiction and reality in the narrative, all confirmed in-game sites and social media profiles include a disclaimer letting players know when they are interacting with fictional pages in the game’s universe. This way, real establishments can coexist with fictional constructs without creating unnecessary confusion. Trowbridge mentions that the game will extend beyond the web, with interactions ranging from “social media and mobile devices to visiting unique physical sites from the story in and around Los Angeles,” making the distinction all the more important. Upon registering, players are given the option to provide their physical or email addresses for potential mailings, opening up additional avenues for gameplay.
The Optimist has maintained a steady update schedule with new content every day: however, the game is still in its early stages, so there’s more than enough time to dive in before the game’s finale in August. To get caught up, read StoryOrbit’s in-game recaps and Inside the Magic’s collaborative Google Doc summarizing theories and events so far.
Walt Disney Imagineering has been using the Disney theme parks and resorts as centers for innovation in storytelling for decades, finding interesting ways to create rich experiences that play out across media. And while the team may be better known for joining narrative with animatronics and special effects for rides like the Haunted Mansion, the team has developed a number of more subtle transmedia experiences that experimented with location-based storytelling. For Phineas and Ferb: Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure (previously the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure), Walt Disney World visitors use a mobile phone to activate a series of clues hidden in Epcot’s architectural design, while Sorcerors of the Magic Kingom uses collectible cards to allow Disney World visitors to battle against Disney villains at magic portals scattered across the resort. And thanks to Walt Disney’s Living Worlds program, you might have the chance to collaborate with the Disney Imagineers on your own great idea.
Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development (WDI R&D) announced the Living Worlds program during last month’s StoryWorld Conference as an effort to catalyze and support the growing transmedia community. Interested applicants are tasked with submitting a high-level proposal by December 1st for a location-based narrative experience intended to run for at least two weeks that gives participants the ability to influence the story without costing “more than the GDP of any single nation to mount.” The story cannot use any existing intellectual properties, including Disney properties. During the second round, select participants will be asked to flesh out the concepts into a more developed proposal for consideration.
Scott Trowbridge, Creative Vice President at WDI R&D, says he sees the program as an opportunity for applicants “to gain experience and expertise by giving them an opportunity to produce their work at a professional level.” He adds, “[w]e’re on the cusp of a significant evolution in narrative form. The combination of emerging technologies, societal shifts and audience expectations all combine to make this an exciting time for artists interested in breaking the frames for traditional storytelling.”
While the opportunity to collaborate with Disney Imagineering to realize your dream project is compelling, it’s important to be familiar with the terms and conditions that come attached to the application. While all applicants retain full ownership of their intellectual property, all submissions should be considered public and non-confidential, and applicants grant WDI “a fully paid-up, transferable, non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable, royalty-free license” to their submissions, along with the right to sub-license the work to third parties. When asked for clarification on the terms, Trowbridge explained that “given that we are engaging [the] artists with the intent to produce their proposal, we must be granted the rights to do so, or in other words, a license to use their creative work, which must be transferable and perpetual.” Trowbridge stressed that WDI R&D would work with artists whose proposals were selected to set up an agreement and working relationship to develop the proposal through to complete concept and potential production.
PAX East was held in Boston this weekend, and conference attendees that took the time to dig through their conference swag bags discovered cardboard cut-outs of a futuristic controller. If rumor is to be believed, this innocuous controller serves as the trailhead to 42 Entertainment’s newest alternate reality game for the film Real Steel. Each controller was labeled with an alphanumeric code and the url WWW.WRB.COM. At the time, the website displayed the controller alongside four progress bars. Inputting codes from PAX caused the progress bars to slowly fill up until earlier tonight, when the history of World Robot Boxing was revealed.
The history of robot boxing is charged with clashing personalities. The sport was born at Raiden’s Koma Club in Tokyo’s Akihabara district. Raiden carefully cultivated the bot boxing community, offering scrap from fights in the club to help local designers get their start in the industry. Quickly, Kizu, an up-and-coming designer backed by Cold Siren Industries, dominated the fights with his bot Backslash. Kizu split from the Koma Club to found the World Robot Boxing League with billionaire Nate Matheson before abandoning Cold Siren Industries to create the next champion, Gamma.
Kizu did not get to enjoy his championship long before Gamma was defeated by the Lemkovas, a family of Russian oligarchs, and their bot called Rubicon. Partnering with former rival Tak Mashido, the Lemkovas created the current reigning champion and unstoppable juggernaut known as Zeus. But while the era of Kizu appears to be over, the figure depicted on the controller given away at PAX bears a striking resemblance to Gamma, and the “G2” logo can be found on Gamma’s blueprints, so his work may resurface again.
It is at this point, presumably, that former boxer Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) steps into the ring with the Real Steel film. According to IMDB’s description of the plot, Kenton “thinks he’s found a champion in a discarded robot.” The Hero Complex blog hints that you might see director Shawn Levy and Hugh Jackman “using this particular campaign to communicate with fans in some special ways.”
Hot in pursuit of the internet audience, ABC‘s sister network,
ABC Family, has announced their plans for an alternate reality game
based on their upcoming television show, Fallen. Announced today in a
press release found on SciFi Wire,
the game is set to launch following the 2-hour premire on July 23rd.
Spearheading the project is Matt Wolf, designer of games for other media features,
including The Bourne Identity.
The show is based on the young-adult series of books of the same name by Thomas Sniegoski.
The main character of the book series discovers on his 18th birthday that he belongs to a race
of fallen angels on Earth (The Fallen), and of the prophesy that he is the one who might bridge
the gap between The Fallen and Heaven. Beyond the story of the race and his adjustment to his discovery,
he and his family are pursued by a race of killer angels, out to destroy him. The Fallen ARG,
on the heels of the successful Lost Experience for ABC, is expected to be integrated into the telecast,
with clues to the game hidden within, allowing viewers the chance to engage with the show’s story.
Since the rumor of Ocular Effect‘s
link to Disney and ABC, it was hypothesized that it might be an ARG for The Fallen. With this new information,
the possibility remains, though the links might now be more fragile – for instance, the countdown clock on Ocular Effect
runs out on July 17th, almost a week before the expected July 23rd launch of the game tied to Fallen. Will that week be
a moment for the ARG audience to dabble in the Fallen universe, or is Ocular Effect something different entirely?
The ARGN Tipline lightbulb flashed this morning, alerting us to a new message arriving at the ARGcave. Our intrepid hero reporters donned their shiny gold catsuits and red swirlie over-the-suit panties, flipped their capes over their shoulders and flew into the internet wild to gather information, like the Thunderbirds but with better marionettes.
They came back with a mysterious website, Ocular Effect. The rather barren site displays a flash movie entitled “spiroclock” – but wait! Is that what we think it is?! IT’S A COUNTDOWN! We hooked Brains up to his new fangled math program and he chugged out an answer – Monday! The countdown clock runs to this upcoming Monday, July 17th! Holy good mathing, Brains!
We then sent Virgil Tracy out to whois the domain. He was amazingly successful and Lady Penelope was most enthused. Virgil gathered intriguing information that leads the ARGNbirds to believe that the magical world of Disney is behind this project. Gordon, not wanting to be out-performed by that pantywaist Virgil, noticed in his investigation that Ocular Effects redirects to 00112358.net, which isn’t registered to Disney, oddly enough.
What may happen on Monday has yet to be discovered — it’s unclear what Disney project is being promoted, and equally hazy what the strange, spinning wheel with the ooglie-booglie, danger music represents, but rest assured, the ARGNbirds are ready, prepped, and pantied to keep you informed of every surprise.
Sometimes, ARG doesn’t mean alternate reality gaming. Sometimes, ARG means ARRRRRG, the bellow from the pit of the pirate’s stomach that sends scurvy dogs runnin’ and strikes fear in the hearts of the fisherman who sail the… alright, so our piratespeak isn’t very good. In any event, Dead Man’s Tale has led us to raise the Jolly Roger and lose ourselves in the world of Billy Bones, through the magic of Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger software. A promotion for the upcoming movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, the IM-based game allows you to add Billy as a friend, and starting a conversation with the skeletal character moves you further into the story with text scripts and fun games and puzzles that load within the messenger window. One of the interesting elements of this game is the ability to pair up with a friend and tackle the various challenges together, while an accompanying MSN Spaces site holds important information which ties in with the messenger experience.
Normally, we wouldn’t obsess over a pirate-themed messenger interactive experience, but this one has a special connection to the ARG universe. We received a rumor that this might be another venture by the creative forces at 42 Entertainment, a theory which we think we’ve proven to be true by looking at Billy’s MSN profile. Of course, we might just be wrong on this, but coincidences are rare these days, and bee keeping seems an odd interest for those in the pillaging and plundering profession. Even with the connection to 42, there is no indication that this is the beginning of any alternate reality game campaign, but based on initial game play, it’s a fun way to add marketing hype to the Disney blockbuster set to hit theaters on July 7. So, grab your swords and log into the world of Bones and his swashbuckling hi-jinks.
Editor’s Note: We found this link a few minutes ago, so our suspicions were right. Yarr.