Tag: Walt Disney Company

“The Optimist” ARG Draws Focus to Disney History

theoptimist

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.

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom: An Interactive, Location-Based Experience

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.

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