Disney evoked the innovation and vision of founder Walt Disney at its annual demo day on Thursday, during which it showcased deals with the nine companies that participated in its accelerator program.
In the third year of the program, a three-month immersive accelerator that gives startup founders access to divisions and executives across Disney, the studio worked with much later stage startups than it has in the past. Among them, virtual reality firm Jaunt, kids electronics company LittleBits and digital rendering experts OTOY. All nine companies announced during demo day deals they had struck with various Disney divisions, and several founders after the event explained that this would be just the beginning of their relationships with the company behind Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm.
Disney CEO Bob Iger kicked off the demo day presentations with a short speech explaining why Disney continues to invest in its startup accelerator. "We're looking to bring new ideas and new people and innovation to our company," he said, before joining the crowded theater of investors to listen to each company's pitch.
Here's a look at what each startup announced:
Ader, which focused on connecting advertisers with e-sports stars on the live streaming platform Twitch, is working on a pilot program with Maker Studios, home of top YouTuber PewDiePIe and his gaming-focused network Revelmode, to offer e-sports opportunities to marketers. Ader also is working with ESPN to bring some of its talent to ESPN.com through weekly video analyzing top e-sports games.
Already backed by Disney, Lionsgate and Twentieth Century Fox, Atom has developed an app that makes it easier to plan movie nights with friends. Now, the company is working with Walt Disney Studios and Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media to bring merchandise sales to its app for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
This company's human-like robots will be on the market soon in the form of a $200 Albert Einstein robot that the company calls "your personal genius" and now it is conducting research and development with DCPI and Walt Disney Imaging to explore how it can bring Disney characters to life as consumer products.
Disney's Kevin Mayer already sits on the board of Jaunt, which has developed a virtual reality camera and publishing platform. But after exiting the accelerator, the company - which just named a new CEO - says it is working across all divisions at Disney, including licensing Disney Research's VR video technology and filming College GameDay in VR with ESPN.
While many companies focus on helping children develop STEM skills, this company's kid-friendly electronics kits also encourage creativity. It is now working on an online show about invention that will air on Disney.com and YouTube. Founder Ayah Bdeir also appeared onstage with R2D2 to reveal that is working on a potential Star Wars collaboration.
This food-focused live video platform will soon stream video clips from ABC's The Chew and offer up behind-the-scenes and sneak peeks from the daytime talk show. The San Francisco startup also is working with DCPI to feature food videos from Disney Family and Babble as well as content from Munchies, the food vertical of Disney-investment Vice Media.
The company whose technology was used to age Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has also brought its light-field rendering to virtual reality. Now, it has launched a new technology, ORBX Media Player, for Oculus and soon Samsung Gear VR that allows people to interact with web pages within a virtual reality backdrop. Using this technology, it will bring websites from Disney, Marvel, ABC, ESPN and other Disney properties to Oculus Social and Samsung's Gear VR web browser.
Don't have time to read a 1,500-word think piece? Playbuzz's platform will turn that story into a bite-sized piece of content optimized for social sharing. Imagine a story told through tech conversation or a voting platform designed for Tinder-like swiping. ABC.com, ESPN.com, Babble and other Disney sites are now piloting these Playbuzz content formats.
Just like RentTheRunway made wearing expensive gowns more accessible, Pley has created a rental system for children's toys, which can be costly and quickly outgrown. Its service, which starts at $12.99 a month, is already being used by 150,000 families. Now, it is working with Disney to create a Disney princess-themed subscription box.