Disney unveils own 'Skylanders'-like franchise
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Captain Jack Sparrow driving Cinderella's carriage? Mr. Incredible swinging the Queen of Hearts' flamingo mallet? Sulley from "Monsters, Inc." galloping around on Bullseye from "Toy Story"? Those are just a few of the silly scenarios that could become a virtual reality with "Disney Infinity," a new endeavor from Disney combining a video game with a toy line.
The Walt Disney Co. revealed plans Tuesday to launch what it's billing as a new gaming platform that's strikingly similar to Activision's successful "Skylanders" franchise.
"Infinity" will blend real-life toy figures depicting various Disney personalities with a sprawling virtual world where those same characters can do stuff like race cars, play games and construct buildings together, as well as go on adventures in their own realms.
"We wanted to make it so that we could have lots of characters from lots of stories we create at Pixar and Disney come together in one place," Disney-Pixar animation chief John Lasseter said at the Tuesday unveiling of "Infinity" at Hollywood's El Capitan Theatre.
"Infinity" will be available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, PC, online and on tablets and smartphones. It's being crafted by Disney-owned developer Avalanche Software, which created the 2010 game based on "Toy Story 3." That game's "toy box" mode served as inspiration for what eventually became "Infinity."
Akin to "Skylanders," the plastic figures have the ability to store data and transmit characters' histories through a reader. Also like "Skylanders," the toys can work between consoles, meaning a Mr. Incredible figure can seamlessly go from a PS3 in your living room to the Wii in your friend's basement.
The game is essentially divided into two modes: "play sets," featuring structured adventures where gamers can collect vehicles, scenery, gadgets and more; and the "toy box," an unstructured open world where users' imaginations can run wild, much like the games "Minecraft" and "LittleBigPlanet." Both modes allow for gamers to play cooperatively or online together.
"What's staggering about this is not what's happening right now but the potential of what's gonna happen when it gets out there in the hands of kids, adults and creative people just getting lost in there creating stuff," said Lasseter. "We can't even imagine it right now."
"Infinity" serves as something of a homecoming for Disney's very different heroes. While disparate Disney characters can sometimes be spotted together in theme parks, on ice or the merchandising world, they're rarely united within any of Disney's fictional domains.
Was there any uneasiness about not only aligning these diverse properties, but also giving up control of such beloved creations to users?
"The truthful answer is yes," said John Pleasants, co-president at Disney Interactive. "There was both apprehension and excitement. In the end, excitement and the potential for new opportunities won over. It wasn't without a lot of conversations with a lot of stakeholders though."
Fictionally, the characters depicted in "Infinity" are not the actual characters themselves but the real-world toys come to life on screen. To that end, the figures all maintain the same toy-inspired style, more apparent in the scallywags from "Pirates of the Caribbean" than say the playthings from "Toy Story," and the game's graphics are equally toy-like.
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