Disney Gets Virtual With Online Studios for Kids

by

MEDIA WEEK

February 19, 2008
Mike Shields

Disney has announced the formation of Disney Online Studios, a new division within the Walt Disney Internet Group focused on virtual worlds, gaming and social networking initiatives aimed at kids. The announcement comes as the company’s latest virtual world, the young girl-aimed Disney Fairies Pixie Hollow, officially went live on Feb. 19.

Virtual worlds, games and social networking have increasingly become a major priority for Disney, which relaunched its flagship site roughly a year ago around Disney.com XD, a Web platform which melded elements of community, multimedia consumption and gaming. And last August, the company both acquired the kids virtual world Club Penguin and unveiled the more tween centric world Pirates of the Caribbean Online.

Disney Fairies Pixie Hollow is an extension of DisneyFairies.com, a site launched last year that enabled girls to create their own Twinker Bell-like fairy avatars. To date, 4.5 million avatars have been created, said Steve Parkis, the Disney Online veteran who’s been installed as the new senior vp of Disney Online Studios. That, said Parkis, is an indicatton that there will be strong interest in a world centered around the Fairies concept, but until now – “we’ve had all these girls dressed up with nowhere to go.” Thus, in the new world, they’ll be able to fly, interact with other fairies, decorate their fairy abodes and embark on various adventures.

Unlike Pirates, the new Fairies world will not be ad supported, given its younger girls six and up target, Initially, Fairies is free for users, though Disney eventually plans to roll out additional levels and functionality to the world that require a subscription fee.

Disney Fairies Pixie Hollow is part of a major Fairy-driven initiative at Disney, which plans to launch a multi-sequel movie franchise this October. Plus, Disney has tapped Techno Source to build a series of Fairies toys and accessories – dubbed Clickables – which girls can collect to enhance their virtual world experience.

Later this year, Disney officials said they plan to roll out another virtual world aimed at boys using characters from the 2006 animated film Cars.

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