Disney joins JAKKS, LA billionaire to bring toys to life

Tue Jan 8, 2013 9:59am EST
 
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By Ronald Grover

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Walt Disney toys are sold around the world. Now, children can find them in the cloud as well.

The media giant is teaming up with toy company JAKKS Pacific and Patrick Soon-Shiong, Los Angeles' wealthiest person, on a new line of toys - with a nifty technological twist designed to link the goodies that kids lug home from the store with Disney's stable of well-known animated characters.

"DreamPlay", developed by Soon-Shiong's NantWorks company, and JAKKS works via an app that can be downloaded on Apple Inc devices like the iPad, or smartphones and tablets running Google Inc Android software. When a device's camera is trained on any toy specifically designed to work with DreamPlay, it triggers one of thousands of preset animations that appear on the device's screen and seem to be unfolding in the real world.

With viewers' eyes locked on the tablet or smartphone screen, fairies appear to glide in and out of buildings, animated critters start playing musical instruments, mythical characters prance on a toy piano's keyboard.

Disney, which licensed its characters to DreamPlay, and its partners hope that children will take to the new approach, which is intended to extend and expand the life of the toy. But it remains to be seen if the concept will prove to be more than a novelty, and be able to arrest a child's infamously short attention span.

The three will demo their concept on Tuesday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but Reuters got a sneak peak at the technology on Monday.

In a showroom in the 20th floor of a Santa Monica, Calif. building, visitors to JAKKS' demonstration are treated to an animated version of Sebastian - the red Jamaican crab from Disney's "Little Mermaid" movie - who pops up onscreen on an iPad seconds after the tablet's camera is trained on a real-life set of toy bongo drums.

The animated crab pounces on the drums and proceeds to bang out a calypso song onscreen, with both Sebastian and the physical drum set appearing together as if the two shared the same cartoon.   Continued...

 
"DreamPlay", developed by Soon-Shiong's NantWorks company and JAKKS, is seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/JAKKS/Handout