Start-Up Meets Wakanda? Disney Innovation Hub Aims To Advance Technology For Filmmakers

By Ryan Faughnder
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As columnist Ryan Faughnder reports, the purpose of the new “StudioLab”is to use Silicon Valley-style experimentation to help studio executives and filmmakers stay ahead of rapid advances in technology.

Los Angeles Times

Inside Walt Disney Studios’ original animation building, where artists once drew “Dumbo” and “Cinderella” by hand, a 15-person team of innovators is trying to create a moviemaking Tomorrowland.

The Burbank studio’s 4-month-old, 3,500-square-foot innovation hub is a short walk from Walt Disney’s old office and is furnished with Kem Weber chairs reminiscent of a bygone era. But instead of pencils and light tables, visitors find experimental virtual reality editing equipment, location-scouting drones and digital projections that wrap around walls.

The purpose of the space, dubbed StudioLab, is to use Silicon Valley-style experimentation to help studio executives and filmmakers stay ahead of rapid advances in technology by developing and showcasing new ideas for making and marketing movies.

Some of its ideas have already spilled into the real world. Initiatives have included promotional efforts for the big-budget animated film “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” which opened this week; and helping filmmakers shoot scenes for the upcoming superhero movie “Captain Marvel.”

“A start-up-meets-Wakanda vibe was pretty much what we were going for,” said Ben Havey, vice president of Disney’s Technology Innovation Group, during a tour. “To be able to sit with those teams of storytellers, and basically give them superpowers through technology, is really our mission here.”

Studio technology centers are hardly a new idea. 20th Century Fox, for example, founded its own Innovation Lab in 2014, and Sony Pictures earlier this year announced its Innovation Studios project in Culver City. Paramount Pictures last year hired entertainment “futurist” Ted Schilowitz from Fox.

Disney executives said their hub can succeed by combining the brainpower of its various studios, including Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm. The company has a storied history of technological invention through Disney Imagineering, its famed park design and research arm. Disney also develops long-term technological advances in entertainment through its Disney Research division.

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