Disney prepares a toy offensive with 'Infinity'

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GLENDALE, Calif. — With cartoony posters plastering the walls and toy figures standing at attention on nearly every flat surface, a conference room on Disney’s Glendale campus has been transformed into the colorful war room for Disney Infinity, the ambitious project from the company’s interactive division that combines real-life toy figures with virtual worlds.

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Disney Infinity uses toy figures to depict Disney personalities in sprawling virtual locales where the characters can do race vehicles, create and play games and more.   DISNEY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
DISNEY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Disney Infinity uses toy figures to depict Disney personalities in sprawling virtual locales where the characters can do race vehicles, create and play games and more.

“This is like being in my bedroom,” says Infinity executive producer John Vignocchi while bouncing around the space, gleefully showing off concept art, prototypes and a mock-up of a store display. “This is really the most comfortable place where you could talk to me. It’s where every massive fight and every major decision concerning Infinity has gone down.”

It’s fitting the space has been dubbed the Infinity war room because the Walt Disney Co. is readying for a yearslong siege – not just a one-time battle – for consumers’ attention with the multi-platform franchise. At its fan-centric D23 Expo on Sunday, Disney unveiled a second wave of characters coming to Infinity this fall and winter after it debuts Aug. 18.

Infinity uses toy figures to depict Disney personalities in sprawling virtual locales where those same characters can do stuff like race vehicles, create and play games and construct buildings – cooperatively or alone – as well as go on specific adventures in their own realms. Each toy stores and transmits the character’s history through an Infinity reader.

The game will be available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii and Wii U, as well as accessible through Nintendo 3DS and PC, and on tablets and smartphones.

The new additions include Sorcerer Mickey from Fantasia; Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story; Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope from Wreck-It Ralph; Phineas and Agent P from Phineas and Ferb; Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas; Rapunzel from Tangled; and Anna and Elsa from Frozen, a new Disney film set for release Nov. 27.

The second infantry joins such previously announced characters as Jack Sparrow, Hector Barbossa and Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean; Mike and Sulley from Monsters University; Lightning McQueen, Mater and Holley Shiftwell from Cars; Mr. Incredible, Violet and Dash from The Incredibles; and Lone Ranger and Tonto from The Lone Ranger.

“In the beginning, when we picked our first set of characters, it was more about going around and saying why we wanted those characters to the various groups around the company,” Vignocchi said. “As time went on and the creators began to see what we were doing with Infinity, the roles kind of changed a bit, and they started approaching us with excitement.”

It’s not the first of its kind. Infinity closely resembles the successful Skylanders franchise from Activision Blizzard Inc. However, Disney’s rendition of the toy-meet-console genre relies on better-known characters and adds an open-world toy box mode akin to LittleBigPlanet, where users’ imaginations can run wild, for example, plopping Jack Sparrow in Cinderella’s coach.

If audiences pull the trigger on Infinity, it could become another huge moneymaker for Disney. A starter pack, which includes the game, reader, three characters, three playsets and a power disc that bolsters abilities or adds new items to the toy box, will be $74.99 with additional figurines and discs sold separately or bundled together, like in the villains and princess packs.

Disney is betting Infinity will be a hit. Disney Interactive Studios, which has been responsible for such games as the Mickey Mouse console adventure Epic Mickey and the online virtual world Club Penguin, is the company’s least successful division. In recent years, it’s moved away from console games in favor of more popular and cheaper to produce mobile games.

“It doesn’t mean the console can’t be popular and successful from a bottom line, but it’s definitely a different world,” Bob Iger, the company’s chairman and CEO, told the Fox Business Network ahead of the D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center on Friday. “We’ve had our, call it, fits and starts in this business, and we think we are due for a hit. We believe Infinity is that hit.”


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