Legacy Content

Vince Matthews on Digital Disney
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by Vince Matthews (archives)
July 1, 2005
Vince debuts his new LaughingPlace.com column with an introduction and a look at Virtual Magic Kingdom.

Welcome to the first of many columns highlighting all things digital in the land of Disney. My name is Vince Matthews and I’ll be your host through this wonderful world of microchips, microprocessors and machine-made Mickey’s. Before we begin though, allow me a second to tell you a little about myself, and why the fine folks here at Laughing Place thought I’d be suited to write this column.

Having played video games almost my whole life, I was lucky enough to actually get a job in the business some 16 years ago after answering an ad in the local paper (then Greensboro, NC) that said “Play Video Games For A Living.? (No Joke.) This was back in the day when Nintendo was the only video game system on the block, we didn’t have any fancy 3D worlds back then, we played flat side-scrolling games and we liked it. After writing about video games for a few years (I was the Director of Game Testing and Associate Publisher for one of the very first video game magazines Game Players), I eventually found myself on the other side of the business, working for companies that made games. Over the years I’ve played literally thousands of games - for virtually every platform - and have managed, marketed, helped develop and produce over 40 different games for the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Game Boy Advance and PC. I’ve played games since my Dad hooked a Pong machine up to our TV in the late 70’s and have been crazy about Disney for what seems like all my life (my family took many summer vacations in Orlando and I watched the Epcot globe going up while exploring the newly minted Disney World as a tot). But it was a Disney movie called Tron that made me decide I wanted to work with computers (and ultimately games) for the rest of my life.

Let’s fast-forward some 16 odd years, I now I live in Los Angeles and am a full time media consultant and freelance writer. I consult to several video game, Internet and mobile phone companies and am still crazy about Disney. Since I have several friends within different parts of the Disney company I’ve been fortunate enough to see some really cool Disney stuff - stuff I’d like to tell you about - and since Disney is making a new push on the digital frontier (with both the Internet and video games) the guys at Laughing Place thought the time was right to get this column going. So what do you say, let’s get things started!

The Birth of Virtual Worlds
Disney’s Tron was a watershed event in many ways. Not only did it introduce people to the concept of virtual worlds long before The Matrix ever came along, it was also the first film to introduce movie goers to computer generated characters and elements that interacted with real actors and sets. Although initially a box-office failure (in fact the video game based on it out-grossed the movie), Tron has become a cult favorite and still continues to reinvent itself (a sequel is in the works). Tron also has one other claim to fame - it proved computer generated elements could work in films - a concept that frightened Disney animators so much they refused to work on it for fear computers would eventually take their jobs. (Unfortunately we all know the rest of that story, as 22 years later Disney would in fact close its hand-drawn animation divisions in favor of computer animated features.)

Now before you go flying off the handle about Tron killing 2D animation (blame Toy Story for that), you should remember Walt Disney has always embraced new forms of technology and looked to the future (Carousel of Progress). Thankfully the company is still doing that today, in fact there are a new generation of Imagineers hard at work for Disney and they’re looking to videogames and the Internet to bring exciting new Disney worlds and experiences to fans.

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