Overview Disney Interactive, a division of the Walt Disney Company, designs and distributes video game software and educational products. Located in Buena Vista, California, the division administers Disney Online, a provider of entertainment products and information resources on the Internet. Disney Interactive is also affiliated with the ABC Internet Partnership (another Disney Co. subsidiary), the largest provider of news content on the Internet. Disney Interactive Merging the resources of Disney Software, Walt Disney Studios, and Disney Consumer Products, Disney Interactive (DI) was established in 1994 to create a strong presence in the emerging market for CD-ROMs. Central to DI's development operations is Disney Software.

Created in 1988, the company has designed over 75 video games and CD-ROMs. While the division excelled technically, the Disney Co. was concerned its products might not be reaching the widest possible market. By merging their software operation with the imaginative prowess of Walt Disney Studios, and the commercial savvy of the consumer products division, Disney hoped to dominate the video game and edu-tainment software markets.

Through joint efforts with Virgin Interactive and Sony Image soft, DI developed Hot Shots, best selling CD-ROM and video-game adaptations of popular animated films like The Lion King, Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The 1996 release of the CD-ROM version of Toy Story was backed by a $5 million dollar advertising campaign, and was one of the company's biggest sellers. Disney Online While DI executives were intrigued by the exploding new market on the Internet, they were concerned that existing Internet navigators were not user-friendly enough especially for children. While developing content for a major new web site, DI entered partnerships with BellSouth, Ameritech, and SBC Communications to design navigational software. In 1996 DI unveiled Family. com, Disney Online's first Internet project.

Culling articles from Disney's group of periodicals, including Family Fun and Family PC magazines, the site provided information on topics ranging from planning a family vacation to tips on doing homework. Encouraged by the site's success, Disney Online launched entertainment programming that featured games, stories, and edu-tainment products based on DI's CD-ROMs and software. The entertainment site quickly grew to over 2, 500 linked pages, allowing access to a dozen Disney Co. divisions. Geared primarily to children, users could download stories based on Disney animation, play games, visit a virtual mockup of Walt Disney's Main Street apartment, and communicate with other children through chat rooms, and a sophisticated version of e-mail called D-mail. Disney Online's new site was formidably extensive, rivaling any other entertainment network on the Internet.

And it was only the beginning. In 1997 they unveiled Disney's Daily Blast channel, a sophisticated synthesis of high technology, marketing savvy, and timeless story telling techniques from the Magic Kingdom. DI was so certain the channel would be in instant demand, they made it available by paid-only subscription. It quickly became one of the most successful sites on the Internet. Disney's Daily Blast is designed to be a one-stop entertainment Mecca for the entire family, a kind of virtual Disney World theme park.

Divided into seven different "worlds," the Blast offers entertainment and distraction for all ages. The Blast's leading attraction is the Castle/Disney Film plex, a self-contained entertainment complex in its own right. The service had five basic areas, including preschool, stories, creativity, games, and a Disney fan information site. With its sophisticated Avatar based navigation system, young users easily negotiate its many attractions. A comprehensive movie data base provides pictures and information about Disney films. While chat rooms let children talk to one another and participate in special live events.

The service also has D-mail, a high-tech e-mail that allows children to transmit art, sounds and stamps to other subscribers of the service. In Toon Town, preschoolers can play colorful games and puzzles, and even learn to read simple stories. Tale-O-To pia has a comic book environment that appeals to older children. The Loft gives budding artists a trove of downloadable art, computer-art software, and lessons in drawing and animation. The site also has music and music learning programs. The Information Station introduces children to the world of news and current affairs.

Hoping to cull a future generation of news hounds, the site gives access to the ABC Internet News channel. Children with boundless curiosity (or pressing homework assignments) can turn to The Know It Hall, an easy-to-use Web search engine. Game Nation offers an array of online games and links to the web sites of games manufacturers. To keep parents interested, Disney's Daily Blast is also packaged with links to Disney's Family. com. Disney Interactive also pioneered the Disney Online Store, an interactive endeavor that blended old fashioned marketing with high-tech consumerism.

Selling everything from toys and videos to clothing and china, the service offered an online Gift finder program that helps consumers narrow their choices. The ABC Internet Partnership In 1995 the Disney Company entered a $19 billion dollar merger with Capital Cities/ABC. Disney's vastly expanded resources and capabilities made it one of the largest multimedia conglomerates in the world, second only to Time Warner. DI was soon overseeing the rapid expansion of ABC News Online.

In 1997, the Disney Company purchased Starwave, one of the largest independent content providers on the Internet. With this final piece in place, Disney consolidated ESP NET Sports Zone and ABC online with Starwave, creating the ABC Internet Partnership (ABCIP). Directly administered by DI, ABCIP quickly became the most far-reaching news provider on the Internet. Their sophisticated multimedia newscasts, unrivaled by any other online news source, made them a formidable contender. ABCIP soon became the primary news service for both America Online and Netscape.

A testament to the growing importance of interactive entertainment in the late '90 s, Disney helped found the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (AIAS) in 1996. Designed to promote the advancement of online entertainment services, the AIAS included Sony Interactive Studios America, Microsoft Corp. , Electronic Arts, Nintendo of America, and others. The Academy was originally an outgrowth of the Interactive Digital Software Association. Bibliography Periodicals "Disney Forms Interactive Multi-Media Unit," New York Times, 6 December 1994. "Disney Grows as Media Superpower," Advertising Age, 1 August 1995.

"Disney Interactive Launches New Hot Shots CD-ROM, Advertising Age, 21 August 1996. "Disney Online Unveils Cyber Store," Advertising Age, 20 November 1996. "Disney Readies Mega-Mouse Site," Advertising Age, 5 February 1996. "Disney Takes Control of Starwave," Advertising Age, 4 April 1997.

Fitzgerald, Kate, "Playing the Software Game," Advertising Age, 4 July 1994 Jensen, Jeff, "Disney's Daily Blast Debuts on MSN," Advertising Age, 31 March 1997. Jensen, Jeff, "For Disney, Interactive is No Longer Mickey Mouse," Advertising Age, 12 December 1994. Million, Jim, "Disney Forms Multimedia Group," Publishers Weekly, 12 December 1994. Nashawaty, Chris, "Disney's King of Kinks," Entertainment Weekly, 3 February 1995.

Ross, Chuck, "Disney Readies Magic Kingdom for Kids on Web," Advertising Age, 6 January 1997 Williamson, Debra Aho, "Disney invests in Starwave," Advertising Age, 3 April 1997 Zuckerman, Laurence, "Disney to Buy Controlling Stake in Internet Publisher Starwave," New York Times, 4 April 1997.