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Disney Will Lay Off Hundreds In Interactive Division

Several hundred people will lose their jobs at Disney Interactive as part an effort to make the division profitable. The cuts within the approximately 3,000 employee division are expected to begin as early as tomorrow when Disney releases its quarterly financial results, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The biggest staff reductions are expected to be in DI’s online gaming platform Playdom, a bizarro division that produced titles inconsistent with the Disney brand like Disney City Girl and the decidely non-family Mobsters: Criminal Empire, which encourages players to “amass an army to smash up friends and strangers in player vs. player battles.” Playdom was acquired by Disney in 2010 for $563 million. Other unit shut down by Disney Interactive in recent years include LucasArts and and Junction Point Studios, which produced the underperforming Epic Mickey game series.

Disney Interactive will shift its focus to Disney Infinity, which is essentially a collectible toy line disguised as a video game. The company has sold over 3 million Infinity starter packs since releasing the game last summer, and Star Wars and Marvel-based Infinity lines are currently in development. The DI unit also produces the company’s websites including Disney.com, mobile games such as the popular Where’s My Water?, and apps like Disney Animated.

  • Shane

    “essentially a collectible toy line disguised as a video game.” Have you even played the thing? This game is exactly as it’s always been promoted. There’s no deception here.

    • AmidAmidi

      The whole gimmick that has made Infinity successful for Disney is its collectible toy aspect. Obviously, the gameplay needs to be good enough, but that’s not the point of the thing, at least from the company’s bottomline perspective.

  • Revy

    As a digital artist myself, I recall seeing DI’s recruitment for animators and other artists within the last month or so. I wonder how many new hires, excited to be under the Disney brand, will be on the hunt for new work again so quickly… :/

    • Funkybat

      It’s never made any sense to me, how a lot of companies on the verge of doing layoffs will still be hiring new talent right up to the day of layoffs, or damn close. I expect a certain lack of forethought or poor planning from newbie startups, but this isn’t exactly a startup we’re talking about. This has happened at a number of more established game studios, as well as some animation studios like Florida Digital Domain, though they seem to have been a “special” case.

  • Tom

    Disney also shut down it’s three main MMOs: Pixie Hollow, Toon Town, and Pirates of the Carribean Online earlier this year. The only one that is still around is Club Penguin, a game that does not resemble any of Disney’s own signature style and doesn’t have anything to do with their franchises.

    • SubBasement_Richmond

      That’s because Disney bought Club Penguin after it was already established. The last couple of years they’ve been incorporating content from other Disney brands in their themed “parties,” like 2012’s Marvel Super Heroes party, and last year’s Star Wars party – not to mention all the Haunted Mansion shoutouts in the Halloween party.

    • SarahJesness

      I’m surprised/impressed that Toon Town lasted so long. I’m wondering if Disney would consider doing an MMO in the future. One based off some of their animated franchises might be kind of cool.

  • Rufus Chickenplight

    Disney and its dealings make me sick. The bigger it gets the more unstable it gets.

    • Strong Enough

      waaa? this is business never personal

      • KW

        Doesn’t laying people off usually mean business isn’t going as well as hoped?

        • Strong Enough

          ehhh yeah. its still business. nothing personal

  • Ward Jenkins

    Well, weird considering that the kids don’t really play with the toys. They’re used for placing them on the Infinity game console to interact with. It’s essentially toys that are really game pieces – they must be placed on the console in order for them to be used during gameplay. Afterwards? They’re just put away. Kinda like toy collectors who don’t mind taking them out of the box. They sit on the side until the gamers want to use them.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Yeah it’s hard to really call them toys when their use is more secondary to what is the main purpose of their use.

    • Funkybat

      From the looks of it, the “toys” are more akin to the collectible vinyl figurines that are more popular with 20 and 30-something artists and gamers than they are with actual kids. I suspect that Disney wanted our money just as much as the money of parents and teens.

  • otterhead

    When Infinity launched, Disney said flat-out that they were hoping it would be their new universal platform; instead of developing new games from scratch for their properties, Infinity would be the default hub for all new Disney property games. It’s been hugely successful, is a ton of fun to play, and is doing exactly what they’d hoped it would do, so they’re getting rid of underperforming titles and divisions that are completely off-brand. That’s a bad thing how?

    • IJK

      Cause it sucks when people lose their jobs. But… it also sucks when people gain a job through mediocre things such as Free Birds 2?

      So I guess there’s no winning with this community, really.

      • otterhead

        Folks losing their jobs is never a good thing; I didn’t mean to imply that. I was speaking only to the bulking up of Infinity versus, say, Disney City Girl.

  • Phrattor

    So I get toys AND a video game? Sounds good to me. Most of the time when I buy a figurine, that’s all I get.

  • Toonio

    As Frozen song goes… Let it go….

  • Brill 93

    People need to stop complaining about layoffs and start making their own opportunities. We live in a time where the internet can play a role in making animation jobs more available to people. I work as an intern for a very small company in someones apartment. Its not a studio all what we need are powerful computers to get the job done. We in the animation industry shouldn’t rely so much on big companies all the time to create opportunities for animation jobs. We can easily do small animation projects for clients around the world via emailing and so on. So lets stop complaining about layoffs from big companies. Lets start utilizing our tablets, computers and so on and start making opportunities for ourselves. Think about what the pioneers of animation had to do when there weren’t any sort of animation work at all.

    • Animator606432

      I was gonna write something rude in response to this until I realized…you are completely correct. It’s has always been a dream of mine to work for Disney but I’m starting to see it wasn’t the company I loved but the artist that I loved. It’s like Musicians (who are considered artist themselves) look how they all but gotten rid of the middle man. Why can’t artist do the same thing? I’m surprised no one has launched a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo in an attempt to fund an indie company.

      I think most of the problem is that people are afraid of the risk. What if the company fails under and you have to let go of people. Who wants to be the one to do that, considering if it’s small, it’ll be personal. As artist, we aren’t trained to think about fiancial stability or investments. We just want to draw cartoons and have someone else do the thinking for us. Creative types were NEVER good at this.

      • Funkybat

        I’d be a lot more inclined to start up a small studio composed of me and my talented friends/colleagues and promising up-and-comers if I were a trust fund baby or if I won the lottery.

        The fact is, even artists who have “made it” in the industry usually still have several tends of thousands of dollars in student loan debt that they are trying to climb out from under, while at the same time often trying to form a long term relationship/marriage with someone and even start or support a family. Most of us do not have the financial reserves or fallback plan that would keep us out of the gutter if our bold bid to strike out on our own goes south.

  • Rodan Thompson

    Disney didn’t do enough to keep Mickey alive…. no one product would ever do that… The power house of Mouse has come way down in the past few decades. They have totally abandoned their once driving force. If you expect something for nothing…you will get that in return.

  • Mr.freeze

    Sorry that I had to bring this up but it kinda saddens me to know that Disney would pay 563 million for a stupid game but wouldn’t pay that much for a 2D animated movie. :'(