A few weeks ago it happened to me to go to a matinée of Teatro San Carlo, in Neaples, to see a show for families focused on a selection of songs from the popular animated movie Fantasia, realized back in 1940, but always pleasant, by The Walt Disney Company. Beyond the suggestion given from attending in a setting of great beauty to one of the best animated films of all time, focused on famous songs masterfully illustrated by American artists, it made me think on the one hand as the fantastic, mythical or virtual worlds has always been a constant theme of art, whether it is “high” such as classical music or “popular” like toons and comics (that over time progressed from physical media to digital media).
For my son Davide it was also an opportunity, once back home, for asking some news on the American group, one of the entertainment world’s largest multinational corporations whose activities now range from cinematography to the cruises, from theme parks to hotels, from comics to tv cartoons, with a collection of brands and characters to say the least impressive, ranging from Mickey Mouse to Muppets, from Pixar to Panini stickers, from Marvel superheros to Winnie the Pooh, to the saga of Star Wars just to name a few.
And virtual worlds as such? They could not be absent from the assets of the group, who also, as regards the video game-mmorpg virtual worlds sector, has had over the years not a few thoughts (just think about the Lucas Art’s closure in April 2013, despite only six months before, acquiring the parent company Lucasfilm Disney’s management said they wanted to concentrate the production of LucasArt in social and mobile games. When it comes to Disney say “virtual worlds” it means Club Penguin, bought in 2007 for 350 million dollars cash plus many more related to the achievement of a series of milestones by the end of 2009 that the same Disney (which is listed on Wall Street) signaled to the Sec in May 2010 have never been achieved.
Developed since 2000 but actually launched in 2005 by Lane Merrifield, Lance Priebe and Dave Krysko (the last two have left Club Penguin in 2010, Merrifield in February 2013) this virtual world, tought for kids 6 -14 years old, had 12 millions registered users and 700 thousand subscribers (you can register for free and use the basic services of Club Penguin, but to customize your “penguin” avatar, download dedicated apps and collect special contents you must be subscriber at a price ranging from 4.95 euros per month to 39.95 euros for 12 months subscription) able to generate 40 million dollars a year in revenue. At the end of September 2013, for Kzero, registered users had exceeded 220 million, but it is given to know the turnover and profit or loss.
Even if Disney has also launched a series of thematic virtual worlds, Club Penguin is still, as cites the same balance sheet of the American group, “the main Disney’s virtual world” and over time there have been “landed” some of the best known charechters of the group, from Muppets, in tour in these days, to Marvel super heroes. To develop Club Penguin since it is part of the Disney group thinks the Canadian division Disney Canada located in Kelowna, which is nothing but the New Horizon Interactive (founded by Krysko and of which Merrifield and Priebe were employed), then become Club Penguin Enterteinment and at last Disney Online Studios Canada. After cutting from 500 to 300 employees, Disney has returned to strengthen its interactive division in Summer 2012. A much better fate than that of Pixar Canada, which was closed in October 2013 with the dismissal of 100 employees.