Disney's Iger Opens 'Digital Doorway'

Las Vegas — The Walt Disney Co. provided the first glimpse of its revamped Web site, which it hopes will engage youthful audiences in simultaneous online game-playing, movie-watching and chat functions.

In the “Monday Night Keynote” at the International Consumer Electronics Show here Jan. 8, CEO Robert Iger presented the initial look at the completely redone Disney.com, which he called “both a destination and a portal.”

It's designed to be a “digital doorway” into all Disney content, but more critically, the site is aimed at making that fare more compelling for the young users among its 24.8 million monthly visitors. MySpace.com, YouTube.com and even MTV Networks' Neopets have been siphoning those visitors away.

Watching movies, TV shows and other video content is central to the plan, as the refurbished site will feature what Iger termed a “robust” video player.

A “broad and deep array” of games are also key, he said, because that “is what kids look for.”

The hallmark game: an online version of Disney's hit movie franchise Pirates of the Caribbean, which will debut this spring at piratesonline.com. The game can be played by thousands of Web users worldwide at any point. But unlike other “massive multiplayer” games, such as Everquest, it will be free, according to Disney Online executive vice president and managing director Paul Yanover.

All parts of the site will feature global navigation tools to give visitors online access to movies, games, live events, Disney theme parks, music, shopping and other basic services.

Additionally, a carousel of images of Disney characters — from Mickey Mouse to Lightning McQueen — will allow users to move to “worlds” built around them.

In the Tinker Bell world, for instance, youngsters can learn about fairies, create their own sprites and click to related books and films.

A “Disney for You” feature allows visitors to enter areas that reorganize material based on age or gender.

In areas that use Disney's Xtreme Digital technology — a term for its more advanced multimedia online efforts — users can control what goes on and off the pages they're exploring. This would allow them to simultaneously watch movies, play games, conduct chats and interact with the site in other ways, while remaining in, say, a High School Musical area. Video clips can be dragged into “backpacks” and saved for future retrieval. Users can also maintain favorites lists of games.

Iger did not specify a launch date for the new Disney.com, but noted: “Wherever the path of unfolding technologies and imaginative new platforms may lead, Disney will be there.”