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Disney Rolls Characters Together In New Video Game


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish. This month, we have a special focus on media for kids. And you can't talk about media for kids without talking about Disney. They have a huge new video game coming out later this summer, featuring familiar Disney characters, and they aren't being shy about the name. It's called "Disney Infinity."

NPR's Travis Larchuk explains that playing this new Disney game is going to be something like playing another game made by another company, "Skylanders" from Activision.

ASHER ADAMS-CUTLER: Oh, yeah, I killed it.

TRAVIS LARCHUK, BYLINE: This is Asher Adams-Cutler. He's 6 years old. He's at home in Cheverly, Maryland, sitting cross-legged on the floor next to his 9-year-old brother, Isaac. They're parked inches away from the TV screen, both gripping PlayStation controllers, absorbed in "Skylanders."

ADAMS-CUTLER: OK, let's go back in here.

ISAAC: No. No, Ash. I don't want to do again. It's hard.


LARCHUK: They're working together to solve puzzles and fight off bad guys. Asher is controlling a purple dragon named Flashwing who has a very useful power.

ADAMS-CUTLER: And I like Flashwing because she could shoot out of her wings.

LARCHUK: She can shoot out of her wings.

ADAMS-CUTLER: And I really like her feathers that look like gems.

LARCHUK: So Flashwing is pretty cool. But when Asher wants to switch to a different character, he has to put down the PlayStation controller. He reaches into a big wicker basket next to the TV. It's full of plastic "Skylanders" figurines. Asher pulls out a big, hulking guy with hair made of fire. He puts the figure on a special base, and a video game version of the character pops up on TV.


LARCHUK: It's this combination, real-life collectible toys plus video games, that's proven irresistible.

CAITLIN ADAMS: They each have different powers. They look cool.

LARCHUK: That's the boys' mom, Caitlin Adams.

ADAMS: They like to pretend being them.


ADAMS: Asher, especially, will take, you know, two in the car and have them each in his hands and be playing a little game in the back.

ADAMS-CUTLER: All right. Now time for some math. The basic game retails for around $70, and additional Skylanders figurines are sold separately for around 10 bucks each. The boys have about 50 of those figures. So...

ADAMS: I don't even want to think about it.


ADAMS: If you add it up, what is that? Like, $500 dollars or something...


ADAMS: ...is that - 500, at least.

WANDA MELONI: "Skylanders" has done extremely well.

LARCHUK: Wanda Meloni analyzes digital media and entertainment at M2 Research.

MELONI: Since it launched at the end of 2011, it's already done over a billion dollars in revenue.

LARCHUK: Toys plus video games, it's a billion dollar idea. Now, Disney is going to try to do one better. It's taking the concept and adding the one thing only it has - the Disney characters. So instead of Flashwing the Dragon, players can play as Mr. Incredible from "The Incredibles."


LARCHUK: Or Captain Jack Sparrow from "Pirates of the Caribbean."


LARCHUK: In a world inspired by "The Nightmare Before Christmas."


LARCHUK: Here's "Disney Infinity's" executive producer John Vignocchi.

JOHN VIGNOCCHI: The idea is that these are some of the most famous characters of all time.

LARCHUK: This concept of mashing up characters from different movies has already made Disney a ton of money. A little more than a decade ago, the company realized it could combine its Princess characters into a single brand. Here's toy industry expert Chris Byrne.

CHRIS BYRNE: Since the rise of home video, it was possible to have a virtual cavalcade of princesses in your living room on any given afternoon. So to the child's perception, they coexisted with one another.

LARCHUK: Disney created the Disney Princesses brand, and it was a huge hit. The company has also mashed up characters in video games before, but executive producer John Vignocchi says "Disney Infinity" is meant to be more open ended.

VIGNOCCHI: Think of it like a platform. It's not a one-off video game. It's intended to grow over time.

LARCHUK: Unlike "Skylanders," new characters in "Infinity" unlock new game levels completely unique to their films, and the game features a toy box mode where kids can design their own worlds and share them with friends. But the competition is also innovating.


LARCHUK: Two months after "Infinity" hits shelves in August, the new version of "Skylanders" comes out. Its new gimmick? Toys with removable tops and bottoms that can be mixed and matched. Both games' starter sets will retail for 75 bucks. Travis Larchuk, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Travis Larchuk
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