Disney CEO Bob Chapek appointed veteran media and tech exec Mike White to a new role coordinating the Mouse House’s “metaverse” efforts going forward.
White, who has worked at Disney for a little over a decade, is assuming the new role of SVP of next-generation storytelling and consumer experiences at the Walt Disney Co., responsible for connecting the dots among the company’s initiatives that blend “physical and digital worlds,” Chapek wrote in a memo to staff, obtained by Variety.
White adds the metaverse role that to his existing duties leading consumer experiences and platforms in the Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution (DMED) division, overseeing the technology strategy, engineering and product teams charged developing digital experiences across brands including ABC, ABC News, Disney, ESPN, FX, Marvel, National Geographic and Star Wars.
The “so-called metaverse” is “the next great storytelling frontier and the perfect place to pursue our strategic pillars of Storytelling Excellence, Innovation, and Audience Focus,” Chapek wrote in the memo. “Teams across the company are exploring this new canvas, and I have been blown away by what I’ve seen.”
White, in his expanded role, will “help connect these in-flight efforts — as well as the work underway to create a more unified Disney experience for consumers,” according to Chapek.
White will dual-report to both Kareem Daniel, chairman of Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, and Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. That reflects “the importance of connecting the physical and digital worlds to this work,” according to Chapek.
“For nearly 100 years, our company has defined and redefined entertainment by leveraging technology to bring stories to life in deeper, more impactful ways,” Chapek wrote. “Today, we have an opportunity to connect those universes and create an entirely new paradigm for how audiences experience and engage with our stories.”
On Disney’s earnings call last week, Chapek discussed the media conglom’s thinking about the metaverse. “You want to call it the blending of the physical and digital experiences, which I think Disney should excel at for all the reasons that you said in your opening,” the CEO said. “We realize that it’s going to be less of a passive-type experience where you just have playback, whether it’s a sporting event or whether it’s an entertainment offering and more of an interactive lean forward, actively engaged type experience.”
In his prior roles at Disney, White led technology organizations at Disney Parks Experiences and Products, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, and Disney Interactive. Before joining Disney in 2011, White served as CTO and CIO of the Apollo Group, where he led the development of academic social networks, mobile applications, and the creation of an educational-adaptive learning platform for third parties and universities.
From 1999 to 2009, White worked at Yahoo, where he held senior positions in product development, engineering, and global operations. Before that he worked in technology at GeoCities until the company was acquired by Yahoo in 1999. He holds a bachelor of arts’ degree from Ohio State University and lives in Los Angeles.
Read Chapek’s memo about the new role for White:
For nearly 100 years, our company has defined and re-defined entertainment by leveraging technology to bring stories to life in deeper, more impactful ways. Some of those innovations — like the first synchronization of sound and animation or the revolutionary work of ILM and Pixar — come to life on-screen. Others, like our pioneering of Audio-Animatronics, come to life in the physical world. Today, we have an opportunity to connect those universes and create an entirely new paradigm for how audiences experience and engage with our stories.
This is the so-called metaverse, which I believe is the next great storytelling frontier and the perfect place to pursue our strategic pillars of Storytelling Excellence, Innovation, and Audience Focus. Teams across the company are exploring this new canvas, and I have been blown away by what I’ve seen.
To help connect these in-flight efforts — as well as the work underway to create a more unified Disney experience for consumers — I have asked Mike White, who currently leads Consumer Experiences and Platforms in our Media and Entertainment Distribution group, to take on a new role: Senior Vice President, Next Generation Storytelling and Consumer Experiences. Reflecting the importance of connecting the physical and digital worlds to this work, Mike will report to both Kareem Daniel and Josh D’Amaro.
While the storytelling that will define our metaverse presence will of course emanate from our creative teams, Mike will establish our overall vision and strategy for the consumer journey through these new story worlds. As part of this, Mike will quickly assemble a structure and put in place processes to prioritize and allocate resources, explore partnerships, and facilitate knowledge sharing. Mike will also lead a task force that will include senior leaders from key disciplines across the company, including technology, strategy, and of course, storytelling.
Mike brings to this role 25 years of technology leadership experience, and he has a track record of driving innovation, pushing boundaries, and creating meaningful partnerships. In addition to more than a decade in Silicon Valley, Mike has led product and technology teams across multiple business units here at Disney and has a history of sparking transformation — especially when it comes to bridging the physical and digital worlds.
I could not be more excited by the potential for Disney to once again set the bar for a new way of telling stories, and I ask that you support Mike, his team, and the task force in its important work.