Written by Brandon Yu I 7 min read
Disney is a brand that is synonymous with innovation. Since its founding in 1923, the company has been at the forefront of entertainment and media, constantly pushing boundaries and creating new experiences for audiences around the world.
Disney has a long history of bringing groundbreaking ideas to life. Over the years, the company has continued to evolve and adapt to changing consumer preferences and technological advances, staying ahead of the curve and setting the standard for others to follow.
Today, Disney is one of the most successful media and entertainment companies in the world, with a portfolio of brands that includes Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic, among others.
1. Background on Disney as a Company
The Disney brand is committed to bringing joy and happiness to people of all ages, regardless of their location around the globe. By adhering to its core values of family entertainment, they have built a strong foundation that has allowed it to thrive for decades.
With a dedication to creating magical experiences for its visitors, Disney has cemented its position as a leader in the entertainment industry, providing a sense of wonder and joy that is sure to be cherished by all who experience it.
To put it simply, Disney truly is a magical place. But how? The answer’s simple: it’s through consistent investment in innovation from within.
2. Disney’s Innovation Ecosystem
From the development of Walt Disney’s first character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, to their growing selection of films on their streaming platform Disney+, Disney continues to impress with their innovation potential. Here are some of their key innovations.
Theme Park Animatronics
Disney's use of animatronics has been a game-changer in the world of theme parks. The first animatronic figure was introduced in 1963 at the Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland. Since then, Disney has continued to use animatronics to bring their attractions to life. From the iconic "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride to the recent addition of Hondo Ohnaka in the "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" attraction, animatronics have allowed Disney to create immersive experiences that transport guests to different worlds. The use of animatronics has not only enhanced the guest experience but has also solidified Disney's position as a leader in theme park innovation.
The Disney Vault
Disney's creation of the Disney Vault has had a significant positive impact on the company's revenue and brand loyalty. The Disney Vault is a marketing strategy that involves releasing classic Disney films for a limited time before putting them back in the "vault" for several years. This strategy creates a sense of scarcity and urgency, leading to a spike in sales whenever a film is released from the vault. The Disney Vault has become a staple of the company's marketing strategy, creating a sense of nostalgia and excitement for fans of classic Disney films.
Virtual Reality Experiences
Disney's use of virtual reality (VR) technology has opened up new possibilities for immersive storytelling. In 2019, Disney introduced "Star Wars: Vader Immortal," a VR experience that allowed users to step into the world of "Star Wars" like never before. The use of VR technology has allowed Disney to create interactive experiences that go beyond what is possible in traditional theme park attractions. The success of "Star Wars: Vader Immortal" has paved the way for future VR experiences, and has shown that Disney is not afraid to embrace new technology to create unforgettable experiences for their fans.
3. The Innovation Culture at Disney
Disney as a business is a ‘fail fast’ company. Kylie Watson-Wheeler (SVP and MD at The Walt Disney Company, Australia and New Zealand) shares how the culture at Disney operates with intent to capitalize and iterate on new ideas quickly. With a focus on creating timeless content with a great story, there is room for everyone at Disney to think outside the box and innovate rapidly.
This philosophy extends beyond the design division of Disney, the Walt Disney Imagineering, the creative engine responsible for delivering on the mission of innovation. Whether it’s the theme parks or the Disney merchandise, the Disney Imagineering team had a role to play. Fun fact––they recently celebrated their 70th anniversary in December of 2022, a testament to the true innovation culture.
One of Walt Disney’s lasting philosophies was that a great idea can come from anywhere and anyone. This ambition of insourcing talent to tackle a specific problem, create a novel idea, or build a solution that not only builds a culture that their Cast Members can be proud of, but also taps into their creative potential.
As Bob Iger (Global CEO of the Walt Disney Company) proudly puts it: “The heart and soul of the company is creativity and innovation.”
4. How can we learn from Disney’s innovation culture?
The investment from the Walt Disney Company into their innovation sector is a prime example for any business and business leader. Whether that’s designating a specific design and innovation team like the Imagineers, or hosting innovation sprints or hackathons to gather ideas from your team, these are all practical steps that promote creative, new ideas to real world business problems.
Set the right innovation culture. Walt Disney in Disney’s founding times made it a point to cultivate innovation and creativity from all levels of the company. Walt is famously remembered for saying quotes like “If you can dream it, you can do it” and “Ideas come from curiosity”. When leadership establishes and acts on these principles, it galvanizes the entire team towards action-bias for innovation.
Think about your customer. At every stage of the innovation process at Disney, they always go back to their target audience. They think about their feelings and emotions that they will feel when interacting with their products and services. They think about how relatable it can be to modern society. They add various layers of complexity so that not just one demographic can enjoy this experience. Whether this is the release of a new film or heading over to Disneyland, there’s moments for everyone.
Create opportunities to inspire ideas. Whether that’s establishing a dedicated innovation team similar to the Walt Disney Imagineers, or better yet, hosting hackathons or innovation sprints to solve your businesses’ most pressing challenges, it is crucial to facilitate spaces where your team can feel inspired to innovate and build on their ideas. Walt Disney hopes that Disney remembers that this was “all started by a mouse.” Create spaces to find your Mickey Mouse, and then invest in them.
5. How Onova can help you invest in your innovation
Here at Onova, we firmly believe that investing in innovation should be a top priority for any business. The Disney brand has carried forward a spirit of innovation and creative thinking. New stories are told, new technologies are used, and new solutions are built.
Onova has a proud 5-year history of doing this exact thing for industry leaders all around the world. Bringing in Onova as your external partners to help supercharge your innovation is the step forward in helping you generate hundreds of product prototypes at the speed of a startup.
To conclude in the words of Walt Disney himself: “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”