At CES 2023, Disney was at the Amazon booth speaking “Hey Disney,” an upcoming Alexa Skill for Alexa devices like the Amazon Echo that will allow fans to interact with a Disney-themed voice assistant. Disney chose not to go with Mickey Mouse or a number of other iconic mascots as voice assistants, and instead went through auditions to find a voice actor who embodied a certain Disney feel.
The company landed on voice actor Nicolas Roye, known for his video game and anime work, who brings a jovial, if somewhat hammy, performance that should play well with kids. However, there will be plenty of Disney character cameos.
Now playing: Watch this: ‘Hey Disney’ is coming to Amazon Echo Devices
People who buy the Hey Disney Alexa Skill, or who subscribe to Amazon Kids+, the company that curates books, movies, and games from $5 a month, get a voice assistant that changes the Disney watch face to 101 Dalmatians. Here people can ask basic questions such as “what’s the weather like?” or “tell me a fun Disney fact,” and get a response with a Disney mascot, like Donald Duck or Goofy.
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“It’s really important to us to continue to find ways for guests to engage with the brand, isn’t it? And that’s what we’re doing so well at our parks,” said Steve Flynn, director of digital experience at Disney.
“Being able to have something like this, extending into the home so that our brand can become part of the guests’ daily lives, that’s always something that’s really important to us, and I think that checks the strategic objective, Flynn said, adding that since many Disney customers also own Echo devices, the partnership between Amazon and Disney makes sense.
Disney remains a dominant force in entertainment, with an estimated net worth of more than $50 billion. The conglomerate owns ABC, ESPN, 21st Century Fox, Marvel and Star Wars. The wide repertoire of franchises and adorable kid-friendly movies creates a fandom that can last a lifetime for some. Disney sends its loyal following to experiences at its theme parks and cruises around the world, providing families with memorable, albeit expensive, vacation experiences. Bringing that experience home gives families and children daily interactions with the Disney brand, which can lead to more loyal followers.
Disney’s MagicBand Plus can also team up with Hey Disney to play Disney-themed games.
Those who have visited Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in Florida have already experienced Hey Disney on Amazon Echo devices. Disney is committed to putting Echos in all of its hotel rooms around the world. Considering there are more than 36,000 Walt Disney World Hotel rooms worldwide, this is a significant order. For the most part, the experience guests have at Disney hotels will be similar to when Hey Disney comes to people’s homes later this year, minus the option to order room service.
Allowing companies to create curated voice assistant experiences is part of Amazon’s Alexa Smart Properties plan. For example, Amazon allows hotels like the Wynn in Las Vegas or senior residences to put Echo devices in rooms so people can order services and make reservations.
“The purpose of the Alexa custom assistant technology is one, again, support customer choice and interoperability, but two, to help brands extend their brands into Ai and voice, to do it in a simple and also cost effective way.” effective,” said Aaron Rubenson, vice president of Alexa.
Disney also showed off interactions with its MagicBand Plus, a light-up wearable used in Disney theme parks that can act as park tickets or interact with certain attractions. The MagicBand Plus and Hey Disney can work together to play certain games.
Extending Alexa into customer service could be an important way for Amazon to continue to support the brand. At the end of last year, Amazon laid off 10,000 employees, mainly from the Alexa division, due to disappointing revenues. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said this week the company would lay off an additional 18,000 workers, hitting human resources and retail.