Look no further than the King (and Queen) … Disney!
My children (currently 8 years, 6 years, and 4 years) have been faithful Disney [and Pixar] followers their entire, albeit short, lives. Part of this devotion is probably owed to my wife’s equal life long loyalty to Disney.
I am a bit of a different breed. I didn’t grow up on the Disney “brand” and only recently immersed in the Disney lifestyle since my children were born. When we lived in Florida we frequented Disney World with our kids and I had the chance to see firsthand how Disney has mastered the ability to connect not only with youth, but people of all ages.
Part of this triumph is undoubtedly owed to Disney’s mastery of music and story telling. A true common trait among each of their theatrical hits is great story telling and songs that easily get stuck in your head. But, while these qualities may be the bones of each animated story, the glue that holds it all together is Disney’s ultra-fine Emotive Display micro-attention to detail. This focus ranges from robots (like Wall-E and Eve above), to animals, to inanimate objects.
How could you not love him?!
Disney does a miraculous job making the emotional decisions for their customers, giving them very little, if none at all, room to make their own interpretations. And this is surely supported by their ability to drive their brand with precise Emotive Displays for each character and scene.
I asked my 6 year old son what he likes about Wall-E (above). Of course he answered that he’s “so cute” (just look at those puppy dog eyes!), but he also described how he personally feels the way Wall-E feels sometimes, describing Wall-E like he has all the parts of a human’s soul with emotions and feelings yet with none of the physical human parts. After all Wall-E is just a robot. It amazes me how Disney can build a character with complete perceivable and relatable human emotions yet void of physical human likeness. And, if not already complicated enough, place the story setting in Outer Space where it is quite challenging to master the animated “physics” of that environment. Quite impressive!
Disney mastered the physics of underwater environment simulation paired with emotionally convincing Emotive Displays. Finding Nemo is the highest grossing DVD ever.
And occasionally we see how fine the line it is when companies try to strike the right balance with their Emotive Displays. Paramount and Sega took major fire earlier this year when they released a trailer for their upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie. Their fanbase and preview crowd gave them a 200 mph slap in the face for designing a “creepy” looking Sonic with strange Emotive Displays (fail!). Sonic’s human-like teeth particularly turned people away. Animation redesign efforts to fix the flop cost the companies millions of dollars and delayed production.
Disney certainly deserves much credit for successfully winding up on the right end of the balancing act time and time again while avoiding the “uncanny valley” (see above). Artificial Affective and Emotive Displays will become more common in our every day lives particularly with the future implementation of Social Robotics. It will be prudent to follow the Disney model for success in these endeavors.