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Industry Innovators 2024: Disney

The company’s wide network of brands, including Hulu, ESPN, National Geographic, and FX, has built a menagerie of immersive experiences for fans and viewers.

In the Hulu series, actor Ben Glenroy is murdered before starring in the Death Rattle play on Broadway. The cast and crew of the show are the prime suspects and are being investigated by Glenroy’s three friends and neighbors. At the pop-up, guests were able to gather clues and form ideas about whodunnit.
In the Hulu series, actor Ben Glenroy is murdered before starring in the Death Rattle play on Broadway. The cast and crew of the show are the prime suspects and are being investigated by Glenroy’s three friends and neighbors. At the pop-up, guests were able to gather clues and form ideas about whodunnit.
Photo: Courtesy of PR Dept

This feature is sponsored by BeEvents, creative evolutionaries who challenge the status quo to redefine the experience of live events. Its Smart Experience Design solution delivers highly impactful experiences that both stakeholders and guests love.

The Basics: Walt Disney is considered one of the first pioneering experience-makers, so it makes sense that his company (and the hundreds of individual companies under its umbrella) would carry on that legacy—including brands like Hulu, ESPN, National Geographic, and FX. From activating at major events and festivals to executing their own film and television premieres, the companies that comprise the Disney universe continue to engage fans, viewers, and attendees in their own unique, on-brand ways.

New York City’s iconic 3,400-seat United Palace theater was the setting for much of Only Murders in the Building’s latest season—and played host to the pop-up. Guests were immersed in the Hulu series as soon as they rolled up to the venue, which boasted a façade advertising the show's fictional musical, Death Rattle Dazzle.New York City’s iconic 3,400-seat United Palace theater was the setting for much of Only Murders in the Building’s latest season—and played host to the pop-up. Guests were immersed in the Hulu series as soon as they rolled up to the venue, which boasted a façade advertising the show's fictional musical, Death Rattle Dazzle.Photo: Courtesy of PR DeptMost Innovative Experiences: Timed to the season three finale of its series Only Murders in the Building, Hulu hosted an experiential activation called “Only Murders in the Building: Backstage at the Goosebury Experience in New York.” The space was set up to feel like the theater was in limbo between an active crime scene and the final week heading into opening night of Death Rattle Dazzle, the fictional play in the TV series. Guests were able to walk through the space, gather clues, and form ideas about whodunnit.

 â€śWe are gifted with an incredible, award-winning series with standout talent and Easter eggs throughout, which fans have come to expect and obsess over,” explained Candice Ashton, senior vice president of publicity and events for Disney Television Studios and Hulu. “So we wanted to honor that by creating a truly immersive world with acute attention to detail where fans could actually be a part of the investigation that was unfolding in the series.”

At FX's A Murder at the End of the World event, which was officially referred to as 'A Killer Evening: Cocktails. A Mystery. A Murder,' guests were greeted by actors donning masks, evoking a spooky scene from the series.At FX's A Murder at the End of the World event, which was officially referred to as "A Killer Evening: Cocktails. A Mystery. A Murder," guests were greeted by actors donning masks, evoking a spooky scene from the series.Photo: Courtesy of FX NetworksOther standout experiences from Disney-owned brands include FX’s A Murder at the End of the World event, where guests explored a symposium-style setting, dined on custom menus, interacted with costumed characters, and solved various puzzles and challenges; Disney Branded Television’s premiere event for Bluey's first-ever extended-length episode; and National Geographic’s New York Fashion Week debut, which featured an immersive fashion show with holographic images of female animals inspired by the network’s female-led docuseries, QUEENS. 

'We leaned into the idea of being 'at the end of the world' in several areas of the event with large-scale projections of Icelandic environments and custom-built windows revealing the locale,' Kenya Hardaway, FX Networks' senior vice president of integrated promotions and multiplatform marketing, told BizBash back in December about the A Murder at the End of the World event."We leaned into the idea of being 'at the end of the world' in several areas of the event with large-scale projections of Icelandic environments and custom-built windows revealing the locale," Kenya Hardaway, FX Networks' senior vice president of integrated promotions and multiplatform marketing, told BizBash back in December about the A Murder at the End of the World event.Photo: Courtesy of FX NetworksLessons Learned So Far: “Social conversation informs our strategy,” Ashton said. “We know what our fans are talking about, and those insights point us in a certain direction. In the case of Only Murders in the Building, we knew that they were along for the whodunnit ride with us, and so bringing them into the ongoing investigation within the show felt like the right way to generate excitement ahead of the finale.” 

She also noted that “having a creative, inventive experience is not enough. You have to market it and make sure your fans know about it.”

Earlier this month, FX presented the “Clipped: Courtside Club,” in association with the limited series Clipped. The exhibit included an interactive shooting contest where visitors could win show-inspired merch.Earlier this month, FX presented the “Clipped: Courtside Club,” in association with the limited series Clipped. The exhibit included an interactive shooting contest where visitors could win show-inspired merch.Photo: Natasha Campos/Getty Images for FXThe Latest: Earlier this month, FX presented the “Clipped: Courtside Club,” in association with the network's limited series Clipped, which explores one of the biggest scandals in sports history that led to the downfall of former LA Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling. Inside the immersive exhibit, visitors embarked on a narrative journey that re-created the scandal through visual and audio storytelling. The exhibit continued with an interactive shooting contest where visitors could win show-inspired merch.

At Disney Branded Television's Bluey event, guests walked through an immersive tunnel and entered the after-party. The space was transformed into the Heeler family's house and backyard, all centered around a 16-foot-tall replica of the Heelers' royal poinciana tree—which was custom-designed by 3D scanning a Bluey toy tree.At Disney Branded Television's Bluey event, guests walked through an immersive tunnel and entered the after-party. The space was transformed into the Heeler family's house and backyard, all centered around a 16-foot-tall replica of the Heelers' royal poinciana tree—which was custom-designed by 3D scanning a Bluey toy tree.Photo: Disney Branded Television/Mirrored Media

In February, National Geographic made its debut at New York Fashion Week with an immersive show that was inspired by the network’s female-led docuseries, QUEENS. The show incorporated holographic images of the female animals featured in the series, alongside women and gender-nonconforming models.In February, National Geographic made its debut at New York Fashion Week with an immersive show that was inspired by the network’s female-led docuseries, QUEENS. The show incorporated holographic images of the female animals featured in the series, alongside women and gender-nonconforming models.Photo: Kristina Bumphrey/PictureGroup for National Geographic

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