The NFL has set goals for a new venture targeted at a younger audience by introducing an innovative animated simulcast concept inspired by the beloved Pixar franchise, Toy Story.
This Sunday’s matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars, taking place at London’s iconic Wembley Stadium, will unfold within a digitized rendition of one of the characters’ rooms. The unique telecast, titled ‘Toy Story Funday Football,’ will be available for streaming on ESPN+ and Disney+, with ESPN+ also hosting the main broadcast.
This initiative marks the second occasion this year that ESPN has ventured into animated alternate broadcasts utilizing Disney characters. Back in March, they presented the ‘NHL Big City Greens Classic’ during a game featuring the Washington and New York teams.
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ESPN has witnessed considerable success with their alternate NFL game broadcasts, notably the ManningCast during Monday Night Football and various playoff games.
Tim Reed, ESPN’s Vice President of Programming, expressed that the NHL game provided a valuable foundation to build upon. After exploring numerous ideas, they decided to focus on Toy Story due to its appeal across generations, both older and younger. Furthermore, it serves as a promotional platform for the exclusive ESPN+ game.
The telecast itself will be entirely animated, with the movements of the players synchronized with real-time action on the field. This synchronization is achieved through player-tracking data complimented by the NFL’s Next Gen Stats system and Beyond Sports.
Beyond Sports, a Dutch-based company, will primarily handle player animation and ensure that the player tracking data seamlessly functions with the animated product. ESPN’s creative services team has crafted more than 100 animations featuring Toy Story characters that can be seamlessly woven into the broadcast.
Collaborating closely with Pixar Animation Studios, the creators of the Toy Story franchise, ESPN aims to stay true to established storylines while embracing the unique challenges of this animated endeavor.
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Drew Gallagher, the coordinating producer, shared his enthusiasm for this imaginative production, where they are creating not just a documentation of the game but also a storyline. They are leaning into the whimsical logic of cartoons, like aliens descending from the sky to drop the ball at the line of scrimmage, adding an element of delightful silliness to the presentation.
Fans can anticipate appearances from beloved ‘Toy Story’ characters such as Bo Peep, Bullseye, Forky, Green Aliens, and Slinky Dog. Additionally, Duke Caboom will attempt a daring motorcycle jump over double-decker buses during halftime.
The announcers for the game will include Drew Carter, Booger McFarland, and 12-year-old Pepper Persley, all of whom will be fully animated, with their movements captured using motion-capture technology.
The game is scheduled to kick off at 9:30 a.m. EST on Sunday, with the replay of Toy Story Funday Football available on Disney+ for 30 days. Viewers from over 95 countries, including the United Kingdom, Brazil, Mexico, and France, will have access to the live or replay presentation.