This weekend, Disney will bring its first fully animated NFL game to its streamers Disney+ and ESPN+. The game, which will air live on Oct. 1 at 9:30 a.m. ET, will use motion capture technology to place players and commentators in the world of Pixar’s “Toy Story” in real time. Featuring appearances from the movie franchise’s characters including Woody and Buzz Lightyear, the “Toy Story Funday Football” will feature segments to teach kids about the sport, including sponsored breaks that show trivia and lessons about the rules of football rather than ads.
But the goal for the NFL’s child-appealing games on Nick and Disney isn’t just about connecting with the networks’ young audiences, which Bishop characterized as ages six to 14. The games are able to reach new audiences in general, including those who are tapped into the nostalgia of franchises such as “Toy Story,” which debuted in 1995 and released its most recent sequel “Toy Story 4” in 2019, or “SpongeBob SquarePants,” which has been airing on Nick since 1999.
For its part, Disney conducted research to select the most relevant IP to set its NFL broadcast within, said Tim Reed, VP of programming and acquisitions at ESPN. “Toy Story” was selected for its multi-generational impact to create co-viewing between parents and kids.
“The idea is we want to connect with fans the way they want to see their game, and some fans might be more traditionalists that are going to watch the traditional broadcasts,” added Deidra Maddock, VP of sports brand solutions at Disney. “Other fans may be co-viewing and watching with kids, or they just might be diehard ‘Toy Story’ fans.”
Nearly 50% of viewing on Disney+ is from adults without children, according to the company, which is able to broadcast the kids-centered game on Disney+ due to its expanded rights deal with the NFL, which included one international game for ESPN+. The game will be viewable in over 95 international markets and will be rewatchable for 30 days following the live broadcast.