For a long time, Disney didn’t seem to know what it was doing with Maker Studios, which it purchased in a deal worth $675 million in March 2014, back when it was still called a multi-channel network.
But, lately, Disney has been taking advantage of the ability of Maker — and, in turn, social video platforms such as YouTube, Vine, Snapchat and Instagram — to serve as an incubator for talent and content.
Eight new videos were released today from Disney XD by Maker, a collaboration between Maker Studios and Disney XD, its media brand targeting kids 6 to 11. Launched last August, it’s designed to surface and develop next gen creators for DisneyXD.com, the Disney XD app and original television series pilots for Disney XD cable and satellite channels around the world.
The videos will be available across Disney XD digital platforms, including the Disney XD app for desktop, mobile and connected TV devices and YouTube.com/DisneyXD. Additionally, ten videos that were previously released on YouTube, where they have racked up more than 5 million views, are now available on the Disney XD app.
“We developed this program with the idea of providing our exceptionally talented roster of creators with the resources to make the best digital short-form content, and that includes a way to get it to a broad audience,” said Chris M. Williams, head of channels for Maker Studios, in a statement.
Participants in Disney XD by Maker include top Maker Studios talent such as EvanTubeHD (The Fixits), Random Encounters (Resident Enis 2), Patrick Boivin (The Aquacats), CaptainSparklez (CaptainSparklez Skate Challenge) and ZexyZek (The Not Too Bad Show), as well as up-and-coming creators from Maker Offers, a program that invites people from around the world to pitch videos that could potentially received up to $1,000 in funding.
Disney XD by Maker isn’t the only digital influencer lab in the House of Mouse. Last month, Disney launched a broader incubator program, Maker Studios Spark, which invites creators from YouTube, Vine, Facebook, Instagram and other social video outlets to pitch original concepts that can be developed into series or cross-platform franchises.
In the big picture, the content these programs are creating isn’t as significant as the fact that Disney is engaging them to make it.
Hollywood powers-that-be haven’t been much for nurturing talent since the studio system died a slow death in the middle of the last century. They find someone or something they can use from a play, an audition or a submission and, if they deem it ready, they sign it or sell it. But, while Disney’s new Maker Studios incubators are somewhat reminiscent of talent development efforts in Hollywood’s Golden Age, they probably have more in common Silicon Valley-style research and development.
Disney has also been increasingly using social video stars to promote both its content and its merchandise.
Just prior to the launch of Disney XD by Maker, Disney XD experimented with using live Snapchats from Vine stars Sam Golbach, Colby Brock and Jake Webber to promote the launch event for its new series “The Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything” at YouTube Space LA. Then, in September, it staged a global live-streamed toy unboxing event for the reveal of its new “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” product line featuring top Maker Studios stars including kids (EvanTubeHD), families (Bratayley), lifehack specialists (Bratayley), gamers (AlexBy11) and “Star Wars” fans (AlexBy11).