Prediction – Disney Will Buy Magic Leap

Posted By on June 21, 2016

Magic Leap is HOT HOT HOT.

On this site I have extolled the virtues of this tech over and above many others because I feel that Rony Abovitz and his team are onto something great. It is less about a general purpose use of Augmented Reality. It’s about a Mixed Cinematic Reality.

From what I have seen and what I believe to be the next steps in mixed reality, I am making a bold prediction will be that Disney will buy Magic Leap by the end of 2017 for upwards of $25 billion. Many say that Google will but I feel that Google has no ability to know how to monetize the technology beyond having and investment stake in it.

Here’s some evidence that has lead me to this conclusion.

1. Rony Abovitz is more dreamer than CEO

Back in 2012, Rony Abovitz Magic Leap’s CEO spoke/performed at TEDxSarasota. It’s hardly a talk. It’s a performance. Much like Disney believes the world is a stage so does Rony and his team.

It’s a little strong to say that Abovitz is a modern Walt Disney today. Maybe we’ll be saying that in 5 years time? Very likely once the technology evolves a little more. Let’s see an interview from last week to hear a little more about the creation of Magic Leap.

2. Magic Leap’s patents lead us to believe that the world can be a Disneyland

Take a look at Magic Leap’s 180-page patent application magnum opus. When this was released there were many people that explored what the different illustrations meant but one of the first few images in the patent aligns itself with how to drop objects realistically in the world.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 6.22.44 AM

Ultimately, anything that can be dreamed can be dropped into the real world. This is exactly what Disney created with real-world environments like Disneyland.

Feels like an augmented reality to me.

Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.
Walt Disney
Now imagine that on-demand in your living room, backyard, school, or wherever.

3. A storyteller is their Lead Futurist

In 2014 Magic Leap hired Neal Stephenson, a world-renowned author and imagineer of the metaverse. In the following video he talks about how long-form novels, no matter how good, cannot be made into movies.

It’s likely that a Magic Leap x Disney coalition will go beyond movies to long-form storytelling that (potentially) lasts years. A partnership will not be enough. Just like when in 1997 Pixar agreed to produce 5 movies together and then eventually lead to an acquisition in 2006 for 7.5 billion (a steal at today’s prices).

The world is more immediate with direct control and this is why Disney must be looking at this tech as an acquisition target today.

4. Mixed reality intersecting with film design will be about creating lasting memories

Over the past few years the entertainment world has been blurring with immersive gaming and film franchises but the two have never been interchangeable or desirable for mass audiences.

Well, Magic Leap needed gaming experience in its ranks and then Rony Abovitz approached Graeme Devine (see his wikipedia entry). In this VentureBeat interview Graeme talks about his first experience with the Magic Leap technology:

I went down to Florida and took a look. I stuck my head into this machine that was about the size of a refrigerator. Right away I’m thinking of that movie Brainstorm. Once I joined I had to buy everyone in the company that blu-ray, because apparently nobody’d seen it. There was a monster running around the desk in front of me. It was this blue monster, and I could control it with an Xbox controller. It was looking just like it was real, on the desk. I’m thinking, “That is weird!”

Then, in the back of the room, a much larger monster stood up and waved at me. I hadn’t realized it was there to begin with. I didn’t notice that monster. It was so naturally fit into the environment. When I went and focused on it, the monster on the table changed and went fuzzy. “Golly.” Well, I thought more than “Golly.” Mostly “Golly.” But this was insane. I’d never seen anything like it. I went from not moving to Florida to being in Florida and learning about making content for this, what it meant to make content in mixed reality.

In the following video we see an interview with  Graeme Devine and Gordon Bellamy at VRX USA conference, November 2015, that talks about how thinking has evolved from playing games to experimentation with full real-world interaction and fantasy through the use of photons to create memories:

5. Star Wars and the evolution of transmedia

Star Wars has always owned the transmedia storytelling domain. As a child I’d run around the schoolyard as a bounty hunter (way cooler than Han Solo or Luke Skywalker) then head home to play with my Star Wars figures. In later life I have consumed books, fan-fiction, tribute videos and so much more. I even jetted to Boston for the first night of The Phantom Menace.

Magic Leap is the new frontier of transmedia storytelling – mixed cinematic reality.

Take a look at the ‘ILMxLAB and Magic Leap “Lost Droids” Mixed Reality Test’:

The future of immersive movie experiences will be here soon. Here’s a killer experience from Magic Leap working with Industrial Light & Magic. Film will not be film alone. Within 5 years it will be multi-sensory experiences and franchise titles that take the lead. Disney is the master of this kind of domain and with the purchase of Star Wars and these kinds of experiences we will see a new reality. Here’s Vicki Dobbs Beck, the Executive in Charge at ILMxLAB, discussing the vision for storytelling and virtual reality.

Also, now with its new San Francisco offices we see Magic Leap as being neighbours to ILM.

Do you agree with me, or not? Let me know what you’re thinking in the comments below.

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  • JrSlims

    Buy? No. Strategic alliance? Probably. Buying Pixar and buying Magic Leap are not at all comparable. The Pixar purchase was a horizontal integration – Disney bought Pixar’s IP, Pixar’s team (particularly Lasseter, who afterwards headed Disney’s flagging animation studio) and technology that was incorporated into the rest of Disney’s animation studio. Magic Leap is potentially a vertical integration – which is your case here – but still more like entering a new industry entirely. But assuming it is vertical – when has Disney bought movie theaters? Disney has bought game and app developers, but when has Disney bought game consoles developers or mobile phone companies? They bought ABC back in the 1990’s, but they still didn’t buy a TV manufacturer or a cable company. They bought Maker, but they didn’t buy a computer manufacturer, much less YouTube. While Disney typically licenses its properties to manufacturers like Hasbro, Mattel or LEGO, it probably still has the failure of Disney Infinity on the mind and the only manufacturing involved with that was making simple figurines. Unless you have some other info, the “purchase” element of this seems like a real stretch.