With ‘Hey Disney’ on Amazon Echo, Disney brings part of the park experience home
To CES 2023Disney was inside the Amazon booth talking “Hi Disney“, a next Alexa Skill to Alexa-enabled devices as the Amazon Echo, which lets fans communicate with a Disney-themed voice assistant. Disney opted out of using Mickey Mouse, or a number of other iconic mascots as a voice assistant, and instead went through a series of auditions to find a voice actor who embodies a certain Disney feel.
The company landed on voice actor Nicolas Roye, known for his video game and anime work, who brings a jovial, if somewhat hammered performance that should play well with kids. There will be plenty of Disney character cameos, though.
People who purchase the Hey Disney Alexa skill or subscribe to Amazon Kids+, the company’s curation of books, movies and games starting at $5 a month, will get a voice assistant that will turn the Disney dial into 101 Dalmatians. Here, people can ask simple questions like “what’s the weather like?” or “Tell me a fun Disney fact” and get a response featuring a Disney mascot, like Donald Duck or Goofy.
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“It’s really important to us to continue to find ways for customers to engage with the brand, isn’t it? And we do so well with that at our parks,” said Steve Flynn, director digital experience at Disney.
“Being able to have something like that, that extends into the home, so that our brand can become part of customers’ daily lives, is always something that’s really important to us, and I think that verifies the strategic goal,” Flynn said, adding that since many Disney customers also own Echo devices, the partnership between Amazon and Disney makes sense.
Disney continues to be a dominant force in entertainment, with an estimated value of over $50 billion. The conglomerate owns ABC, ESPN, 21st Century Fox, Marvel and Star Wars. Its wide repertoire of adorable kid-friendly franchises and films creates a fandom that, for some, can last a lifetime. Disney steers its followers toward experiences at its theme parks and cruises around the world, providing families with memorable, albeit pricey, vacation experiences. Bringing that experience home gives families and kids daily interactions with the Disney brand, which could lead to more loyal fans.
Those who have visited Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in Florida have already experienced Hey Disney on Amazon Echo devices. Disney is committed to putting Echoes in all of its hotel rooms around the world. Considering there are more than 36,000 Walt Disney World hotel rooms worldwide, this is a substantial order. Much of the experience guests will have at Disney Resort hotels will be similar to Hey Disney at folks later this year, minus the option to order room service.
Enabling businesses to create curated voice assistant experiences is part of Amazon’s Alexa Smart Properties plan. For example, Amazon is offering hotels like the Wynn in Las Vegas or senior living facilities the ability to put Echo devices in rooms, allowing people to order services and make reservations.
“The goal of Alexa personalized assistant technology is one, to support, again, customer choice and interoperability, but then two, to help brands extend their brands to AI and voice, to do it in a way that is simple and also cost effective,” said Aaron Rubenson, vice president of Alexa.
Disney also showed interactions with its MagicBand Plus, a light-up wearable accessory used at Disney theme parks that can work as park tickets or to interact with certain attractions. The MagicBand Plus and Hey Disney can work together to play some games.
Extending Alexa to customer service could be an important way for Amazon to continue supporting the brand. Late last year, Amazon laid off 10,000 workers, mostly from its Alexa division, due to lower-than-expected revenue. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said this week that the company would lay off 18,000 additional workershitting human resources and retail operations.
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