Disney Reportedly Disbands Its Metaverse Division as Part of First Wave of Layoffs

The first round of Disney's layoffs allegedly included the next-generation storytelling team, which was made up of around 50 employees.

Disney has reportedly shut down its next-generation storytelling and consumer-experiences unit, the division responsible for developing metaverse strategies. This move is claimed to be a part of a larger restructuring plan that aims to cut around 7,000 jobs across the company within the next two months.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, the team, headed by former Disney consumer products executive Mike White, reportedly consisted of around 50 employees. White is said to be remaining with Disney, although it is uncertain what his new role within the company will be. 

The division's focus was on exploring how Disney could leverage its existing intellectual property in innovative technological formats, including the metaverse. The team's exact projects are uncertain, but according to WSJ, their work may have encompassed "fantasy sports, theme-park attractions, and other consumer experiences."

Disney unveiled its aspirations to enter the metaverse, which former CEO Bob Chapek referred to as "the next great storytelling frontier", to its employees last February. Chapek appointed Mike White as the head of the next-generation storytelling unit at that time. As senior VP of the division, White was responsible for creating initiatives that integrated "physical and digital worlds," according to a memo written by Chapek to the staff during White's appointment.

Under Chapek, who was dismissed by the company's board in November 2022 and succeeded by former CEO Robert Iger, White was also involved in an effort to create a cross-divisional membership program that aimed to combine perks and exclusive offers from various touchpoints such as theme parks, cruises, Disney+, and retail outlets. However, this project was also canceled as part of Iger's restructuring plan.

Despite the cuts occurring during Iger's tenure, he does not seem to be against the concept of the metaverse. In fact, as WSJ reports, Iger is on the board of a startup called Genies Inc, which focuses on helping users in creating avatars.

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