By Jason Dachman, Editorial Director, U.S.
Tuesday, September 12, 2023 – 11:06 am
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The wave of kids-focused alternate sports broadcasts will continue next month, when ESPN will deliver a Toy Story Funday Football presentation of the NFL International Series game on Oct. 1. The fully-animated broadcast of the Falcons/Jaguars game, which will be played on Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. ET at Wembley Stadium in London, will be set inside Pixar’s Toy Story universe and streamed live on Disney+, ESPN+, and on mobile with NFL+.
The project is a collaboration between ESPN’s Edge Innovation Center, Disney, NFL, Pixar, Next Gen Stats, Beyond Sports, and Silver Spoon. The Toy Story Funday Football broadcast follows ESPN’s groundbreaking efforts in March on the Big City Greens NHL Classic, which marked the the first-ever fully animated game telecast.
The fully-animated broadcast will recreate the live action on the field in real-time inside Andy’s room, one of the movie’s most recognizable settings. Andy’s room will replicate the on-the-field gameplay from Wembley Stadium, where each Falcon and Jaguar player will have animated representation on a traditional looking field, catered to the “Toy Story” setting.
In addition to the gameplay, all the surrounding aspects of the game – announcers, graphics, scoreboard, penalty announcements, celebrations, and more – will all embrace the “Toy Story”-themed offering in their packaging and delivery, all occurring in Andy’s room.
Woody, Buzz Lightyear and many of the characters from the acclaimed animated series will be visible throughout, participating from the sidelines and in other non-gameplay elements. Joining Woody and Buzz in Andy’s room will be Bo Peep, Bullseye, Bunny, Ducky, Forky, Green Aliens, Jesse, Rex, and Slinky Dog. In addition, Duke Caboom will attempt a motorcycle jump during a special halftime show.
The game will be called by Drew Carter (play-by-play), Booger McFarland (analyst) and 12-year old Pepper Persley (reporter), with all three fully animated and their body movements viewed through motion-capture technology.
Demonstrations, including ‘how to’ videos, trivia, and more will be used through the telecast to teach the game of football to the audience. The real-life Falcons and Jaguar players will also contribute through pre-recorded segments and interviews.
Toy Story Funday Football is ESPN’s most recent in a decades-long creation of alternate productions, including the uber-popular Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli
In March 2022, ESPN and the National Hockey League partnered on a special alternative broadcast during the New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals matchup on March 14. Based on Disney’s Big City Greens property, the event featured both teams, referees, on-air talent, and more in a fully animated environment.
The first-of-its-kind alternative presentation used the NHL Edge puck- and player-tracking data from SMT and Sony’s Beyond Sports AI-based data-visualization platform to re-create the action on the ice in real time while featuring Big City Greens characters skating alongside animated versions of the NHL players. ESPN Creative Studio designed and modeled stylized 3D players to be used as avatars representing the players and animated via the live tracking data in conjunction with Beyond Sports.
Besides live, real-time volumetric animation of players on the ice, ESPN Creative Studio and Silver Spoon have created motion-captured animated versions of ESPN commentators Weekes and Drew Carter calling the game, as well live interviews with characters from Disney’s Emmy Award-winning animated series using live facial-capture technology.
Weekes and Carter wore motion-capture suits to allow the full-body animations of them in the Big City to mimic their movements while calling the action from a studio in Bristol, CT. Series talent Chris Houghton (co-creator/executive producer, Big City Greens, and voice of Cricket) and Marieve Herington (voice of Tilly) also used facial-recognition technology to imitate their reactions to the game remotely from Disney Television Animations studios in Los Angeles. Additionally, ESPN Creative Studio created a full Big City Greens-centric graphics package and scorebug for the broadcast.
The exclusive streaming presentation of an NFL game is one of the many added elements in ESPN’s new rights agreement with the NFL.
ESPN and Disney’s “Toy Story” alternate telecast complements the primary game presentation of the Falcons and Jaguars’ Week 4 matchup available on ESPN+, local broadcast stations in the markets of the participating teams, and on mobile with NFL+. Chris Fowler, Dan Orlovsky, Louis Riddick, and Laura Rutledge will be inside Wembley Stadium for the game’s call.
In the United States, Toy Story Funday Football will be available live on Disney+ and ESPN+, with replay available shortly after the game ends on Disney+ and NFL+ for a limited time. Globally, the special presentation will be available in over 95 markets live and/or replay, spanning five continents including in Brazil, UK, Mexico and France. Video on Demand will also be available in these and other markets 24 hours after the live broadcast ends.
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Toy Story Hits the Gridiron: ESPN, Disney, and NFL To Collaborate … – Sports Video Group
By Jason Dachman, Editorial Director, U.S.