Football fans are accustomed to watching an excited player yell "I'm going to Disney World!" after winning the Super Bowl every February. This year, ESPN is using "Toy Story" and the power of technology to put NFL players in the Disney universe in a different way.
When the Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons face off for their Week 4 game at London's Wembley Stadium on Oct. 1, Disney+ and ESPN+ will stream an animated simulcast of all the action.
ESPN titled the event "Toy Story Funday Football” in an announcement. The video below offers a glimpse into how the game, set in Andy’s room, will look.
Fans familiar with the colorful Pixar movies will recognize the setting as animated versions of the players replicate every "run, pass and score." Tracking technology and the NFL’s Next Gen Stats player tracking data will help it all happen in real-time.
The animation won’t stop with the players. Woody, Buzz Lightyear and other characters will be visible during the game. They will be “participating from the sidelines and in other non-gameplay elements," according to the release.
Drew Carter (play-by-play), Booger McFarland (analyst) and 12-year-old reporter Pepper Persley will commentate. Each of them and their body movements will be fully animated with an assist from motion-capture technology. Players will also contribute via pre-recorded segments and interviews.
The halftime performance will feature a jump attempt from Duke Caboom, the motorcycle daredevil voiced by Keanu Reeves in “Toy Story 4.”
It’s unclear whether the characters’ voices will be utilized during the animated simulcast. Hollywood’s actors and screenwriters remain on strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, a trade group that bargains for the major studios and streaming services.
Alternate telecasts, especially those directed toward children, keep growing in sports television relevance.
Nickelodeon’s “NFL Nickmas Day” simulcast featured slime zones and other graphic enhancements, as Patrick Star from “Spongebob Squarepants,” provided commentary.
The cartoon character went viral for roasting Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson after one of his three interceptions that day.
— NFL (@NFL) December 25, 2022
It helps the NFL to foster an interest in the league early. In addition to reaching a young audience, the Jaguars and Falcons game will benefit from global outreach efforts. It’s part of the NFL’s annual series of international games, which is part of the reason it kicks off at 9:30 a.m. ET.