In a first for the burgeoning realm of alternate live sports telecasts, an upcoming NFL game will be adapted in real time as a fully animated contest taking place in the Toy Story universe.
The October 1 game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons is billed as Toy Story Funday Football. It will kick off on Disney+ and ESPN+ at 9:30 a.m. ET, an early start because it is part of the NFL’s annual series of international games, taking place at London’s Wembley Stadium. Already, the game will be a streaming affair, with the main broadcast appearing on ESPN+, one of the streaming exclusives provided for as part of media companies’ $110 billion rights renewal with the NFL. The Falcons-Jaguars game will also stream on NFL+.
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Using the NFL’s Next Gen Stats and on-field tracking data, every player and play will be presented in “Andy’s Room,” the familiar, brightly colored setting for the Toy Story franchise. The action will be virtually simultaneous with the main game telecast, with most plays recreated after an expected delay in the neighborhood of about 30 seconds. Woody, Buzz Lightyear and many other characters will be visible throughout, and a press release notes they will be “participating from the sidelines and in other non-gameplay elements.” Along with game action, the announcers, graphics, scoreboard, referees’ penalty announcements, celebrations and other parts of the experience will all be rendered in a Toy Story-centric fashion. (For a glimpse of how it will look, check out the video above.)
At halftime, Duke Caboom — the motorcycle daredevil voiced by Keanu Reeves in Toy Story 4 — will attempt a jump.
Alternate telecasts, especially those with computer graphics enhancements designed to hook younger viewers have increasingly been a staple of the sports TV landscape. This NFL season will see another milestone for the trend as the Super Bowl in February gets “slimed” in a Nickelodeon-skewed complement to the main game broadcast on CBS. Disney has mined its own properties in recent years, presenting such offerings as a Marvel-themed NBA game, but the fully animated nature of the Toy Story game is new. ESPN helped popularize the concept of alternative telecasts with the success of Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli, which is starting its third season.
Along with ESPN, the Toy Story event will be produced with contributions from ESPN’s Edge Innovation Center, Disney, the NFL, Pixar, Next Gen Stats, Beyond Sports, and Silver Spoon.
In the U.S., Toy Story Funday Football will be available live on Disney+ and ESPN+, with replay available shortly after the game ends on Disney+ for a limited time. Globally, it will be available in more than 95 markets live and/or replay.
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