Disney’s next generation storytelling and consumer experiences division, which had been exploring how the company could enter the so-called metaverse, has been eliminated according to The Wall Street Journal. The team is thought to have been made up of around 50 employees, and was exploring how Disney could use its existing intellectual property in what former CEO Bob Chapek called “the next great storytelling frontier.”
The team has reportedly been axed in the first of a planned three rounds of layoffs at Disney. A total of 7,000 employees are expected to be made redundant across the company, helping it cut around $5.5 billion in costs. Rumors of layoffs began to swirl shortly after Bob Iger replaced Bob Chapek as Disney CEO last November.
The division was announced internally last February
Disney announced its metaverse ambitions to its employees last February — four months after Facebook renamed itself to Meta — when then-CEO Bob Chapek appointed Mike White to lead the next generation storytelling unit. White, who is not thought to have been impacted by the layoffs, has worked at Disney for over a decade. His LinkedIn profile notes that he originally started in the company’s Disney Interactive video games division.
“For nearly 100 years, our company has defined and re-defined entertainment by leveraging technology to bring stories to life in deeper, more impactful ways,” Chapek said in the memo last year. “Today, we have an opportunity to connect those universes and create an entirely new paradigm for how audiences experience and engage with our stories… This is the so-called metaverse.” It’s unclear exactly what experiences the team was working on, but WSJ notes that they could have involved “fantasy sports, theme-park attractions and other consumer experiences.”
Disney did not immediately respond to The Verge’s request for comment.
Although the cuts have taken place under Iger, he appears to be far from a metaverse-skeptic, with WSJ noting that he sits on the board of a startup, Genies Inc, that’s focused on helping users create avatars.
Disney isn’t the only company struggling to deliver on big metaverse ambitions. Even Meta has struggled to build adoption of its technology. Its first major VR headset release after the rebrand, the Meta Quest Pro, was terrible, and its Reality Labs division reported an operating loss of $13.72 billion last year.