Disney metaverse

February 8th, 2024

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In other news... Disney is taking the metaverse mainstream, people are protesting online with generative AI, and designer Norma Kamali is copying and pasting herself.

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Franchise play // Illustration by Kate Walker

Disney plots franchise metaverse with Epic Games

The Future. During Disney’s latest quarterly earnings call, CEO Bob Iger announced that Disney is partnering with Fortnite creator Epic Games on a new entertainment universe — a destination where users can watch, play, and shop everything Disney. Considering Iger’s special relationship with Apple and now Epic, Disney may be the force that reunites the two warring brands and brings Fortnite back to iOS devices as part of a deal to mold the Disney universe.

Game Central Station
Leave it to Disney to take the metaverse mainstream.

  • Disney’s new “games and entertainment universe” with Epic will be populated by characters from every Disney franchise, including Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel, and Avatar.

  • Users can “create their own stories and experiences, express their fandom in a distinctly Disney way, and share content with each other in ways that they love,” per Iger.

  • The whole thing — games, experiences, and digital goods — will be interoperable with Fortnite. Like that game, the Disney universe will be powered by Unreal Engine.

  • As part of the deal, Disney has also made a $1.5 billion minority investment in Epic that’ll be used to fund the “multiyear” project.

The project is a major return to the gaming space for Disney, which shut down Disney Interactive Studios in 2016 and has mulled over acquiring a major publisher like EA Games. In recent years, Disney has focused on licensing its titles to several companies, including Epic.

Ironically, during his brief CEO tenure, Bob Chapek designated the metaverse as one of the three “strategic pillars” of Disney before Iger returned and canceled the plans. It just goes to show that some ideas never die… but who gets final credit for them is slippery.

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Courtesy of Retire Big Oil

Celebrities join protests using generative AI

The Future. The Virtual March to Retire Big Oil, a protest currently happening online, is raising awareness about the lack of retirement plans that don’t include investing in oil and gas companies. Using AI-generated images for social media, the digital-only protest could have massive reach and engagement, but the lack of disruptive, real-world impact may make it a better recruitment tool than headline-grabber.

Picket prompt
Now you can fight the system with a system.

  • Retire Big Oil’s Virtual March calls on people to upload a “well-lit, in-focus selfie that shows your face and hair.”

  • The organization’s AI will then generate several images of you in the crowd of a protest march. From there, you can select one of the images and share it across social media.

  • It already has a wave of big-name support — filmmaker Adam McKay, artist Shepard Fairey, actors Michael Ian Black and Patton Oswalt, and former NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio have shared images of themselves.

  • And, since this is AI after all, some of the images definitely don’t try to come across as real — people can be seen hugging a polar bear or standing in a futuristic version of NYC.

Alex Wright-Gladstein, the founder of Sphere and one of the protest organizers, told Fast Company that the project not only lets anyone protest from anywhere (of course), but it’s also a great way to build a list of participants that Retire Big Oil can tap for future IRL actions and send additional material to (smart).

Only time will tell if the experiment fueled some change.

So, now we want to hear from you…


We ask the hard-hitting questions.

Would you join a virtual march?

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53% of you voted early bird in yesterday’s poll: Are you an early bird or a night owl?

“Every day I want to enjoy the sunlight as long as possible.”

“There is sooo much more that I can get done when I start the day early!!”

“I wake up energized without the need for coffee or any other morning pick-me-up.”

“The best time of the day, quiet and peaceful. Turn everything off and rest easy!”

“The early bird catches the worm! More energy when I wake, fades as the day progresses.”

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Courtesy of Norma Kamali

Designer Norma Kamali is cloning her creativity

The Future. New York-based designer Norma Kamali is downloading her brain into a proprietary AI system so that her company will forever be able to draw upon her creative vision after she dies. As many companies wrestle with succession, developing AI clones of aging figureheads may become a common way of not just continuing their legacy but also protecting their brand from radical reinvention.

Eternal vision
Kamali is copying and pasting herself.

  • Kamali is working with AI agency Maison Meta on a custom AI system that’s trained on all of the tens of thousands of designs made across her 50-year career.

  • The system, which uses Stable Diffusion XL and an open-source tool called Fooocus, would allow staffers at the brand to generate designs from text prompts.

  • Each piece that the AI draws on for “generations” is meticulously tagged and categorized.

  • The entire system is housed in a computer in her office… which means that it’ll likely forever remain her office.

Kamali doesn’t think that AI will replace human designers, but she does believe that the system can provide a foundation of inspiration to keep the brand relevant even when the name behind it, her name, has passed on — a dilemma that’s faced many founder-led fashion brands.

But as Kamali notes, it’ll be up to the humans at the company to ensure that the AI designs are stitched with some soul.

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So, how are you getting new customers?

Well, there’s a new way to go about it. Nift is a performance platform that connects customers to new goods and services in a pretty cool way. (And there are over 40 million people using it!)

Here’s how: top-notch companies like Tinder, Afterpay, Mindbody, and OfferUp use Nift gift cards to thank their members. And Nift’s smart machine learning matches these members with brands they’re most likely to adopt. It’s as easy as that.


The best curated daily stories from around the web

Media, Music, & Entertainment

  • Disney+ has landed exclusive rights to Taylor Swift’s concert movie… and is releasing a Taylor’s Version of the hit project on March 15th with five additional songs. Read More → thr

  • A study from Digital Entertainment Group found that demand to watch movies that opened in theaters helped boost digital and physical home entertainment sales. Read More → deadline

  • Apple disclosed in a securities filing that Apple TV+ has driven an impressive 11% growth in its services division. Read More → theinformation

Fashion & E-Commerce

  • Beyoncé is launching a hair care line called Cécred, which will hit stores on February 20th. Read More → highsnobiety

  • Wilson has crafted a 3D-printed, airless basketball that’ll retail for $2,500. Read More → fastcompany

  • Amazon may share its delivery drivers’ names and photos with customers to help protect the drivers from being mistaken for home intruders. Read More → theinformation

Tech, Web3, & AI

  • Microsoft is rolling out the next era of its AI ambitions… goodbye, Bing; hello, Copilot. Read More → theverge

  • Apple is prototyping a foldable clamshell phone after Samsung has gone all-in on the design trend. Read More → theinformation

  • Ford has tapped an ex-Tesla exec to lead a skunkworks project focused on building low-cost EVs. Read More → techcrunch

Creator Economy

  • New York has become the latest state to crack down on the algorithms that power social networks in order to break the addictions of teenage users. Read More → wsj

  • Snap’s stock has taken a 32% nosedive after a disappointing Q4 earnings report. Read More → fastcompany

  • Creator+, the influencer-focused film-streaming app, is selling off its various assets after deciding to close up shop. Read More → insider


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Today’s email was written by David Vendrell.
Edited by Boye Akolade. Copy edited by Kait Cunniff.
Published by Darline Salazar.

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