With ‘Hey Disney’ on Amazon Echo, Disney Brings Some of the Park Experience Home
At CES 2023, Disney was inside the Amazon booth talking up “Hey Disney,” an upcoming Alexa Skill for Alexa-enabled devices like the Amazon Echo, that lets fans communicate with a Disney-themed voice assistant. Disney opted not to go with Mickey Mouse, or a number of other iconic mascots as its voice assistant, and instead went through round of auditions to find a voice actor who epitomized a certain Disney feel.
The company landed on voice actor Nicolas Roye, known for his video game and anime work, who brings a jovial, if somewhat hammy, performance that should play well with kids. There will be plenty of cameos from Disney characters, however.
People who purchase the Hey Disney Alexa Skill, or who have a subscription to Amazon Kids+, the company’s curation of books, movies and games starting at $5 a month, will get a voice assistant that turns the Disney dial to 101 Dalmatians. Here, people can ask basic questions like, “what’s the weather like?” or “tell me a fun Disney fact,” and will get a response featuring a Disney mascot, like Donald Duck or Goofy.
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“It’s really important for us to continue to find ways for guests to engage with the brand, right? And we do so well with that in our parks,” said Steve Flynn, director of digital experience at Disney.
“Being able to have something like this, that extends into the home, so our brand can become part of the guests’ daily life, that’s always something that’s really important to us, and I think that checks the strategic objective,” Flynn said, adding that since many Disney customers also own Echo devices, the partnership between Amazon and Disney makes good sense.
Disney continues to be a dominant force in entertainment, with an estimated value of over $50 billion. The conglomerate owns ABC, ESPN, 21st Century Fox, Marvel and Star Wars. It’s wide repertoire of franchises and lovable kid-friendly movies creates a fandom that, for some, can last a lifetime. Disney funnels its loyal following into experiences at its theme parks and cruises around the world, giving families memorable, if expensive, vacation experiences. Bringing that experience home gives families and kids daily interactions with the Disney brand, which could lead to more loyal followings.
Those who have visited Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in Florida have already experienced Hey Disney on Amazon Echo devices. Disney is committed to putting Echos in all of its hotel rooms around the world. Considering there are over 36,000 Walt Disney World Hotel rooms globally, it’s a substantial order. Largely, the experience that guests have at Disney hotels will be similar to when Hey Disney comes to people’s homes later this year, minus the ability to order room service.
Allowing companies to make curated voice assistant experiences is a part of Amazon’s Alexa Smart Properties plan. For example, Amazon is offering hotels like the Wynn in Las Vegas or senior living facilities the ability to put Echo devices in rooms, allowing people to order services and make reservations.
“The goal of the Alexa custom assistant technology is one, to support, again, customer choice and interoperability, but then two, to help brands to extend their brands into Ai and voice, to do it in a way that is simple and also cost effective,” said Aaron Rubenson, vice president of Alexa.
Disney also showed off interactions with its MagicBand Plus, a light-up wearable used at Disney theme parks that can work as park tickets or to interact with certain attractions. The MagicBand Plus and Hey Disney can work together to play certain games.
Expanding Alexa into customer service could be an important way to for Amazon to continue supporting the brand. Late last year, Amazon laid of 10,000 workers, primarily from its Alexa division due to lower-than-expected earnings. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said this week that the company would be laying off an additional 18,000 workers, hitting human resources and retail operations.
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