Back in 2021, in an effort to help grow the game of football and appeal to younger audiences, the NFL and CBS Sports partnered for a block of Nickelodeon-themed football content. This included weekly football shows and special slimed-filled presentations of NFL games aimed at kids and families. The effort proved incredibly successful -- not just with kids, but with adults too. It's been so successful that the NFL and CBS will now host a special kid-centric presentation of Super Bowl LVIII on Nickelodeon.
Well, now sensing its own opportunity to attract younger audiences, Disney is following suit with its own family-friendly presentation of an NFL game.
Toy Story Funday Football will debut during Week 4 of the regular season. ESPN and Disney will be offering a simulcast of the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars game with a special Toy Story-themed presentation package. But it's more than just special graphics and overlays. Disney will completely transform the game into the world of Pixar's Toy Story.
Although the game is being played at Wembley Stadium in London, the broadcast will replicate the on-the-field gameplay in Andy's room. All of the plays and results you see will be authentic to what's happening in real life but will be transformed into an animated Toy Story-stylized representation using state-of-the-art tracking technology. In other words, each team will look like toys playing football.
It won't just be the players who are fully animated. Announcers Drew Carter (play-by-play), Booger McFarland (analyst) and 12-year-old Pepper Persley (reporter) will have their body movements tracked and animated using motion-capture technology.
The presentation will also attempt to explain the game of football to newcomers or those who may not be familiar with all of the rules through things like how-to videos and trivia.
Some of Toy Story's favorite characters like Woody, Buzz, Bo Peep, Bullseye, Bunny, Ducky, Forky, Green Aliens, Jesse, Rex, and Slinky Dog will drop by for appearances. And for a special halftime show, Duke Caboom, Canada's greatest daredevil and stuntman, will attempt a motorcycle jump.
Toy Story Funday Football will be presented through Disney+ and ESPN+ on October 1 at 9:30 a.m. ET. The game is being played in London, which explains the early start time. There will also be a traditional broadcast of the game available to stream on ESPN+ as Disney tries to strengthen its direct-to-consumer sports offering.
While Disney may not have been the first to come up with a family-friendly broadcast for an NFL game, they are certainly innovating how they present the game. As someone with two children -- ages 5 and 3 -- who enjoy the concept of football but can't quite sit through a full game with me, this will be a great way to spend Sunday morning together.
If popular enough, I could see Disney trying to leverage its other popular properties to entice younger audiences to tune into sports. Imagine a Princess presentation of an NFL game. That could be a great way to help grow the game's popularity with young girls. What about a Star Wars-themed game? The possibilities are endless with Disney.