Interview with Yves Saada, Vice President of Digital Media for Disney Publishing Worldwide

By on Jul 5, 2010 at 1:23 pm

For thousands of years, books have been used as a way to transcribe historical events, thoughts, stories, and images onto paper (and various other materials) for reading at a later time. Flash forward to modern day history beginning in the 1970’s, books have made their way onto an electronic format dubbed “e-Book” to be used on “e-Readers”. The two most common e-reader devices used today are Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad, however the iPad offers additional experiences that are changing the way both children and adults are reading books.

I sat down with Yves Saada, Vice President of Digital Media for Disney Publishing Worldwide to discuss how the iPad is changing the digital publishing industry and how The Walt Disney Company is utilizing new technologies to push interactive reading to a whole new level.

Company Name: Disney Publishing Worldwide
Name: Yves Saada
Title: Vice President

Q: How are mobile apps effecting the gaming industry and forcing large media companies such as The Walt Disney Company to adapt to the shifting trends? How do you value the mobile apps market versus the PC?

As you know we have many different groups inside The Walt Disney Company. As part of Disney Publishing Worldwide, all of our content is derived from books. When looking at mobile platforms such as the iPhone, iPad, Android, and eReaders, we want to analyze what kind of format there is and how we should create the book.

We look at how children consume different types of media and content on each platform, and felt that we really wanted to break the barriers of a traditional book, which is normally comprised of only text and images. We want to create a fully immersive and interactive reading experience for the consumer and have used the iPad to do so. If you take a look at a read-along book, the base of the product is typically made with an audio CD comprised of text, images, sound effects, and narration that only delivers a specific reading experience.

With the iPad, you can read on your own or utilize interactions that are specific to each page. We used an animation format, created by the Pixar team, called “Artscapes”, where you can navigate inside the 2D page. It actually is derived from a concept that Walt Disney created in 1932 called “The Multiplane Camera”, where a movement is created inside a 2D image. Our Toy Story application allows you to do this where you have an immersive movement inside the page, without the need for animation or the feel of a traditional book.

This allows us to create a new book format specific for the iPad where you really move and navigate inside the story as the story is told or read to you. At the same time we tried to keep the reading very easy by combining motion and text at the same time. The story is also read to you by the form of narration which is combined with sound effects and animations. Parents can record their voice reading the story, allowing parents to read to their children even while they are away.

That is the mission of Disney Publishing; to create books for children that offer an enjoyable reading experience and use a natural and fun interface on an emerging new platform. The ability to use a natural interface with your fingers is an awesome opportunity for us to add other features as well, such as color painting, drawing, and more.

We are also adding a way for children to develop and expand their reading skills (and some entertainment) by adding karaoke in some apps. The karaoke feature plays a song on screen with lyrics that are highlighted on each word.

To get back to the gaming side of your question, we’ve included a couple of mini games in each app that are related to each story. For example with Toy Story, there is an accelerometer based mini game with green army men where you must guide the character through the air by tilting the iPad while avoiding the on-screen objects.

We are really combining multiple elements of movies, music, games, and books all into one app on one device.

Q: Without getting too deep into metrics, what are your thoughts so far regarding sales of book applications such as Toy Story 2 for the iPad?

Since the launch of four of our apps, including our free Toy Story app as well as our Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, and Princess and the Frog apps, we’ve been doing very well. The applications are toward the top in their categories and we are very happy with the feedback and results. It is very exciting for us to see how well the apps are doing and to receive overwhelmingly positive reviews from both parents and children in and out of the App Store.

We are looking to include other popular franchises as well, such as Cars and Phineas and Ferb, and make each book application unique, with niche targeting for children.

The idea for our apps was to offer a completely different experience that is separate from physical books or a web based entertainment. No other device can provide this experience and the quality of the images and audio are completely amazing.

Q: Do you plan to add extra content (DLC) to each app after being released to keep expanding each story line?

For Toy Story 2, we are currently working on an additional mini game and another feature to email your coloring pages directly to your parents or relatives. We’ve created a unique engine for each application that will allow us to publish updates very quickly and easily.

Q: When you take a look at the iBook store, many of the apps are of premium prices. What do you have planned for price points and why did you select $8.99?

The $8.99 point is the average price of books we’ve found in the iBookstore, which kind of makes sense for our own books. That price also includes a 1-month subscription for our web based content (, something other applications do not offer. The amount of time and work we’ve performed and invested into these apps, holds much more value than what it is being sold for. You can tell instantly that it is not a 99 cent app.

An interesting note though. If you look at the most successful apps, they are not $1.99. In fact the most successful app right now is $14.99 (MLB at this time). So it is very interesting that the top apps are commonly above the 7 and 8 dollar price point. We’ve also noticed that the consumer is willing to pay for the incredible new experience found on the iPad.

Q: Do you have any plans for making 3D applications?

Toy Story 3, which came out June 18th, is of course a 3D movie and the Toy Story 3 read-along app also has 3D effects so kids can see the story pop off the screen on the iPad.

Q: What are your thoughts about developing for additional platforms outside of the iPad such as Google’s Slate, HP, Dell, etc?

We are currently researching the possibilities. Overall, our decisions are based upon several factors including hardware compatibility, software performance, and form factor/user interface for the consumer so that we can create the right experience.

Q: Does Disney have any plans to include intellectual property such as World of Color as separate apps or books?

Typically what we do, is when we have relevant movies, TV shows, etc, we’ll extend that property into a publishing program. Toy Story is a perfect example, where we create side stories and background stories from the original series. If it is relevant to children and young adults, we are willing to pursue it. As far as World of Color, it is an idea worth considering but we have not made any decisions as of yet.

Q: Transactions VS Subscriptions. What are your thoughts?

Having the ability to cross market our products and include interactivity within each product is a plus. In the future, when someone purchases a browser based online subscription, they may have free apps that come with the purchase or specific content that becomes available in an app. We would like to compliment each digital experience and market interconnectivity with each book, whether it is in digital text or an application. Overall, we feel that each Disney story includes its own features and we would like to match each experience on specific platforms such as the iPad.

Q: Are there any plans to integrate voice recognition software that would allow a user to decide what occurs next in the app or book to help change the story line?

I can’t comment much on this but we are working on ideas. Stay tuned!

Thank you very much Yves Saada and Disney Publishing Worldwide for your time.

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