Disney and Pixar Unveil a New Virtual World

With a sequel on its way, it’s no surprise that there’s more Cars figures and toys being rolled out. We just got a group of items in that you can check out in our Cars section over at CmdStore.com. The new figures include die-cast 3-packs and a bunch of Mega-sized vehicles like Lightning McQueen, Chick Hicks, Kathy Copter, T.J. and a bunch more. Be sure to take a look if you’re a fan of the film, but read below the jump for even more good news for Cars lovers.

If you’re a Club Penguin fan on top of enjoying the Disney-Pixar brilliance that was Cars, then there’s good news ahead because the two are about to collide!

The LA Times has the full story! Or you can check out the World of Cars by clicking here!
Walt Disney Co. believes that World of Cars, its new subscription-based online community aimed at boys and based on the Pixar movie “Cars,” won’t get lost in the traffic of virtual worlds.

Things are already a bit congested. Some 200 virtual worlds target children under 12. Each competes for a slice of the 10 hours and 45 minutes a day the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that kids spend viewing media, simultaneously vying for screen time against a growing number of portable media players and smart phones that offer their own diversions.

That’s not deterring Disney, however, which is testing World of Cars for rollout this summer. The game will allow kids to create their own car persona and rub hubcaps with characters from the movie, such as Mater, the bucktoothed tow truck, or play online games such as tractor-tipping.

The launch marks the latest exercise in corporate cross-branding for Disney, which hopes it can leverage the movie’s popularity into monthly subscription payments from boys and their NASCAR dads in advance of the release of “Cars 2” in summer 2011 and the Cars Land attraction that opens in 2012 at Disney’s California Adventure theme park.[…]

World of Cars is modeled after Club Penguin, the online game of scarf-wearing penguins and igloos aimed at the juice-box crowd that Disney acquired in 2007. The site had 12 million active players and 700,000 subscribers when Disney bought it, although over the last year U.S. visitors to Club Penguin have leveled off, according to research firm ComScore Media Metrix.

Its global reach is broader, with Club Penguin attracting visitors from 190 countries as the site has been translated into Portuguese, Spanish and French. Kzero Worldwide, a British consulting firm, estimates that Club Penguin reaches as many as 35 million users globally, ranking it among the top five virtual worlds for children.

[…] The trick, however, isn’t inventing a virtual world, but designing content that keeps children clicking back.

“Kids have notoriously short attention spans,” said Steve Prentice at Gartner, a technology information and consulting firm. “They are intrigued by novelty, but unless there’s an enduring reason for them to come back, they won’t.”

That’s the challenge for Lane Merrifield, co-founder of Club Penguin, who oversees Disney’s virtual worlds.

Pixie Hollow, the virtual world in which players flutter around with Tinker Belland other characters, has grown since its 2008 debut to 1.6 million monthly users in December, up from 1.3 million a year earlier. Toontown Online, one of the first virtual worlds, saw usage spike in the summer — but the number of visitors in December fell below year-earlier levels, according to ComScore.

Meanwhile, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, the multi-player computer game that was launched in 2007, is taking on water. The number of online visitors fell below 192,000 in December from 500, 000 a year earlier, ComScore estimates.

“It’s no secret it had some technical issues. There were some hurdles there,” said Merrifield, who has been working to retool the game. “There were big downloads, and a lot of machines couldn’t carry it.”

Merrifield worked with the development team in North Hollywood to apply some of what he learned with Club Penguin. Players needed to be able to dive quickly into Pirates and play the game as soon as they launched their browser, he said, instead of waiting for a time-consuming download.

More fundamentally, Merrifield encouraged the Pirates team to depart from the game’s linear storytelling to adopt Club Penguin’s open-ended approach, in which the players have more say in the narrative and provide direction on the types of weapons, battles or quests they experience online.[…]

Allowing players to determine the action on screen, Merrifield said, provides “a limitless supply of new content” and allows kids to become the storytellers. He credits 8-year-olds with some of Club Penguin’s most popular ideas — like the addition of ninjas.

Merrifield is applying the same approach to World of Cars. Players start by designing their own car, picking from among body types (stock car, say, or sleek, aerodynamic Porsche), colors and race-car numbers. As they roll down the main drag of Radiator Springs, they can choose to interact with characters from the movie, or head to Fillmore Fields to race through a hay bale maze with friends playing online.

“My goal is to make sure that Disney, from a virtual world standpoint, has the same tradition that Pixar does in 3-D computer animation,” Merrifield said

Club Penguin Gives Back!

For those unfamiliar with Club Penguin, it’s an online playground where children can chat (in a well-monitored room), play games, customize penguins and pets and explore a frozen fantasy land. Owned by Disney, it’s probably the only MMORPG out there for kids (you know, since the incredible Castle Infinity truly died) and it has recently launched a line of merchandise, which we feature over at CmdStore’s Club Penguin section.

We’ve got everything from penguin plush toys to action figures to trading cards, ready to be snapped up by adoring fans of the game. But what’s even better is that whether you’re subscribing to the club itself or just grabbing one of these adorable items, you can feel very good about the purchase because you know the money is going to a great place.

Newswire.ca reports…

VANCOUVER, Nov. 3 /CNW/ – Kids Help Phone announced today a $150,000 donation from the popular children’s virtual world Club Penguin. The gift from the Kelowna-based online playground which is owned by The Walt Disney Company, supports Kids Help Phone’s Futures Campaign, a $7.5 million national campaign that will revolutionize and expand the way Kids Help Phone helps kids by phone and online.

“This gift will have a significant impact on Kids Help Phone’s ability to enhance our counselling services and provide professional, compassionate help and hope to kids in Canada,” said Sharon Wood, President & CEO, Kids Help Phone. “Club Penguin’s contribution to the Futures Campaign will help ensure we can be there for kids as they continue to embrace web-based communication.”

Funds raised through the Futures Campaign will help Kids Help Phone transform its current website into a more robust, interactive and kid-friendly site. The Club Penguin donation will support the development of interactive, multimedia therapeutic tools (such as resiliency building and self care tools, quizzes, polls and video) to support kids as they seek help and information about a wide variety of topics.

Club Penguin is one of the largest and fastest-growing virtual worlds for children. Widely known as a trusted provider of fun for kids and peace of mind for parents, Club Penguin is also committed to giving back. A portion of the proceeds from each membership purchased on Club Penguin goes to support organizations such as Kids Help Phone that are working to improve the lives of children and families around the globe.

For more information about Kids Help Phone and The Futures Campaign, please visit http://www.kidshelpphone.ca.

Disney unveils the Netpal Notebook

Club Penguin fan? Looking for a brand new way to enjoy the game? Well, here’s some very interesting news from Mobile Tech Review

ASUS and Disney have announced a netbook designed for children ages 6-12. The Disney Netpal netbooks will be available in Junly and the MSRP is $350. Here is more info on this upcoming netbook for kids:

“Developed with parents and kids in mind, the Disney Netpal by ASUS boasts a durable, reinforced mechanical design, and offers a truly magical and engaging computing experience with its unique Disney user interface. Features include more than 40 robust parental control options, an 8.9-inch LCD display, Wi-Fi capabilities, Windows XP gadget tray” offers a creatively designed 2D menu displaying Disney email, Disney browser and Disney parental control options. Home, and kid-friendly software featuring Disney characters and icons in stunning visual environments. Browsers and email have extra filters to assure that kids only get access to safe content, and parents can easily select whom children can correspond with via email. The Magic

From the lively Disney graphics on the LCD lid and Mickey-shaped webcam lens to the Disney-themed desktop and special Disney applications, the Disney Netpal by ASUS perfectly captures the magic of Disney. Kids can dress their desktops—aptly named Magic Desktop—in a wide variety of customizable themes featuring the lovable characters from Disney’s and Disney/Pixar’s animated blockbusters, including Cars, Club Penguin, Disney Classic Characters, Disney Fairies, Disney Princess, Vintage Mickey Mouse, Toy Story and WALL-E. Themes that appeal to slightly older kids, such as Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers styles, are also available.

Adding to the educational fun are Disney-developed applications such as Disney Mix for music and media management, Disney Pix for photo customization and organization, and Radio Disney. The Disney Pix application features fun Disney Bobblehead software, which lets kids insert images of their faces on top of bodies, download them into videos and postcards and play wacky moving dance scenes, for hours of fun. The Radio Disney widget streams real-time music and lets kids simultaneously submit song requests, if they wish. The Disney Netpal by ASUS also includes a driving game, memory game and photo scrapbook.

The Disney Netpal by ASUS will be launched in the US at a suggested retail price of $349. It comes in two choices of stylishly designed lids; Princess Pink boasts beautiful pink florals and Magic Blue cleverly displays rows of miniature Mickey icons. Retailers include ToysRUs, DisneyStore.com and Amazon.com. The Disney Netpal by ASUS will be made available in other countries in the Asia Pacific and Europe at a later date. For more information on international pricing and availability, visit www.asus.com

Club Penguin…and Club Manchot?

There’s more news from the World of Club Penguin! But first, here’s a quick recap of our previous posts on the topic…
What is Club Penguin?
Brand New Club Penguin Toys and Cards!
The Club Penguin Secret Agent Handbook

Club Penguin, it should be mentioned, is a Canadian creation. Maybe it’s our love for the snow, or maybe it’s just a fun-loving spirit that led to the birth of the online game, but whatever it is, Disney liked it enough to purchase the homegrown phenomenon and now it’s headed to new heights of gaming–and popularity. But one decidedly Canadian aspect of the game (besides the icy environments) is the fact that the second language catered to by the Club is French, though Portuguese was a close third. And in other news…

We’ve mentioned the Trading Card Game before, but here’s a reminder of the new way to play Club Penguin when you’re not connected. Brought to you by Disney and card-wizards Topps, they’re filled with tips, tricks and a game within themselves. And naturally, because Club Penguin is never far behind its merchandise, you can use the cards to interact and get bonuses back in the online world.

And of course, fans can grab a ton of other figures and plush toys over at our Club Penguin Action Figures and Collectibles Section in our online store. It’s a great selection and sure to please fans.

The Scoop on Club Penguin


In the last Club Penguin Post, we introduced the brand new Club Penguin toys. But it seems that not everyone is even fully aware of what Club Penguin is, how it came to be, or what it’s all about, so here’s a little beginner’s lesson in Disney’s latest fandom.

First of all, we’ll begin with…

WHAT IS CLUB PENGUIN?

Put simply, it’s the latest MMORPG that takes place in a virtual world not unlike World of Warcraft, Neopets or my personal favourite, the gone-but-not-forgotten Castle Infinity. Kids take on the roles of a variety of colourful penguins and explore the snowy terrain with their friends while playing a ton of games available to the players. You can choose whether to pay for CP extras or just stick to the free version, but both are a ton of fun. The target audience is aged 6-14, which may seem young for an online game, but parents can rest-assured that their kids are safe thanks to a ‘Safe Chat Mode’ that has players choose what they would say from a menu, meaning that no one can spout anything but pre-approved words. Plus, for the free chat, there are always moderators present to make sure nothing gets out of hand.

HOW DO YOU PLAY?

You can join the adventure over at ClubPenguin.com by signing up and creating your very own Penguin. From there, check out the entire Club Penguin world, featuring dozens of different activities and scenarios for paying and non-paying members alike. Plus, the game featured the weekly Club Penguin Times, featuring news and user-generated content that really enriches the experience for players.

So what are you waiting for? With the whole thing being given away for free, there’s no reason not to get in on the action!

Club Penguin: Now with Toys!

Move over, Webkinz! There’s a new online toy series on the block, though it came by its connectivity in a very different way. Unlike Webkinz (and more like Neopets), Club Penguin was a game first. Inviting kids to play as penguins and interact in child-safe, monitored environments online while playing, learning and exploring, Club Penguin started small but has really taken off. I was introduced to it because my brother’s a fan, and I have to applaud Disney for making something that’s both appropriate for children and also a lot of fun.

And now, Disney has released a series of plush penguins, plastic figures, cards and more. You can check them out at our online store’s Club Penguin section and pick out your own. They’re all already in-stock, so there’s no need to wait on a pre-order. Here are a couple examples of what we’ve got… Click any of ’em to be taken to the whole collection!