Disney and AI: Jason Aintabi Discusses the Future of Animated Characters

Disney’s reputation as a global leader in animation and entertainment is uncontested. Yet, with technological advancement, the company must adopt artificial intelligence (AI) and spatial computing. 

Jason Aintabi, Chief Investment Officer of Blackwells Capital, an investor in Disney, believes the company should position itself to leverage these technologies far beyond the capabilities of companies like Apple and Meta.

Spatial Computing: A World of Possibilities for Disney

Spatial computing is a technology that creates interactive experiences within a three-dimensional (3-D) environment. For example, people visiting a Disney theme park can interact with virtual characters or experience augmented reality that brings the park to life in a new way.

“Spatial computing has far more relevance to Disney than it does to either Apple or Meta,” Aintabi stated, emphasizing Disney’s unique advantage. 

This technology, which merges real and virtual worlds, offers Disney an opportunity to impact global audiences profoundly. They can integrate the audience interactions into immersive storytelling and interactive experiences that resonate deeply with users.

Disney’s Take on Using AI

The company is familiar with the world of AI. In 2023, Disney established a dedicated task force to explore the vast potential of AI innovations across its diverse business platforms. Disney advertised numerous AI-centric job positions like other major entertainment and technology players. 

As one executive revealed to Reuters in August 2023, “AI research at Disney has a long history, encompassing all the hot topics being discussed today. We’re constantly asking ourselves: ‘Can we leverage AI to enhance movie-making, game development, or even create interactive robots within theme parks that guests can engage with?’”

Strategic Enhancements to Disney’s Board

To “recapture lost ground” due to perceived technological lag, Blackwells introduced a five-point strategy addressing key areas where Disney can enhance its technological engagement. 

This strategy criticizes aspects of Disney’s approach, such as “fragmentation,” “unhurried innovation,” and the absence of a “native technology stack,” while also emphasizing the importance of “AI and spatial computing”.

To publicize and manage its campaign, Blackwells has launched a dedicated website,, serving as a platform to articulate and promote its strategic visions.

Jason Aintabi emphasized the pivotal role of Leah Solivan, founder of TaskRabbit, one of the firm’s nominees for Disney’s board. Aintabi praised Solivan’s capability to foster the digital transformation Disney requires, stating, “Electing Leah Solivan will bring substantial technological and entrepreneurial expertise to the board, enhancing management accountability and propelling Disney towards embracing transformative technologies.”

The slate of nominees proposed by Blackwells also includes Jessica Schell, the founder of the advisory firm Observatory Group LLC, and Craig Hatkoff, who holds significant positions such as the chair of Turtle Pond Publications and board member at SL Green Realty Corp. 

These candidates are chosen for their unique capabilities to steer Disney through its needed technological evolution and ensure that the company remains a dominant force in the global entertainment landscape.

A Call for Increased Investment in Disney’s R&D Spending

Jason Aintabi, Chief Investment Officer of Blackwells Capital, raises a critical point regarding Disney’s research and development (R&D) spending. Unlike tech giants like Apple, Netflix, and Amazon, Disney allocates a significantly smaller portion of its annual revenue to R&D– typically between 1-2%. 

Aintabi argues that this level of investment needs improvement for a company whose success hinges on its storytelling legacy and its future ability to provide immersive experiences.

Blackwells proposes a strategic overhaul of how Disney utilizes technology. The firm envisions leveraging AI to improve park navigation, enhance character interactions, streamline travel bookings, and optimize crowd management. 

Furthermore, they see spatial computing as a gateway to revolutionary virtual and augmented reality experiences. This vision aims to enrich the customer experience and secure Disney’s position as a leader in the rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Final Thoughts: A Visionary Future Awaits

Jason Aintabi’s push for Disney to invest more heavily in technology and innovation is a bold, ambitious vision that aligns with the company’s history of pioneering new paths in entertainment. By embracing AI and spatial computing, Disney can transform how it tells stories and enhance people’s experiences, making Disney’s magic more profound and accessible.

As the company considers these strategic changes, the potential to influence and inspire generations of viewers and visitors looms. Disney’s future, underpinned by advanced technologies and a revamped, tech-savvy board, could usher in a new golden era for the company, ensuring its place at the forefront of global entertainment for years to come.

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