Before Sunday October 1, football fans might have thought there was no way to improve on the game’s broadcast format. However, ESPN and Disney+ managed to prove them all wrong with their Toy Story-themed broadcast of the matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Atlanta Falcons. Thanks to some extra tech in the players’ uniforms and in the cameras around the field, fans had the option to watch the whole game from the comfort of Andy’s Room and it greatly improved the entire viewing experience.
Rather than simply slap a couple of banners on the side of the screen, Disney used their nigh-infinite wealth to transform everything into the Toy Story world. Players and announcers were given live avatars that ran, jumped, and kicked their way across a miniature version of Wembley Stadium in London while Woody, Buzz, and Jessie celebrated each score. There was even a different halftime show for the Disney+ broadcast, with Toy Story 4’s Duke Caboom performing an impossible stunt without the aid of any safety equipment or Keanu Reeves’ voice acting. It was everything we never knew the sport needed.
Despite the kind of glitches you might expect from trying to live-animate an unscripted performance, fans seemed to enjoy the NFL-Toy Story crossover. The technology is genuinely impressive and injected a bit of fun and frivolity into a sport that is usually taken extremely seriously. Several fans commented on the strangeness of seeing these top-tier athletes’ moves recreated in toy format or the first down markers replaced with Slinky Dog. Personally, we loved seeing the highly professional commentators stop halfway through a play to discuss the presence of aliens hovering over the field.
There aren’t any current plans for more NFL games set in animated worlds, which is a shame because it is now the only way we ever want to experience the sport. The fact that the Falcons lost 23-7 in Andy’s Room as well as iconic Wembley Stadium might have added some insult to injury, though.