Ever imagined what it would be like to watch your favourite sports team played by Pixar characters? Me neither. But ESPN+ and Disney+ think they've found a new niche. In perhaps the strangest sports-entertainment collaboration we've seen to date, they'll be recreating a live NFL match in Andy's room from Toy Story.
Toy Story Funday Football will replicate "every run, pass and score" from a real NFL game almost as it happens, all rendered in the Toy Story world. It's either going to be mindblowing or a complete car crash (see our roundup of AI art tutorials for more on AI tech).
On October 1, when the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars meet at Wembley, Disney+ and ESPN+ will screen a "fully animated alternate presentation" from Andy’s Room, the setting for Toy Story. Working with AI visualisation company Beyond Sports, they intend to use generative AI and NFL on-field tracking data to replicate every play, call, announcement and celebration virtually and almost simultaneously with the main telecast.
According to a press release, Buzz Lightyear, Woody and other characters will be "participating from the sidelines" and there will even be a halftime show from Duke Caboom. The unusual collaboration, perhaps conceived as a way to try to get Brits to care about American football, will be a first for the use of AI for real-time animation at scale. And we have a feeling it's either going to be amazing or just plain terrible.
Some have already commented on the launch video that the animation looks limited , and it seems the players won't have faces. The result could end up being so wooden and strange looking that it's almost impossible to watch. Or it could be surprisingly entertaining.
"The hell kinda animation is that?," one person wrote on YouTube. "Set a reminder in your calendar, you don’t want to miss this. Either good or bad it’s gonna be a something," someone else wrote. "What in the Dystopian AI Proof of Concept is this?" another person asked "Is anyone asking for this? Pay your writers and actors!"
However, the crossover could bring new fans to the sport. "I never liked sports growing up, but I’m hyped!" one person wrote. Other eagle-eyed viewers have been picking apart from the themed Easter eggs dotted around Andy's room in launch video above, including a British phone booth, a poster of London, a statue of the London eye and, it seems, a Nintendo Family Computer.
Toy Story Football Funday from the NFL will be broadcast live on Disney+ and ESPN+ on 1 October 1 from 2.30pm UK (9.30am ET), the same time as the real NFL International Series game. To get in the mood, see our pick of the best NFL logos and the best sports logos in general. And don't forger that Toy Story 5 is on the way.