Disney develops close ties with Carnegie Mellon University

The Walt Disney Company knew they had hit upon a good thing when they invited Dr. Randy Pausch to join their team at Walt Disney Imagineering to help build their virtual reality program. Yes, that’s the same professor who recently died after fighting cancer and spreading the world about the power of pursuing one’s dreams via his “Last Lecture.” Paucsh also co-founded the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University and it became a program that graduated many future Imagineers, Animators, and Computer programs into the best jobs at Disney, Pixar, EA, and other leading companies.

Now Disney is opening a permanent lab at CMU with the goal of developing even more great talent, as well as encouraging Disney employees to do research and even teach at CMU and ETH Zurich (The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich).

Creating the next generation of sophisticated technologies requires long-term vision and collaboration with world-class innovators, said Ed Catmull, president, Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, making the announcement at SIGGRAPH, the world’s largest computer graphics conference. We are strengthening our commitment to R&D throughout Disney by establishing labs with Carnegie Mellon University and ETH Zurich, he said.

The labs will connect Disney with renowned academic partners who have world class science and technology talent. The labs will engage in R&D on computer animation, computational cinematography, autonomous interactive characters, robotics and user interfaces, among other initiatives. They will be located at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh and ETH Zurich. Each lab represents a five-year commitment from Disney to fund a Director and seven to eight principal investigators. Additional staff will include professors, academic interns, scientific consultants and collaborators.

I can’t help but think this is a great move for Disney and for the learning institutions involved. Hopefully it also signals a growth in the R&D budget for Walt Disney Imagineering. (Although the recent outsourcing of the audio-animatronic work would indicate otherwise.)

Read the press release here.