‘Toy Story Funday Football’ Was Great in Theory but Bad in Execution
A common theme with a lot of recent Disney ventures.
When Disney announced it would be hosting an NFL game in the “Toy Story” universe, initially, I was very excited. Sure, it sounded geared toward kids, but the first-of-its-kind concept was bringing two of my favorite things — Disney and football — together. So, of course, I would watch regardless of who was playing — but after watching, all I can say is thank God it wasn’t my favorite team because yikes.
What is “Toy Story Funday Football?”
“Toy Story Funday Football” is a completely animated simulcast of an NFL game played in Andy’s bedroom in the “Toy Story” universe. The first (and maybe last) game was played on October 1 between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons.
The live game, hosted on Disney+, shrunk the players, coaches, and announcers to the size of toys as Andy imagined the game, which was being played live in London, happening in his bedroom. In addition to the mini players, “Toy Story” characters, like Buzz, Woody, Bo Peep, Bullseye, Slinky Dog, and the Aliens, made appearances.
“Toy Story Funday Football” was an alternate viewing option to the Jags vs. Falcons game, which could also be watched on ESPN+ and local broadcast networks, that was obviously meant to get kids more involved in football. And, while it may have worked for that, it certainly didn’t work in many other aspects of the word.
What Happened With Disney’s “Toy Story Funday Football?”
Disney and ESPN’s “Toy Story Funday Football” was a little bit of a disaster filled with technical difficulties, poor animation quality, and some pretty impatient reporters that made the broadcast fall flat.
First, and foremost, anyone watching the “Toy Story” game — which was likely half the U.S. because it was one of the only ways you could watch it — missed a huge portion of the game. Every so often the camera would cut to cartoon announcers Drew Carter and Booger McFarland for an extended period of time as Disney worked through the kinks. Sometimes viewers would see an empty field but could hear Carter and McFarland's comments as the game was still going on in London. And other times, viewers would just see Slinky Dog — who was acting as the 10-yard marker — staring off into the distance with nothing happening.
Of course, it was the first time an all-animated football game was being played so there’s no doubt there would be technical problems, but it shouldn’t have happened on such a big stage. However, there was no other choice.
The Jags vs. Falcons game was played at 9:30 a.m. EST because it was happening overseas at Wembley Stadium. That’s not a normal football broadcast time, so ESPN+, which is owned by Disney, took the rights. The game was shown on ESPN+, Disney+, and a few local channels (likely owned by ABC). Meaning, if you wanted to watch the game, you basically had to have a streaming service.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that if you want to watch football in 2023, you need to fork over subscription fees to almost every streaming service on the market. During “Toy Story Funday Football” many people who don’t have an ESPN+ membership, but do have a Disney+ one, learned that the hard way. Because a game that was mainly geared toward younger children and families had thousands of grown adults watching since it was the only way to do so. And that would have been fine if the viewing experience was good.
“Toy Story Funday Football” felt like watching your brother play Madden NFL on his GameCube. The animation wasn’t up to Disney standards — nor was it accurate. A lot of times the ball was soaring through the air or on the wrong side of the screen — or even just sitting on the field while the receiver (who actually caught it) was running to the end zone. And, if you were trying to figure out who was getting tackled and where, good luck Charlie.
However, with all the technical issues, the concept is really great. I saw so many TikToks of kids watching the game with their “Toy Story” stuffed animals and families by their sides. And, when McFarland and Carter weren’t getting fed up with Bo Peep twirling her staff, they actually did a decent job of explaining football to the young viewers. They probably could have dumbed down a few more terms, but, again, it was likely their first time announcing to a younger audience.
It’s obvious that Disney is trying to replicate the success of Nickelodeon’s slime-filled live simulcast that’s garnered hundreds of thousands of viewers. However, I’d guess that Nickelodeon’s Nickmas game is an easier lift since it’s the live players with a few animations every so often. In true Disney fashion, they tried to push the envelope by making an all-animated game, which is a great idea in theory, but before they bring a game back to Andy’s room, they need to work out a lot of issues.