A couple of years ago, in an attempt to introduce children to the joys of American football (Running! Catching! Permanent brain injuries!), the NFL aired a game on Nickelodeon with a bunch of kid-friendly modifications to the broadcast (Slime! SpongeBob! Young Sheldon!). It was a pretty big success, and the NFL has been doing similar things every season since… but nothing quite as over-the-top as a recently announced collaboration with Disney+.
As announced today in a press release, the October 1 game between the Atlanta Flacons and the Jacksonville Jaguars will be streamed on both ESPN+ and Disney+, with the Disney version being a fully animated live-ish recreation of the game set in the Toy Story universe. Using “state-of-the-art tracking technology,” everything that happens in the game will be recreated—with a short delay—in animated form, while Toy Story characters watch from the sidelines and kid-friendly announcers explain what’s going on. There will even be a halftime show stunt from Duke Caboom, the motorcycle guy that Keanu Reeves voiced in Toy Story 4.
This all sounds surprisingly interesting, if it all works out… though maybe it’ll be more interesting if it doesn’t work out and the players just start sliding down the field in T-poses. Of course, if this were about anything other than professional sports, we would almost definitely be horrified by this. After all, what is this but the football equivalent of the first steps toward replacing people with AI? If the Toy Story version of the game is a hit, then why not cut out the expensive human athletes and just start broadcasting cartoon games based on nothing but stats? This is the future the greedy CEOs of the world want!
But if you want to watch the football game without Buzz and Woody watching from the sidelines, ESPN+ will have the normal version. As for why the NFL is getting wacky with this game, it’s because it’s happening at London’s Wembley Stadium and will be played relatively early in the morning here in America (when regular football-watchers are still microwaving their apps, telling their families to leave them alone, and preparing to spend the day in their recliners). Also, on that note, the two versions of the game will be re-watchable for a “limited time” after it ends, so check them out while you can (and before all football games are replaced with Toy Story movies like this).
Now here’s the real odd thing about all of this: The game is happening in present day, in 2023, but the Toy Story version of it is happening specifically on the floor of Andy’s bedroom. The toys don’t live with Andy anymore, so how could this possibly fit within the canon of Toy Story? Is this, like Lightyear, a football game about the real football game that inspired the… football toys? Also, why the hell is there a Famicom in that preview image? That raises all sorts of questions about when and where this takes place!