Joe Marks
Disney Research

Research at The Walt Disney Company
photo of Joe Marks​Abstract: At The Walt Disney Company we tell stories. For us, technology and science are always a means to an end. This influences what research we do, and how we do it. If the capability we need to tell a story is for sale in the marketplace, then we can buy it. But if we need a capability that is not commercially available, then we look to our research labs to develop it. For example, some current topics of interest to us include: 

  • Physical simulation of cloth, hair, and fluids for animated CG movies.
  • The representation of 2D geometry for hand-drawn animation.
  • Interactive robots for park attractions.
  • Mobile computing for guests in our parks and resorts.
  • Real-time athlete tracking for sports visualization.
  • Behavioural marketing.

Because we don’t need to make money from technology per se, and because we have a leading position in the media and entertainment industry, we can conduct our research more openly than many other companies. We collaborate with academe, publish our results, and work with research organizations at other companies. Jointly owned intellectual property is often acceptable to us. The idiosyncrasies of our business model thus make R&D at the Walt Disney Company somewhat different than at other companies, but no less important. We anticipate continued growth in our research capabilities as we look for more and better ways to invent and innovate around our core business of storytelling.

Biography: Joe Marks grew up in Dublin, Ireland. He earned three degrees from Harvard University. His areas of interest include computer graphics, human-computer interaction, and artificial intelligence. He has worked previously at Bolt Beranek and Newman and at Digital's Cambridge Research Laboratory. Prior to his current position as VP Research and Development, he was the Research Director at Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from 2000 to 2006.