Disney Buys Avalanche, Builds Game Studio

In its efforts to make Buena Vista Games a major player in the interactive entertainment sphere, the Walt Disney Company has acquired Salt Lake City-based video game developer Avalanche Software LC, which is making the game based on Disney’s November CG toon release, Chicken Little. The House of Mouse is also establishing a development studio in Vancouver, Canada, which will be headed up by former Electronic Arts Canada senior development and business personnel.

“The acquisition of Avalanche Software and the creation of a development studio in Vancouver mark a significant milestone in becoming a top tier video game publisher by securing the industry’s top talent to build and create game franchises,” says Graham Hopper, senior VP and general manager of Buena Vista Games. He goes on to say that the new studio is already off to a strong start and growing rapidly to focus on cutting-edge, action/adventure-oriented games.

Founded in 1995, console game developer Avalanche Software employs more than 100 artists, programmers and game designers. The company’s credits include the hit titles Tak and the Power of Juju, Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams, Dragonball Z Sagas: Evolution and the upcoming 25 to Life online multiplayer shooter.

Under the terms of the agreement, Avalanche Software will operate as a division of Buena Vista Games and will maintain its development studio in Utah. Some senior management and key employees have even signed long-term employment agreements with the Disney arm.

The new Vancouver development studio is founded by Josh Holmes, Howard Donaldson, Daryl Anselmo and Jorge Freitas. Holmes, Anselmo and Freitas were instrumental in creating the NBA Street and Def Jam franchises for Electronic Arts. Donaldson served as EA Canada’s CFO for seven years. The facility has already hired than 20 veteran game developers and is continuing to build its core team.