Disney Research Zurich was opened in April 2010. It is one of two research laboratories run by the Walt Disney Company worldwide and the only one at a European tertiary institution.

At Disney Research Zurich (DRZ), 30 computer scientists and 10 doctoral students are currently working on 70 research projects. There are to be 40 researchers and 15 doctoral students by 2012. The DRZ is headed by Prof. Markus Gross, director of the Computer Graphics Laboratory at ETH Zurich. The Walt Disney Company pays the salaries and ETH Zurich provides the infrastructure. Patents for new developments are registered jointly and the resulting revenues are shared.

New tools for 3D animation

DRZ's key research areas are the modelling of human faces (which Markus Gross says is still the “holy grail” of film animation) and three-dimensional (3D) film, which is currently conquering the home cinema and television market. New developments should offer more freedom to designers and producers at Pixar and Disney in Los Angeles for 3D productions. The ETH researchers thus have access to unique data and, in turn, ETH Zurich‘s Department of Computer Science benefits from the technologies developed at DRZ. The patenting of new technologies could also soon start giving rise to start-up businesses. In November 2010, the cooperation between Disney and ETH Zurich was presented the Tell Award by Switzerland Trade and Investment Promotion in the USA. This prize is awarded to significant investment projects realised by North American companies in Switzerland.