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THE MORNING BUZZ: While the Extras Are Cool, It's the Simple Things That Make a Kid-Friendly DVD

11 Dec, 2001 By: Stephanie Prange

While much has been made of the cool features of many kid-friendly DVDs, from animated menus to games, there is one kid-friendly DVD feature that many studios have overlooked.

My 3-year-old falls into the category of child who likes to watch a video over and over again. (We bought her her own DVD player just for that purpose. I mean Shrek is a great movie, but I just can't watch it more than four times or so in a month.)

Sydney knows enough about the new technology to ask for the DVD and not the videocassette and she often cautions me that she'd like to watch the trailers (i.e. she doesn't want me to push the menu button too soon) or that she'd like to see the animation on the menu (i.e. she doesn't want me to push play yet). She can even load a DVD by herself (words on top).

A parent is required to start the DVD again.

This is so annoying to Sydney that she knows which DVDs start by themselves. When I move to push play on these DVDs, she says excitedly, "This one starts by itself, Mommy."

Now, videocassettes have drawbacks as well. A parent might have to scan through as much as 15 minutes of trailers to get to the feature and rewinding is a hassle. But once you've pushed play, the movie will eventually start.

It's different with DVDs. If a DVD has a series of trailers, some (but not all) children's DVDs won't let you skip to the menu and start the feature. You have to scan through the trailers (just as you do on VHS) and then when you get to the menu, you have to push play. Even when you can skip to the menu, a parent is required to navigate it. Some DVDs even require another step—choosing pan-and-scan or widescreen.

Now, I'm not an advocate of having a child watch too many hours of television. But if the studios really wanted to cater to kids, I'm sure Sydney would say they need to program the feature to start on its own—say, two minutes or so after the menu sits idle. The DVD should default to pan-and-scan or widescreen, depending on what the last choice was.

It's a simple feature that many DVDs already have and, take it from a parent, it's great.

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