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'Sleeping Beauty' to Awaken on Blu-ray Disc with BD-Live

15 May, 2008 By: Thomas K. Arnold


BD-Live enables viewers to record personalized video messages, superimpose them in a clip of the film and send that clip to family and friends.


The folks at Walt Disney Studios are out to forever change the way we view movies at home. In October, Disney will release its first-ever animated classic on Blu-ray Disc, Sleeping Beauty, and offer viewers a full palate of high-tech viewing options that simply aren't possible with standard DVD.

Thanks to BD-Live technology, which connects to the Internet, viewers will be able to pop Sleeping Beauty into their Blu-ray Disc player and right away get a customized version of the famed Sleeping Beauty castle that serves as a backdrop for the menu. The sky behind the castle will reflect actual weather conditions in their hometown, whether it's a blizzard in Cleveland or a balmy, sunny day in San Diego.

After the movie starts to play, viewers will be able to chat with fellow viewers right on the movie screen, using a laptop, Blackberry or other PDA. They'll be able to insert customized video messages anywhere in the movie and send them to friends or family members via a Disney “movie mail” feature. They'll be able to play trivia games with other viewers across the country, and when they're done will receive a constant supply of new preview trailers simply by inserting the disc into their Web-connected player.

Bob Chapek, president of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, is hoping the release “will revolutionize the way people will interact with, and view, movies in the home.”

To further the interactive viewing experience, Chapek said, the chat, trivia and movie mail functions also will generate “reward” points that disc owners can later redeem for ringtones, wallpapers and avatars by going to the Disney BD-Live Portal.

“We truly pulled out all the stops in launching this technology and redefining how consumers will experience movies in the home from this point forward,” Chapek said.

Disney is playing right to cutting-edge consumers who are eager to make the leap to Blu-ray Disc, but to whom a high-definition picture six times clearer than standard DVD isn't enough. A new study from The Diffusion Group says consumers want Web-enabled features on their next disc player, seeing it as relatively inexpensive, reliable and simple to use compared to game consoles and PCs.

Disney also wants to connect people over the Internet, but is doing so through a secured network.

“Parents don't have to worry,” Chapek said. “We're trying to connect families, so for example your daughter can talk to her grandmother in Cincinnati while they are both watching the same movie, and you can leave the room and not have to worry.”

But there's a hitch: Early adopters who already own Blu-ray Disc players will have to buy new machines to take advantage of BD-Live technology. When the next-generation format first came to market in June 2006, it was rushed into stores to minimize any advantage rival high-def disc format HD DVD may have had in coming to market two months earlier.

HD DVD, developed by Toshiba, came with Web-enabled features, though not as fanciful as what Disney is doing, right out of the gate. For nearly two years, the formats competed against each other in a bruising format war most experts agree hindered consumer adoption of either high-def disc format.

Blu-ray spent the first year trying to gain a foothold in the market, and then began playing catch-up, beginning with picture-in-picture technology last October and, now, BD-Live.

At this point, only Sony's PlayStation 3 can harness BD-Live technology. The first BD-Live-capable players, from Sony and Panasonic, won't hit stores until summer.

The advent of BD-Live could give the Blu-ray Disc format a decided lift, said Russ Crupnick of research firm The NPD Group.

“BD-Live promises to move potential Blu-ray buyers off the sidelines,” he said, citing a recent study that shows 40% of consumers who are likely Blu-ray buyers want interactive capabilities such as BD-Live.

“BD-Live takes home movie viewing to a whole new level,” Crupnick said. “We are in an increasingly interactive environment, with online gaming, social networking and virtual communities like Second Life ingraining themselves into pop culture. Taking that experience into the living room is a natural next step.”

Disney isn't the only studio that has announced plans to implement BD Live technology, although none of the other studio efforts are as grandiose as those developed by the Mouse House. Lionsgate's Blu-ray Disc versions of War and Saw IV, released in January, offers a chat feature. Sony Pictures released it first two BD-Live features in April; both The Sixth Day and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story come with exclusive downloadable extra content. And 20th Century Fox's new Alien vs. Predator lets viewers superimpose themselves into a game and play against others over the Internet.

“BD-Live allows packaged media to live forever, and allows us to build a direct relationship with the consumer,” said Lexine Wong, senior EVP with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

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