Disney wants to awaken sales of the Blu-ray Disc format, and the studio knows it'll take more than a kiss to get the job done. In October, Disney will release its first animated classic on the high-definition video format, Sleeping Beauty
, with high-tech viewing options not possible with DVD.
Using a new technology known as BD Live — which connects to the Internet — viewers will pop in the disc and get a customized version of the famed castle that serves as a backdrop for the menu. The sky will reflect weather conditions in the viewer's hometown.
Once viewers begin watching, they'll be able to chat with friends right on the movie screen, using a laptop, BlackBerry or other PDA, through Disney's protected network. They'll be able to insert customized video messages anywhere in the movie and send them to friends or family members via a "movie mail" feature.
They'll be able to play trivia games with fellow viewers across the country. And when they're done, they can get a constant supply of new trailers, plus trade in "reward" points, collected by using many of these features, for ringtones and wallpaper. Sleeping Beauty
"will revolutionize the way people will interact with and view movies in the home," says Bob Chapek, president of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. "We pulled out all the stops in launching this technology."
The Blu-ray format could use a wake-up call. Despite competing format HD-DVD giving up the field in early February, sales of BD players fell 40% from January to February, and recouped only 2% of that loss in March, according to a report from market tracking firm The NPD Group. (Figures do not include sales of Sony's PS3 game system, which also plays BD video discs and is on the upswing.)
But there's a hitch: Current Blu-ray owners — except for those with PS3s — won't be able to access Sleeping Beauty
's online features. BD Live is part of a revised Blu-ray Profile 2.0, which will start to appear on machines from Sony and Panasonic this summer. Players already bought can't be upgraded.