Disney cruises malls to promote Blu-ray

Launching nat'l tour to promote Blu-ray Disc titles

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is hitting the road to promote the Blu-ray Disc format. The studio next month is launching a national mall tour to tout the next-generation format's advantages to consumers, complete with towering widescreens, interactive video game and movie stations and a mini theater.

Disney's Magical Blu-ray Tour will visit 18 malls nationwide for a series of three-day runs. The objective is to tackle consumer confusion about the two competing high-definition formats and about high definition in general.

A recent study by the NPD Group showed a whopping 83% of reported high-definition disc purchases actually are regular DVDs. "We know this because the titles aren't available on high-def disc," analyst Russ Crupnick said.

Another study, by Leichtman Research Group, found that nearly half of the 24 million households that have HDTVs aren't watching high-definition programming of any sort.

"Our goal with the Disney Magical Blu-ray Tour is to reach as many people as possible and to help educate the consumers across all demographics," Bob Chapek, president of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, said. "Our presentations and demo areas will hold something of interest for everyone, from kids and their parents to older adults and teens.

"Even early adopters won't be disappointed with the first looks of the bonus materials that we're rolling out for our future titles," he added. "Since high definition is for everyone, we made sure that the tour elements reflected that as well."

The tour, sponsored by Panasonic, begins Aug. 17-19 in Los Angeles at the Topanga Westfield mall in Woodland Hills, and concludes Dec. 21-23 at the Chandler Mall in Phoenix. Along the way the Disney Blu-ray road show touches down in such major cities as San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, Washington, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Houston.

At each stop, consumers can walk around a pair of giant blue towers crowned with widescreen monitors. At more than a dozen interactive "stations" they can preview Blu-ray Disc versions of recent Disney animated hits "Cars" and "Meet the Robinsons," and play the "Liar's Dice" game from the Blu-ray edition of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

But the heart of the exhibit is a mini theater with hourly presentations on Blu-ray technology and high definition in general, tying the revolutionary new technology to a continuation of Walt Disney's legacy of imagination. The presentations begin with historical footage of Disney as the presenter talks about the famed animator's love of technology, noting that Disney was the first to add sound and dialogue to an animated movie (1928's "Steamboat Willie") and years later devoted an entire section of Disneyland (Tomorrowland) to visions of the future.

Then comes a brief recap of how high-definition television came to be, followed by a detailed look at Blu-ray Disc, with a focus on the format's interactivity, both present and planned. Ultimately, Disney Blu-ray discs will allow viewers plugged into the Internet to chat with fellow viewers and interact with filmmakers, all while watching the movie. They'll also be able to get detailed information and even buy many of the items they see in the movie.

"There's a lot of consumer confusion out there, and we want to help everyone understand this amazing new technology," Chapek said. "It is imperative that we continue to educate and engage consumers about the advantages and exciting features that are unique to the Blu-ray Disc format."

Disney is one of seven studios supporting Blu-ray Disc, along with 20th Century Fox, MGM, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., Paramount and Lionsgate. Warner and Paramount also release their films on HD DVD, while Universal releases are limited to HD DVD.
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