Disney adds Blu-ray extras

BD Live elements part of aggressive transition push

Live, onscreen chat functions for future installments of such titles as "Lost" and "High School Musical," exclusive conversations with filmmakers, and a suite of other Web-enhanced special features are among the next-generation extras Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has up its sleeves as the studio begins an aggressive push to transition consumers from standard DVD to Blu-ray Disc.

During a presentation Monday night to officially unveil Disney's first BD Live title -- an elaborate 50th anniversary edition release of "Sleeping Beauty" -- division president Bob Chapek promised to add BD Live elements, which allow movie viewers to tap into the Web for a wealth of interactive options, to all upcoming Disney-branded releases beginning in the fourth quarter. To further hasten the transition to Blu-ray Disc, Disney is including a standard DVD with "Sleeping Beauty" to make it easy for consumers to understand the difference between the two formats.

Chapek said the interactive extras on "Sleeping Beauty," from a menu backdrop that mirrors weather conditions in the viewer's home town to onscreen chat rooms and video messaging, are merely "our jumping off point of what's to come."

"And that new canvas will now enable filmmakers and studios alike to push the creative content arena to heights never before imagined," Chapek said.

Thanks to BD Live technology, future Disney releases could include such extras as live chats with filmmakers in which viewers use their Blackberrys or other PDAs to type in their end of the conversation, which then appears on the screen, as the movie rolls.

The chat function debuts with "Sleeping Beauty," out Oct. 7, with an IM-like window that allows viewers to chat with fellow viewers watching the Blu-ray Disc at the same time.

"The idea of my little girl being able to experience the movie and chat in real time with her grandparents across the country is very exciting to me," Chapek said. "We are introducing this important feature on 'Sleeping Beauty,' but imagine the possibilities of extending this to other titles such as 'High School Musical' or, eventually, ABC's hit show 'Lost.' Can you imagine the level of excitement that will create with the tweens or the rabid fan base of 'Lost'?"

Chapek also talked up video messaging, or "Disney Movie Mail," in which a video message can be inserted into a movie, at any point, at the viewer's discretion, and then sent to another viewer, for playback the next time the movie is watched.

"Theoretically, it takes a greeting card and puts it on steroids," Chapek said. "Imagine the possibilities beyond dad on a business trip. People being given the opportunity to use clips of their favorite Disney films to create movie mail messages will surely appeal to old, young and everyone in between."

Chapek said Disney's goal is to "reinvent the experience of watching movies in the home ... by laying in a level of interactivity and connectivity that has never before been attempted in any format. This interactive connectivity will help us to connect families all across the country and help make the family room relevant again."

Viewers taking advantage of these and other BD Live functions, Chapek said, will accumulate "reward points" and be able to tap into a newly created Disney BD Live Network.

"Here, Blu-ray owners will be able to acquire studio updates, download new trailers, and use their accumulated reward points to obtain wallpapers, ringtones, avatars and many other new exciting possibilities," he said.