Up on DVD
November 14, 2009

I loved Up when I first saw it in theaters this summer, so I knew that I wanted to own it when it was released on DVD. I just wish Disney didn’t make it so difficult.

Up (Blu-ray) cover
Up (Blu-ray)
Buy this DVD

As is typical of their recent releases, they’re strongly pushing the Blu-ray edition, which comes with four discs: the standard DVD movie with extras, the digital copy disc (why? does anyone use these?), and two Blu-ray discs. Unfortunately for me, since I still see no reason to “upgrade” formats, the standard DVD with extras is no longer comparable in features to the Blu-ray. This is an incredibly disappointing decision. The more studios try to force customer “choice” to what benefits them, the less likely I am to succumb, and I don’t appreciate being treated like a second-class customer because I’m not willing to shell out more money for new equipment when what I have works just fine for me.

Then there’s the DRM-restricted “extra” that makes the standard version a “two-disc deluxe edition”. The second disc is nothing but the digital copy. I’m not interested, because I don’t want to watch a movie of great visual scope on a postage-stamp-sized screen. Thus, I got the two-disc pack. Because although you would think the single disc would be the same as the DVD in the two-disc pack, it lacks the director commentary and possibly the travel featurette. How confused does Disney want customers to be? Of course, you can’t be sure of this in the store, because Disney doesn’t list full contents on the back cover, leaving that phrase “and more” to cover who knows what.

Given that many places are discounting the Blu-ray version below the price of the special DVD edition — a choice I don’t understand, since I thought the point of pushing Blu-ray was to make up for declining DVD revenue — I really resent having to pay for a “digital copy” disc I didn’t want anyway. It used to be an extra bonus, something free to make it easy for those who wanted to watch the movie on the go, but now it looks like I’m having to pay more for a useless plastic disc.

Up (Two-Disc DVD) cover
Up (Two-Disc DVD)
Buy this DVD

Anyway, if one of the Amazon reviewers is correct, the first Blu-ray has the same extras as the DVD:

  • The six-minute “Partly Cloudy” cartoon that ran with the movie in theaters, about a bad-luck stork and his cloud dispatcher.
  • A new original five-minute cartoon, “Dug’s Special Mission”, in which the beloved pup tries to help his pack capture the bird in his usual clumsy fashion. It leads into the movie scene in which Dug meets Carl and Russell.
  • “Adventure Is Out There”, 22 minutes, showing the crew traveling the amazing real-life locations that inspired Paradise Falls.
  • “Alternate Scene: The Many Endings of Muntz” — Five minutes about possible different ends for the bad guy.

The second Blu-ray has all of the making-of material unavailable to DVD customers, showing interviews and sketches about the character designs for Carl, Russell, bird Kevin, the house, the balloons, and the dogs. Plus there’s a game and an alternate version of the opening married life sequence.

While I consider this movie the best Pixar has ever made, a beautiful meditation on loss and how to find new purpose in life, in terms of the DVD packaging, all I can say is “buyer beware”. They’re not interested in making it easy for you to watch what you want the way you want it. Let me make this clear, just in case Disney happens to be listening: withholding features from my preferred DVD format will not make me buy into Blu-ray. It will instead make me stop buying your DVDs. In my reviews, I would rather talk about how great the movie is and the insight the special features gave me into the creation of such a wonderful film, instead of having to wade through all this format crap just to figure out what I should buy. I wish Disney would support that.

So here’s why you should watch Up: Pixar is known for making very good funny movies, but Up makes it clear that they’re just as interested in other deep emotions. It was a huge dramatic gamble that they pull off in expert fashion. The idea of an old man and a Boy Scout taking a flying house to a South American jungle, rescuing a near-extinct species, and defeating a corrupt hero and his band of talking dogs sounds like a bad joke, but it’s a movie that will show you great insight into the human spirit and its sense of wonder.

I’m sure this piece sounds angry, but it’s really frustration. I don’t understand why Disney is being so heavy-handed about all this, given their core audiences. A lot of families don’t have the money to upgrade right now, and do kids really care what format they watch?

30 Responses  
Jennifer writes:  

This isn’t friendly to libraries either – most libraries aren’t circulating Blu-Ray. Especially at our small library, few patrons have Blu-Ray and there’s no demand. We’re still trying to explain to people why we aren’t buying VHS anymore! Plus, while Blu-Ray does last longer than regular discs I’ve been told, once it’s scratched it’s dead and we, the library, are stuck. You can’t charge a patron for a scratched and ruined disc when it’s circ’d multiple times and they can’t be cleaned and repaired like DVDs.

Digital copies confuse us and our patrons. Can they all download? Should we take it out? But then we’ve got to amend the cataloging record. Gah.

It’s bad enough that Disney dumps their overpriced dvds back into the vault so we can’t replace damaged movies – now even the ones that are available are a pain.

Johanna writes:  

That’s an aspect I hadn’t even considered, but it sounds like it’s awfully difficult. Thanks for sharing.

Dwight Williams writes:  

My sympathies to the librarians out there as well. *winces at the thought of the confusion…*

James Schee writes:  

I’m a Blue-Ray owner, won the player in a radio trivia contest at a local eating place.:) Yet I really don’t see the need for the different extras, since the better picture and sound quality are enough extra for me.

I do use the digital copies frequently actually though, as long as they are Itunes compatible. I have an Ipod Touch and frequently make long drives, and the ability to take a couple of movies along to watch is really nice.

The digital copies come with a code that allow you to download the movie once from Itunes.

I worked at a local library for a little bit, and they were actually throwing them away unused. When they found out my interest they actually let me have them which was nice. I store them on one of those terrabyte external HDs. (that library has started carrying a handful of Blue-Ray movies, not much demand yet though beyond me)

I probably need to see UP, but when I see the commercials the character design it just puts me off. The characters look like big blobs with no bone structure, but Pixar has such a good track record that I need to try it.

John Jakala writes:  

Here’s another aspect of Disney’s DVD strategy that’s really annoying me: They’re making rental discs with no extras. We watched UP and my daughter (who had seen it in the theater with Mom) wondered where the theatrical short was. Plus, the rental disc starts out with an annoying ad (pimping the Blu-Ray disc) that refers to extras on the DVD (like “Dug’s Special Mission”) THAT AREN’T THERE!!! Arrrrrgh!

codeman38 writes:  

Oh, it gets even worse. The rental disc has no closed captions or subtitles.

Let me just repeat that: The rental disc has no closed captions or subtitles.

And apparently this was completely intentional on Disney’s part; according to what I’ve heard second-hand, Disney removed that because they viewed it as a bonus feature.

Shame, really. I actually wanted to watch the movie, but it’s pointless if I’m going to have to keep going back and rewinding to make out what was said…

codeman38 writes:  

(Thankfully, I did find out that a local rental store has a retail DVD, and those are captioned. I’ve just got to wait for it to be returned. But still… no captioning on the rental?! Are you trying to encourage hard-of-hearing folks to boycott you? Particularly on a movie in which the protagonist wears a hearing aid?!)

Johanna writes:  

You’re right, that is a huge screwup. How exclusionary.

Dwight Williams writes:  

Note to Disney: Cloaed captioning and multi-language subtitles are basic accessibility features! They are not to be viewed as extras.

By any media company anywhere.

David Oakes writes:  

I don’t have Blu-Ray, don’t want it, and only recently bought a TV where the difference would even be visible. Like Johanna, I am insulted by Disney’s ham-fisted attempts to make me spend $200 on a new player so I can have the privilage of spending $10 more on discs. I early-adopted Laser Disk because of the promise of wonderful extras, and was disappointed. Even waiting a few years on DVD technology I still feel ripped off. Why would I believe that Blu-Ray is going to suddenly make it all right?

That being said, I have no problem with Disney, Wal-Mart, whomever trying to influence the market. That’s their choice. And our choice as consumers to go along, resist, ignore, or whatever we want. Except:

“Disney doesn’t list full contents on the back cover”.

Except we aren’t being allowed to make an informed choice. Just as in the early days of DVD when they wouldn’t say if the disk was Widescreen, Full Screen, or Pan-and-Scan, I have no way of telling what I am getting until after I buy it and play it. (And can’t return it, because everyone assumes you are only returning recorded media because you made your own copy.) And this cuts both ways: Since I don’t know how little I am really getting on the cheap copy in the store, the “full” copy doesn’t seem as impressive, so why pay so much? All they engender is more ill-will, not faith in the coming technology.

codeman38 writes:  

Oh, also, regarding the rental version?

I originally got it via Netflix, but decided to check stores around town to see if they had a retail copy.

The DVD case at Blockbuster has the ‘SDH’ icon indicating the presence of subtitles, and mentions having two extra short films.

The disc in said DVD case? Same one I got through Netflix. So it’s false advertising as well.

Joshua Fialkov writes:  

For what it’s worth, the idea behind the digital copy is accessibility for your kids. When you travel, you can put the movie on an laptop, iPod, or Zune and watch it without having to spend money to buy an in-car entertainment system. I think it’s actually a nice extra for a kids movie.

Johanna writes:  

Given that I just had this “entertainment while traveling” discussion with my parents, I would think a portable DVD player (which a laptop also counts as) would be more common than using the digital copy for kids (without any download or unlocking hassles), but maybe that’s just differing experience. I can see kids having more fun with the movie on an iPod than I would, with their younger eyes. :)

Johanna writes:  

I see that Consumerist has now picked up on the “omitting the closed captions” issue, so maybe that will bring more attention to the problem.

codeman38 writes:  

@Johanna: Heh, I’m the one who tipped Consumerist, and that’s my LJ post they quoted. :)

Johanna writes:  

Good for you, working the media to draw attention to this!

Thom writes:  

“Just as in the early days of DVD when they wouldn’t say if the disk was Widescreen, Full Screen, or Pan-and-Scan, I have no way of telling what I am getting until after I buy it and play it.”

What? When I check the back of DVDs that I bought back when the format was new? They all say the screen format. Some of them have, in giant letters across the front of the box, “Widescreen Edition”.

“Like Johanna, I am insulted by Disney’s ham-fisted attempts to make me spend $200 on a new player so I can have the privilage of spending $10 more on discs.”

A. It’s pretty easy to get new Blu-Ray discs for under $20.
B. Blu-Ray players are costing less than $200 at this point.
C. The studios are trying to encourage people to switch to the presentation that makes their product look the best. And like it or not? That is Blu-Ray. I get that folks don’t like the push behind Blu-Ray, but honestly, I find it far more off-putting that people act like this is some deep conspiracy to force them to do things… I once had a guy tell me widescreen movies were just the movie companies ways of forcing people to buy new TVs. And frankly, I can’t see a difference between that guy nd the regular anti-blu rants I see on the web.

I get that not everyone has a Hi-def TV, so Disney and other studios start releasing Blu-Rays with DVDs at no extra cost, but they are villains for doing so? It’s unfair? I get there is frustration with the lack of special features on standard def copies…but a selling point of DVD was you now got stuff VHS was not offering… VHS could have included behind the scenes documentaries…heck, I remember VHS sets that had a second tape that included the movie with audio commentaries. But most of the time, studios did not add any of the special features to VHS, even thoufh it was possible to include them on the same tape. Was it a scam back then? Why is it different now?

I rather hate ranting like this, because I fear it comes across as I don’t like or respect Johanna, but I do…I really appreciate her thoughts on comics and movies. But I feel like the Blu-ray reaction is…well, a bit over the top. And everytime it comes up people complain about wierd things like “ads promoting Blu-Ray” playing on their DVDs…is that really that big of an affront? It’s like complaining about seeing ads for newer and fancier TVs you do not own while watching your favorite show.

Johanna writes:  

The company isn’t playing fair if they don’t give the customer full information before they buy (since discs aren’t returnable in most cases), and Disney isn’t on the boxes. I don’t know about full/widescreen in the past, but they aren’t listing all of the special features, which makes it hard to compare when they’re putting out such non-obviously different packages.

As for the bigger issue, no one likes feeling like they’re not a desirable audience, and to me, Disney seems like they’re chasing the Blu-Ray cheerleader really hard while ignoring the perfectly nice girl (DVD owner) who brought them to the dance. But perhaps that image is me going over the top again. :)

More seriously, there’s a difficult fine line between encouraging customers to do something different and forcing them to. Part of where it’s drawn depends on your perspective. As a happy Blu-Ray consumer, you’re going to see things differently from someone who can no longer buy a product they want because Disney no longer fully supports standard DVDs. That’s what makes horse races.

The DVD/VHS comparison isn’t entirely valid, I think, because DVDs were clearly superior products to VHS: sturdier, with greater capacity and clearly obvious audio/video improvement. Blu-Rays aren’t all that different from DVD to the average consumer (not the videophile), so the argument isn’t a direct match. As for the ads, my only gripe there is the ones you can’t skip (which are usually for other DVDs, not tech), because that also makes me feel abused as a customer, since they’re trying to force material in front of my eyes while removing my choice to watch it.

And no, you don’t sound like you’re ranting. I greatly appreciate you presenting a different opinion in such a balanced, rational fashion.

Thom writes:  

“I don’t know about full/widescreen in the past, but they aren’t listing all of the special features, which makes it hard to compare when they’re putting out such non-obviously different packages.”

True…but that is not really related to Blu-Ray… that goes back to the earliest days of DVD where they would often include the phrase “and much more!” Plus, for a long time, they would list interactive menus as a special feature. Um? Really studios? I sure would be pissed if my DVD contained non-interactive menus. :)

And it is also worth noting that there were instances where the DVD has more features than the Blu-Ray. I ended up buying the standard def version of the Departed,because it had more documentaries. Knocked Up, Robocop and plenty of others had more on the standard def than on the Blu-Ray. So, it’s not always in the cuter Blu-Ray’s favor. ;)

“Blu-Rays aren’t all that different from DVD to the average consumer (not the videophile), so the argument isn’t a direct match.”

I would actually disagree. I am not a videophile in the sense of someone who sees minute differences as big. I can’t tell a difference between a mp3, CD or record track. It’s music and I like it or I don’t. My parents are in their sixties, they saw a huuuuge difference in the picture of a blu-ray and a DVD. Same for my friends (okay, a few are videophiles). But anytime I have friends over to watch a movie in Blu-Ray? They notice the picture difference right away. So, it is a pretty big leap from DVD to Blu. :)

“As for the ads, my only gripe there is the ones you can’t skip (which are usually for other DVDs, not tech), because that also makes me feel abused as a customer, since they’re trying to force material in front of my eyes while removing my choice to watch it.”

Yeah. I agree that I want the option to jump past ads. I don’t mind the first time, but boy, if I am working my way through a season of a TV series? I do not want to sit through the same batch of trailers everytime I put the disc in. I can totally sympathize there.

Johanna writes:  

I had no idea some of the Blu-Ray versions were lacking. Why make that decision? Simple cost-cutting?

I’m still hoping someone I know will get Blu-Ray so I can actually check picture quality without being in a sales “isn’t this SO much better?” situation, but no one I know locally has it.

Thom writes:  

If you guys were in Minnesota, you’d be welcome to come to my apartment and check out some movies and extras. :)

I am not sure why they leave stuff off of Blu-Ray, one of the big pushes is how much space is on a Blu-Ray…between 25-50 gigabytes (compare that to standard DVD’s 4-8). But the Kevin Smith films on Blu-Ray lack extras-which were a big selling point of the original DVD releases(exceptions are his most recent films-Clerks 2 & Zack and Miri).

Johanna writes:  

Next time we’re there, we’re coming by. :)

Thom writes:  

Sounds like a plan! :)

How Up Was Made » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] To promote Up coming out on DVD last week, the publicity group sent this set of images […]

Bob writes:  

My hat’s off to the Carlsons for saying what needed to be said. It will be a cold day in South America before I explore a jungle of editions again or purchase another Pixar DVD. Disney is as full of hot air as the balloons in this film, so perhaps we need a few vicious dogs to bite their buttock. As far as I’m concerned, Disney can stick it UP their …..

Hsifeng writes:  

Bob writes:

“It will be a cold day in South America before I explore a jungle of editions again or purchase another Pixar DVD.”

…and that cold day will be years and years and years before, right?

Carolyn Kormann, in “Retreat of Andean Glaciers Foretells Global Water Woes,” Yale Environment 360, 09 Apr 2009, writes:

“Bolivia accounts for a tiny fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions. But it will soon be paying a disproportionately high price for a major consequence of global warming: the rapid loss of glaciers and a subsequent decline in vital water supplies.

“Earlier this year, the World Bank released yet another in a seemingly endless stream of reports by global institutions and universities chronicling the melting of the world’s cryosphere, or ice zone. This latest report concerned the glaciers in the Andes and revealed the following: Bolivia’s famed Chacaltaya glacier has lost 80 percent of its surface area since 1982, and Peruvian glaciers have lost more than one-fifth of their mass in the past 35 years, reducing by 12 percent the water flow to the country’s coastal region, home to 60 percent of Peru’s population…”

Johanna writes:  

Disney has issued an apology, saying that leaving captions off of the rental DVDs was a mistake.

“The captions were inadvertently left off of the rental DVD. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused. We are working diligently to rectify this situation by shipping the corrected product to our accounts and creating a consumer program to address this matter.”

They’re asking affected customers to contact them, although they’ve yet to say what they will be offering.

Pixar Stamps Due August 2011 » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] including my three favorites: Up, Ratatouille, and Wall-E, as well as the fan- and kid-favorite Cars and the latest released, Toy […]

*Wolf Children Ame & Yuki — Recommended » Manga Worth Reading writes:  

[…] parents — and serve as a model of abbreviated but powerful storytelling, along the lines of Up — Yuki begins narrating the story of her life. I’m a sucker for cute kid stories, and […]


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