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Beyond Tinker Bell: Disney and Blu-ray Enhance the Movie Experience

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We've had a Blu-ray player for a while now. But it hasn't really affected me as a movie fan until recently because I really saw it as one of my husband's new toys instead of something that would change my viewing habits. Yes, the audio and video aspects of it are amazing, but I saw it as more of an extension of his fondness for the shoot-em-up, high energy, big impact films.

That changed when I heard that Disney was releasing a CG animated movie about my favorite pixie, Tinker Bell, on Blu-ray disc (BD). Due to the fact that it's a new storyline with all new artwork instead of material that was simply transferred to digital form, I figured this would be a great opportunity to jump into this technology feet first.

Since I also felt that the movie itself would skew to a younger audience I could best serve my review by having my own screening with a panel of expert judges, i.e. young school-age kids who know more about computer related things at their tender ages than I ever will. That way I could get their feedback on what the BD experience means to them in light of the fact that there was additional material on this disc as opposed to what's offered on the standard DVD.

What I set out to do and what eventually happened are not quite the same thing. My initial theory, that the movie itself in Blu-ray would not matter to the kids, was on target. It is what it is and what mattered to them was the content, not how it was executed. No surprise there. Nor the fact that the BD games, while I had fun with them, are geared for children. What I didn't expect was the world that this technology would bring to life. I see the magic of having a computer at home and that with its use I am part a global network unlike one I could have ever imagined. Disney upped that using their ideas and Imagineers to build a new galaxy. Naive of me, perhaps. Eye-opening, definitely.

I guess this is as good a place as any to say that if you have already experienced a Disney Blu-ray disc, skip down a few paragraphs to hear about my experiences with Tinker Bell.

Okay, I had my panel of experts in place. They would be coming over to view the movie with me as well as have some fun with all the special features that the Tink BD is loaded with. Keeping that in mind, I figured that I’d better get as much info as possible beforehand. I’m really glad that I did. Here's a handy-dandy hint for the newbies out there. Get pen and paper ready. No, there won't be a pop-quiz later. There is, however, a lot of information to absorb. I ended up taking a lot of notes and you might want to as well.

The best way to start out is to check out the Disney Movie Rewards website. If this is your first visit, register your information there, including the Magic Code found inside the DVD or BD case. The more movies you buy and enter the codes for, the more points you will accumulate and later turn in for free Disney goodies. Also, right now they are running a special promotion. Codes for different movies will earn you commemorative coins exclusive to each one. On top of that, there are sweepstakes to enter, games to play and additional Disney related features like cards and iron-ons to print out, games and videos.

Next, head over to the Disney BD webpage. This page will give you all the info that’s fit to pixelate (as it says online) relating to Disney Blu-ray discs. Actually, it’s a good place to get general BD information. It doesn’t skimp on the FAQs. There are demos and news to check out and they even include easy steps for setting up your high definition home entertainment system. Last, but certainly not least, it will give you an overall view of the Disney BD Live Network, explaining what the network is all about, what you need as far as equipment goes and tells you about the various features.

As you might expect from the Disney folks, their Live online network is all about being a family-friendly community. Each account can be modified for personal preferences, and a family administrator can manage sections for each child. These safeties let parents have control over who their kids are talking to, which features and movie titles each one can view and how Disney Movie Reward points are earned and used.

In retrospect I’m glad that I took the time to check it out online before my experts arrived. By the time screening day came, I had a chance to absorb some of this, so I could at least appear cool and look like I knew what I was doing. Besides the fact that I could set myself up with an online account in advance and keep the points earned during this experiment to use later, learning about the network features that Disney has on these BDs, really blew my mind.

On top of having the safety features, you can have your own avatars to make the interaction between family and friends more fun. Like it really needed that, right? C’mon. We’re talking about sitting in your house watching a movie and being able to communicate, via an Internet-connected Blu-ray player, with other people. Not yelling into the next room, but interacting with someone else around the block or across the country. And I’m not talking about plain old chatting on a computer keyboard.

With something called Movie Chat you’d expect that you could use a cell phone or lap top to talk to your friend while both watch at the same time. This takes things to another level by also letting you use your player’s remote control. As if that wasn’t enough, a designated “host” can synchronize everyone together. The movie can start and pause, in multiple homes, at the same time.

In the Movie Challenge section, you can play trivia games. For the Tinker Bell BD there are three levels: easy, medium, and hard multiple choice and true/false questions. It took me a while to figure out that if I didn’t know the answer right away, I just had to watch the part of the movie at the top of the screen for hints. I’m a trivia fan so I really enjoyed this part of the disc. Coming soon, there will be private games, similar to playing on an online game site. This will give you the option to set up rooms that can only be entered by invitation — another great safety for parental piece of mind. Also to be available at a later date are user-generated games. WOW!

Then there’s Movie Mail. This feature allows members to send video messages between trusted friends. Another safety, this is at a more controlled level than being just a friend. These are personalized notes or commentary that playback during the movie using either videos you upload yourself or using scenes already on file at the Disney BD Live Network.

Remember signing up at Disney Movie Rewards? The BDs let you access your account there live and let you browse through a special category for items specific to the Network. This will have updated features and live events. You will also be able to accrue more points by completing activities within the Network.

Not all these features are up and running yet. As they become available, notifications will arrive via the online site and the Live Network. Through the BD disc and your equipment's Internet connection, new goodies can be downloaded when available.

Having done all this in advance of Tink Day, I thought that I was good to go. I had snacks at hand, along with little notebooks and sparkly gel pens in case there was a budding film critic or two in the group. But watching it with my husband was definitely a different experience than watching it with five little girls.

It took them longer to settle into the movie. And they definitely wanted to stop it more often than we did. Lots of going back to re-watch parts of it. Debates over who had the best wings, the prettiest dress, etc. Most of all, and more important I think, lots of oohs and aahs of delight as the story and animation took them to Neverland.

Of all the bonus features, they definitely liked the games (the Tinker Trainer and BD trivia) better than the featurettes. And they definitely caught onto the fact that the video clips that show up along with the questions give you the answers a lot faster than I did. We’re not set up for multiple players and it would have gone smoother if we’d had more than the remote and one game control. I was excited when reading all about the Disney BD-Live Network. By the end of our screening, I realized that the reality of it is even more impressive. Mickey, Minnie, Peter Pan, Tinker Bell and all their friends have always been a part of my life. As our family grows, our nieces and nephews are now having kids of their own. It's nice to know that Disney will stay true to their course and keep raising the bar for generations to come.

Other related news that's very cool to me as a Tink fan. On November 10, 2008, in celebration of the Blu-ray and DVD release of Tinker Bell, the world famous Madame Tussaud's in London immortalized this beguiling pixie. This waxworks company is well known for celebrating people and characters that have made their mark on society. This is the first time they have ever bestowed that honor on a fairy before. Standing five and a half inches tall, this is the smallest wax figure in the history of the legendary museum. A painstaking process that normally takes weeks of preparation and hard work, Tink’s size and delicate features made the need for a steadier hand and precision sculpting all the more extensive. I think they did an incredible job.

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  • This is a fantastic review, thank you! I especially enjoyed the reaction of the five-year old girls to the movie, it is exactly what one might hope for and, in my mind, possibly proof that the movie is successful. (Can’t help wondering what would have happened if you’d slipped a five-year old boy in there!)

    I have written a page about Disney blu-ray movies and have included a link to your review as well as quoted some of your comments. I would be thrilled if you would visit and leave your opinion of the movie.

    I think great reviews like this can be of wonderful assistance to parents looking for movie information.

    Thank you very much!

  • Hi Brenda!

    The original panel was four children, three girls and one boy. We had to re-schedule when two siblings were sick that weekend, one of which was the boy. He had a previous engagement (birthday party) the following week that trumped our screening. None of the girls wanted to invite any boys from their class because they were all “eeewwww” which I think was their version of having cooties.

    I’m so glad that you liked the review and am honored that you linked to in on your website.

    Thanks for reading.