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Disney's DVD Marketing Decision Falls on Deaf Ears


Forcing the hearing impaired to buy rather than rent isn't a great idea.

DVD extras are a hit-or-miss affair. For every audio commentary featuring the enthusiastic John Carpenter and Kurt Russell, there's a lengthy featurette commending the tireless efforts of the lighting crew on the set of Bring It On: In It to Win It. While some consumers never bother to view the special features included with a DVD release, others find those extras to be a major reason to own -- or at the very least, rent -- the disc.

Major studios -- notably Fox (NWS), Warner Bros. (TWX), and now Disney (DIS) -- have recognized these special features as a selling point for film buffs and have opted to omit them from the rental versions of the films, acting as an incentive to purchase the full-featured disc. Bare-bones rental releases have already included Fox's I Love You, Beth Cooper and Warner's Orphan -- so those who were dying to hear what Hayden Panettiere wore off-camera or what it's like to play a demonic adoptee are forced to make a trip to Best Buy (BBY).

Normally, the features selected to be withheld don't detract from the film-viewing experience, but Disney's recent omission from the rental version of Up has critics and fans chastising the family-friendly company.

Yesterday, Consumerist cited a LiveJournal entry detailing the lack of closed captioning on the rental copies of Up sent to Netflix (NFLX), Blockbuster (BBI), and Redbox (CSTR) kiosks. And despite what the film's Netflix page says, it also doesn't include interactive menus or subtitles -- in French, Spanish, or otherwise.

Keeping digital shorts and featurettes as retail-only extras is one thing, but preventing hearing-impaired audiences from enjoying the film is reprehensible -- especially for an all-inclusive, fun-loving brand.

Nicki -- a Disney consumer care representative -- confirmed that the move was indeed a marketing decision and the company is "working toward a solution." She couldn't say if that meant a new, closed-caption-featured rental version as there's yet to be official information on how the company will fix the problem. Nicki suggested owners may email Disney's DVD Help department for updates regarding the matter.

In the meantime, there's a solution, albeit unauthorized: Use Handbrake to rip the rental disc onto your computer, download a subtitle track in one of 35 languages from, use VLC as a media player, and enjoy the closed captioned film on your computer.

It may not be legally kosher, but leaving hearing-impaired children in the lurch isn't exactly morally sound either.
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