Disney’s Magical Blu-ray Tour strolled into DailyGame’s backyard today, giving us the chance to get some hands-on time with the “Car Finder” BD-J interactive feature included on Disney/Pixar’s Cars, which releases November 6. Disney and Panasonic had plenty to show on the Tour, from the Alien Invasion BD-J game on Chicken Little to the Liar’s Dice game on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, but this was the first chance consumers have had to get their hands on Cars’ BD-J feature.
The movie’s Car Finder BD-J interactive feature is intuitive enough for the most novice BD consumer yet robust enough to make seasoned Blu-ray fans feel like they’re getting a worthy bonus. In essence, Car Finder is an interactive “Where’s Waldo?” game in which viewers watch the entire movie in an interface that shows a variety of cars and landmarks to look for. This interface is subtle enough to not interfere with the movie itself, but it’s large enough to keep viewers from forgetting they’re supposed to be playing the BD-J “game.”
The cars and landmarks are each assigned to a number on the Blu-ray player’s remote. When viewers see one of the items during the movie’s playback, they press the corresponding button to add it to their score. The cars and landmarks don’t always appear on the interface immediately before they appear in the film, so viewers definitely need to pay attention to the movie rather than just pressing the number buttons mindlessly once the cars appear on the interface.
If a car-containing scene passes by without the viewer pressing the corresponding number, that car is added to the “missed cars” queue. Filling up this missed car queue doesn’t have any impact on the player’s overall score, but it definitely acts as a reminder that the viewer wasn’t paying close enough attention to the task at hand. In fact, it’s entirely likely that the game’s tracking of missed cars will inspire siblings to play the Car Finder game and compete to see who can “catch” the most cars.
The TVs and Blu-ray players Disney used to showcase Cars were both provided by Panasonic (a 50-inch plasma set and the DMP-BD10A, respectively), and the resulting 1080p image quality was astounding. Even in the Tour’s shopping-mall environment, the animated characters and environments popped with vivid colors and incredible clarity, making it easy to be distracted from the Car Finder game by the images crossing the screen. In fact, this setup removed any desire to sit in a movie theater ever again, and it pained me to come back to DailyGame HQ and gaze upon the 32-inch CRT (ironically, a Panasonic Tau). Consumers who visit Disney’s Magical Blu-ray Tour as it travels the United States will likely feel the same way: awed at the Tour’s presentation and disappointed by their home setup. But when you’re showing off Blu-ray technology, good equipment is necessary to avoid underselling the format.
And really, selling the Blu-ray format is what Disney’s Magical Blu-ray Tour is all about. Although gamers and hardcore home-entertainment enthusiasts are familiar with Blu-ray, mainstream consumers are not. Going into shopping malls is a great first step toward familiarizing people with Blu-ray and its BD-J features, and running the Tour through Christmas is a sly marketing move for both Disney and Panasonic.
But looking at the big picture, Disney’s Magical Blu-ray Tour is an encouraging step toward educating mainstream consumers about the true meaning of “high definition” and “next-generation movies.” After all, what better way to show consumers the future — and the present — of home entertainment than by using gorgeous 1080p Panasonic plasma monitors, showing a selection of HDMI-equipped Blu-ray players (including a PS3) and letting people get their hands on BD-J interactive features like Car Finder? If we’re lucky, this Tour might also advance consumer adoption of truly high-definition content and finally help resolve the format war between Blu-ray and HD-DVD.
— Jonas Allen