Disney's FastPlay: Not So Fast

Disney_lWhen did George Orwell’s ghost start working for the Disney company’s DVD division?

I’m speaking, my friends, of an insidious, hateful new concept called "Disney’s FastPlay." Pop any recent Disney disc, like The Jungle Book, into your player, and the first thing that comes up is this message, delivered by an announcer in that hyped-up announcer-type voice:

"This Disney DVD is enhanced with Disney’s FastPlay. Your movie and a selection of bonus features will begin automatically. To bypass Fast Play, select the Main Menu button at any time. Fast Play will begin in a moment…"

And boom — before you know it, without having actually made a selection (you’ve got to be really quick to select "Main Menu" — which, trust me, is what you want to do), FastPlay engages. Except it ISN’T fast play: It’s slow play. Notice the announcer said "your movie and selection of bonus features." But when he soothingly coos "bonus features," he ain’t talking about fun stuff like behind-the-scenes documentaries or production-art galleries, folks. He’s talking about commercials for other Disney DVDs (a term the company loves to repeat ad nauseum, as if it were a unique technology instead of just a label distinction), plugs for other Disney products, and those infuriating FBI warnings.

Of course, as announcer-man said, you can jump out of thisirritating trap at any time by hitting "Menu." But why should you haveto? And shouldn’t Disney be ashamed of itself for deliberately making the choice so confusing, the language so Orwellian? They’re playing Pinocchio — as in the bad, lying Pinocchio — when they call their new feature FastPlay, since it takes nearly seven minutes for the movie to begin if you select that option — or let the DVD player select it for you, which it does like a three-card-monty huckster trying to take your money.

Try Googling "Disney FastPlay" and you’ll find Disney’s officialwebsite about it, which is even more Orwellian than the dang featureitself. Everything about how Disney is touting this feature is designedto confuse, bamboozle, anesthetize, and lull you into giving up andgiving in to watching their promos. They know most kids and parents aretoo lazy or techno-phobic to hit any button, and will wind up sittingthrough this annoying crud.

It used to be worse: When Disney first joined the DVD market, theycoded their discs in a way that made it impossible to jump out of thepreviews. Fans went berserk, and so Disney relented by opening eachdisc with a logo that clearly explained you could jump out by hitting"Menu." That escape hatch still exists with FastPlay — but now it’smuch more confusing and hard to grasp that you’ve got a bail-outbutton. 

And as nefarious as Disney’s FastPlay spiels are, what they’re doingis better than the approach taken by some other big studios (Universaland Paramount, are you listening?), which still encode theirDVDs in ways that make it often impossible not to have to sit throughcompany fanfares and trailers you don’t want to see. (Best trick: Hitthe "Menu" button repeatedly the moment you load the DVD, go to the"Scene Selection" menu choice, select "Scene 1," and voila — the moviestarts, with no FBI logo, no pesky trailers or ads or filler. Worksmost of the time — and, at 30 seconds, offers truly fast play.)

Can you imagine if every time you loaded a CD you had to wadethrough a public service announcement that couldn’t be skipped through,or required you to hit three buttons and wait nearly a half-minute toget to the music? Is the DVD industry trying to hasten its own death?Good job, fellas!

No wonder fed-up fans have been downloading online freeware like DVD Shrink and DVD Decrypter. These programs stripout all the crap the studios try to force you to watch, as if you werepoor Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. I know technotypes who "shrink" every single DVD they buy, to avoid annoyingcome-ons like FastPlay. Drop this sad charade now, Disney — or fanswill use this freeware in greater and greater numbers and do it for you.

So let’s hear from the poor strapped-in test subjects now (or atleast that’s how Disney sees you). Does FastPlay piss you guys off too?Who’s the worst studio with locked-in playback before the movie? What’sthe longest stretch you’ve ever had to wait to get to watch your movie?We’re all ears — and we’ve got plenty of time, since it’ll be at least7 minutes before we can figure out how to get our Jungle Book DVD to actually do what we paid for: Show us the movie.

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Comments (54 total) Add your comment
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  • Mike

    I’m with you all the way. We have a three-year old who loves Disney movies, so we have to deal with this all the time. The most dishonest thing to me is how they say that “your movie and a selection of bonus features will begin in a moment,” thereby implying that the movie will play first, then the “bonus features,” i.e., commercials. Of course, it’s the opposite, with the many commercials first, and then, at long last, the movie. And calling it “Fastplay” is amazingly cynical. Get rid of it, Disney!

  • GingerCat

    I don’t see what the big deal is. As you yourself admit, it’s easy enough to get out of watching these things if you want to. Besides, I usually like watching a few previews before a movie, be it in the theater or on DVD.
    The comparison to music CDs is not apt, because most of us listen to our CDs over and over again, sometimes more than once in the same day. DVDs, on the other hand, are usually watched only occasionally, or, in the case of a rental, only once, so it’s not as intrusive/annoying to have advertising at the start.
    And the FBI warning? It’s been there since VHS days. It’s a little late to start hating on it, IMO.

    • Andrew

      Are you a Disney employee?

    • Shay

      Except that means that every movie I watch on DVD I’ve got to skip this stupid non-movie content by madly pressing stop/menu/skip/fast-forward until it gives me control (every DVD has its own way of getting to the movie). DVD technology COULD have allowed us to pop the disk in and have the movie playing LITERALLY in a couple of seconds, with the ability to press MENU if we wanted to get bonus materials, just like a CD works.

  • Kate

    Oh yeah…I became well aware of this when I was teaching kindergarten. It’s useless!

  • Anna

    It’s not usually a big deal the first time but say you want to re-watch the movie, which is the point of buying it on dvd in the first place, and you have to keep trying to skip over it again and again.
    The problem in my house is that we’re missing the remote control to a couple of dvd players and they don’t have menu options on the players themselves so we’re stuck unless we want to pay $40+ for another remote control that we shouldn’t need in the first place.

  • quit whining

    It’s really not that hard to hit “menu” and go to the main menu. It’s rare when you can’t do it. Maybe you should learn to be more patient, Steve.

  • quit whining

    I will agree, though, that Disney calling it “Fast Play” is misleading.

  • Jack Holstein

    Disney and their FAST PLAY is useless as well as all the kiddie games included on such DVD special editions when if they want games make a board game and then inlcude the Original Theatrical Trailers and Re-Release Trailers for these films. Also did these Disney people ever see a Laserdisc special edition of theirs at all? Prob not they had awesome art galleries back in the day you could go through hundreds/ thousands of pieces… noe they do this odd ball time consuming thing of doing a gallery with about 5 pictures and it is so annoying they really need help in their home video department badly. They need to remember adults like real special features. Maybe Disney should make more adult oriented special editions and then release the kiddie versions for them. what would out sale I would guess the ones geared towards the Disneyfile or collector.

  • Martha

    My issue with “Fast Play” is that on some Disney DVDs, hitting “Menu” won’t even work – you have to hit the scene button and fast forward past all the ads for “Aladdin V: Genie’s Last Dance.” I wouldn’t mind just hitting “Menu.”

  • Broadway Baby

    Good Lord – remember the days when you had to fast forward video tape? or am I carbon-dating myself? I personally like ‘fast-play’ because it lets my three year old be independent of me (as most parents know this age is all “I Do It!”) and start the sing-a-long DVD on her own.

  • SpaceCat85

    Kudos for writing this!
    Disney FastPlay and similar DVD “content” falls into the “because they can” category. You know DVD advertising is obnoxious when you’re actually overjoyed by the rare DVD that actually skips straight to the movie–no unskippable content or even menus (unless you actually hit menu), just the movie itself.
    At least with VHS tapes you could *always* fast-forward past the FBI warnings and trailers, not just “sometimes” or “only if you’re fast at drawing your remote”…

  • Walt Disney’s Frozen Corpse

    Disney is notorious for packing their dvds with commercials before the movie. It drives me nuts.

  • Desperate Mother

    This is a big deal on the Baby Einstein DVD’s! They go right to the menu but then the FBI and previews come after you hit play movie!! This sucks when you have a crying one year old.

  • ChadronJames

    I HATE HATE HATE fastplay. We are usually in a hurry to get something on for the kids, which means that we don’t want to take the time to hit “menu.” We have to sit through aweful previews for straight-to-DVD movies every time we watch Peter Pan or any other Disney movie. They should just start the movie automatically.

  • N’Jeri Eaton

    Thank you so much Steve for writing about this. I put on my copy of Jungle Book last night, extremely excited to watch it. But the whole fast play mess was so frustrating. It totally ruined the whole viewing experience.

  • SuzieC

    Fast play my eye. I want to punch that announcer dude out.
    I usually just press the fast forward button down with full force as if that’ll make things move faster.
    Disney, if I want to watch your promos, I will watch your promos. But right now I just want my frikin movie!

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