Blu-ray BD-Java Reviews
Chicken Little Review
If you've picked up Speed on Blu-ray and have been somewhat disappointed by the rather barebones and unimaginative use of BD-Java in the movie, then Chicken Little from Disney is the antidote to this emotional malaise.
The movie itself is a pleasant surprise. The storyline is simple enough, a somewhat a-typical alien invasion theme, but it is bolstered by the emotional undertones that occur because of Chicken Little's continual desire to get his father to believe in him after he causes havoc when he thinks that "the sky is falling". Surrounding this main character are strongly characterized supporting players, including an ugly duckling as the "love interest", a funny piglet who is called "runt" but tiptoes around on feet that are barely seen because of an enormous body, and the coolest critter in the list, a fish called, well, "fish", who goes around wearing a fishbowl over its head, and who can dance like Michael Jackson.
The two main BD-J features in the title are a Directors' Q&A and a space-invaders type game featuring the movie characters. I use a Playstation 3 as my Blu-ray player, and it was interesting to note a flashing sign ("TESTING") that appears before anything else when first trying to play the features. It seems that the publishers were doing their due diligence by making sure that the Blu-ray player being used is capable of running the features, a necessary step given the glacial pace of BD-J spec adoption by the manufacturers.
Anyone who has ever seen a Java applet loading on a web page will be heartened to hear that the movie has its own BD-J equivalent, but one that is quite a bit more polished than the usual Java applet introduction. A small colorful Chicken Little graces the screen and dances madly inside a hexagonal background while the BD-J application loads resources in the background.
The Directors' Q&A is an interesting way of melding information about the creation of the movie with the movie itself. Unlike the Trivia Track in Speed, viewers have direct control over what information to load by using a rotating banner aligned below the main screen. Some questions are answered using audio only, which means the main title continues to play (albeit with voices drowned out) while the BD-J audio track runs. However, some of the answers have video and results in the movie cutting over completely to the answer segment, before cutting back to the main title after the segment runs. In addition, pop-up questions that are relevant to the current scene in the movie reveal themselves on the upper left hand corner as the story progresses, again giving viewers the ability to control the flow of information.
One quirk that bothered me occurred when I set the Q&A to run on auto-play, which automatically played certain questions without manual user intervention as the main movie run on. I found that the auto-play tended to play segments with almost no intervals between them, such that the movie became disjointed spots with long Q&A segments in between. The ability for the user to manually assign how many seconds or minutes should elapse between segments might have helped.
The "Alien Invasion" BD-J feature that is also included in the BD-50 disc is a surprisingly polished and engaging game that is unashamedly derived from Space Invaders, and can be played in single or two-player mode. You control one of the four main characters and throw various objects at the spaceships that go back and forth across the screen above you. The ships slowly make their way downwards in neat rows, with some ships once in a while shooting beams down onto the ground. If your character is hit by this beam, then that character is taken out of the game and you will have to make do with the remaining characters.
The two player mode means you can play side by side against a friend or child, and it is interesting to note that the four characters in the game can move at different speeds, with the smaller Fish Out of Water being much fleeter of foot than the lumbering Runt of the Litter for example.
The game is made significantly more difficult by the fact that each character can only throw a certain number of objects at the space ships before needing time to replenish its stock of "weapons". Thus, you will need to manually switch between characters as the game progresses. The ships also accelerate their downward velocity as they move closer to the ground, which makes it imperative for players to destroy ships in the first few rows as soon as possible.
Overall, the BD-J features in Disney's Chicken Little are stellar examples of what BD-Java can do, although the lack of PIP functionalities in Blu-ray players at this time may have limited the options available to developers. If this is a teaser sample of what Disney can do with the technology, then I cannot wait for what other surprises they have in store for us in the Pirates of Carribbean movies and Cars later this Spring 2007!
NOTE: All images in this article are copyright to Buena Vista Home Entertainment.. They are not meant to correctly depict the actual representation of the movie in high-definition.