Dear Disney & Pixar: Closed Captioning and Audio Descriptions are not “special features”

Codeman38 has been bringing people’s attention to the lack of accessibility features available in the rental version of Up:

However, Disney (the film’s distributor) released a special rental-only version of the DVD to the three above-mentioned rental chains, which lacks the bonus shorts from the retail DVD, the descriptive audio track, and the captions and subtitles in all three languages.

I know. It sounds utterly unbelievable– so I posted this DVD player screenshot of the rental version on Twitpic as proof. (And yes, the one menu item says “turn off closed captioning”, but that’s because I have it on by default; there’s none encoded on the disc.)

[See also Codeman38’s similar post on Accessibility Fail]

As Alena from Perspectives from a Blind Point of View puts it:

There is no excuse for this, especially for those who waited for the DVD release because they have a disability. People with disabilities shouldn’t have to pay extra to enjoy a movie, especially when the features were built in to make sure that the blind and deaf could better enjoy the film. I’d really like to know how this decision came to occur. It seems clear to me that Disney must not employ anyone with a disability in their marketing department, because if they did they would realize that this is likely to cause people to not buy the DVD, rather then increase sales.

The Consumerist reports this is a marketing decision on Disney’s part.

This leads me back into one of my ongoing (off-line) rants, which is the idea that people with disabilities are asking for some form of “special” treatment. No, they’re asking for the same thing everyone else does – to be able to rent the Newly Released Film from Blockbuster or Netflix or whatever, and enjoy it. The way they can do that is through these necessary features. They’re not “special”, they’re necessary. Just because they aren’t necessary for me doesn’t mean they aren’t necessary for other people.

This is pretty bad behaviour, and stuff that we need to be calling out.

Disney’s switchboard number is (818) 560-1000. I haven’t been able to find an email address or other contact information on this. If anyone else has any ideas, please let me know.

16 thoughts on “Dear Disney & Pixar: Closed Captioning and Audio Descriptions are not “special features”

  1. This is worrying, because while I’m not deaf, I’m just hearing-impaired enough that captioning for me is a mercy. It means I don’t have to have the volume on a film or TV show turned up to the point where it’s painful (both for myself and for others) so I can understand it. It means I’m not constantly asking my partner (or whoever else is in the room) “what was that?”. I occasionally have trouble taking sets of syllables and turning them into words in my head – particularly when the syllables are slurred, said quickly, muttered, said very quietly, said in an unfamiliar accent, or merely enunciated imprecisely. It gets confusing. Having the captions running at the bottom of the screen means I’m not sitting there missing half the story.

    The presence of captions is why I wait for films to come out on DVD these days – it’s so much easier to just buy the DVD and read the captions than it is to try and decipher things in a cinema environment. Lately my purchases of DVDs has gone right down (partially because there isn’t much out there I want to watch, partially because I’m broke), but if there was something I was interested enough in, I’d probably take out a membership at the local movie hire place, and hire it. Finding out after I hired the film that I couldn’t view the film with captions would just wreck it.

  2. I wonder if the organizations like ACB, NFB and even WGBH can assist in working with Dizney on this. At the very least, the incomplete DVD should be recalled and if possible, people with disabilities should be allowed to rent the full featured one at no cost.

  3. As a film person, I can’t help but feel this is not only terrible, but legally dodgy to a certain extent in the US. Not quite illegal, no, but definitely a grey area that could possibly justify a suit if someone had the spoons and resources to bring it.

    Bonus materials, my rear…this is 2009.

  4. This is the only e-mail address I could find for Pixar. Disney, I imagine, handles all the DVD stuff, but it might still be a good idea to lean on Pixar a bit. If they give a rip about accessibility, they would certainly want their distributor to make their products, uh, accessible. There is also a phone number and snail mail address on the Pixar site, under company info.

  5. For what it’s worth, Marlee Matlin has contacted Disney, who now claims that this was a manufacturing error (contradicting what three support representatives said) and that supposedly all future rental releases of Up will be captioned:

    Of course, this still doesn’t answer the question of how one will distinguish the new disc from the old, much less how one will be able to pick which version one randomly receives from Netflix or Redbox.

  6. Oh, yes, and another issue: if the discs aren’t immediately recalled, video stores will continue to keep the uncaptioned version in stock until one of the discs breaks or is scratched to the point of unreadability… which means, essentially, that it will be just as impossible to find a captioned copy now as it was before.

  7. The thing that made this particularly irritating for me, incidentally, is that Pixar has gone above and beyond with accessibility in the past. On the DVD of Finding Nemo, not only was the movie itself subtitled, but so were the bonus shorts and documentaries; even the two audio commentaries had corresponding subtitle tracks, which was practically unheard of at the time and is still uncommon even now. And this has been standard on their DVDs ever since then.

  8. Er, sorry, I’m getting my Pixar DVDs mixed up. Finding Nemo only had one commentary (but it was subtitled). The Incredibles, however, had two— and both were subtitled.

  9. Yeah, I had heard, just anecdotally, that Pixar has been pretty good about these things in the past. Hopefully, Pixar can be an ally of sorts, because if not, they deserve a side of the heaping dish of scorn that Disney gets.

  10. Oh good grief. Like Meg in comment 1, I’m not deaf but hearing impaired to the point where watching without CC is an exercise in frustration at best, and downright impossible at worst. Even when things are loud, I don’t do very well separating out individual words – therefore, the movie theater’s “helpful” solution of handing out headphones to hearing impaired people just DOES NOT HELP because making everything louder does NOT make it more clear. And they never fit right over my hearing aides’ speakers since they have to sit exactly right in order to pick up the signal, anyways. It’s so, so rare for me to watch movies in the theater anymore and my Netflix account gets quite a workout. So, feh on Disney.

  11. @Meg, Brooke: Same reason I use captioning myself– I have a very difficult time distinguishing speech from background noise and music, and with movie soundtracks, if you make one loud, you make the other loud as well. And that’s when the speech is clearly enunciated with a relatively light accent; if the character’s got a thick accent or tends to mumble things, I’m totally lost.

  12. I just received an e-mail from Disney stating the following:

    Thank you for your e-mail regarding the absence of closed captions from your Up rental DVD. The captions were inadvertently left off of the rental DVD. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused. We are working diligently to rectify this situation by shipping the corrected product to our accounts and creating a consumer program to address this matter. Since not all retailers will be able to participate in this program we will contact you once we have the specifics confirmed.

    I’m getting more and more of an impression that what must’ve happened is something along the lines of marketing telling the production department “remove all extras from this DVD”, and their taking that a bit too literally.

  13. I’m having this same problem and I am indeed hearing impaired. But before I found this blog, I sent a load of emails to both pixar and that dvd help link above. Hopefully they’ll realize the gravity of their errors.

  14. I am totally appalled by this! My boyfriend and I decided to rent “up” from netflix and we could not get the closed captioning on. We called “netflix” and they sent us another copy which again did not have closed captioning. When we learned that Disney decided not to have closed captioned we were shocked. I am hard of hearing and cannot enjoy movies without captioning. My boyfriend is not hard of hearing, but I cannot go to the movies with him because of my hearing loss. I really feel that something has to be done about this!!!

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