Captioning: Bonus Feature or Required?

Captioning: Bonus Feature or Required?

By Maryellen Sarles
November 18, 2009

Imagine that after a long day, you’d love nothing more than to sit on the couch and watch the newest cutesy animated movie from Pixar. No doubt, you cannot be disappointed… after all, it is Pixar, right? have delivered pretty stellar movies in the recent past and this should be no different. Now, imagine being confronted with the shock that the DVD has no captioning at all. Maybe you don’t have to imagine it. Maybe it happened to you, just like it happened to me.

My roommate scolded me, “Tsk, you should have checked Netflix and Redbox first to see if it had captioning or subtitles.” No, I didn’t check before I rented the movie, but in this day and age – practically every movie has either captioning or subtitles that most of us don’t even think to check anymore, right? It was silly to think that I could have vested so much importance into a cute animated movie to help me unwind, but the fact is – I was extremely disappointed!

At first, I thought I was alone. I must have gotten a bad DVD somehow. Just my luck, huh? Then over the next few days, I began to see steady streams of complaints from friends and fellow Deafies asking about the captioning on “Up.”

First it was a “marketing decision.” Then it was a “manufacturing error.”

In a country where closed captioning is considered mainstream, this was a pretty big shock. Pixar (and Disney) released their newest full-feature animated film to all major rental companies without captioning or subtitles. If you required captioning in some form and wanted to watch “Up,” you were out of luck. Well, no… not exactly. If you wanted to watch it bad enough, you could buy the retail version. Conveniently, the retail version has captioning along with the bonus features.

Pixar considers closed captioning/subtitles a bonus feature. Really? Shame on you, Pixar. Back in the heyday, captioning might have been a luxury but today, it is expected. In a place where we have captioning practically
everywhere, it is expected of major motion picture companies to produce their movies with captioning.

After a pretty big uproar from the community, Pixar has announced that they will release a new batch of DVDs that includes the bonus features to rental companies.

Let’s analyze what Pixar meant by “marketing decision.” Could it be that they wanted (or needed) to save money by removing the bonus features? Surely, the animation giant would already have all these features someplace. All it would take is a little manpower (and technology) to integrate them with the feature film. So it couldn’t be about saving money. When I sat down to think about it, the only (and most obvious) answer came to mind. If adoring fans wanted to watch “Up” bad enough, they’d buy the DVD, right? Or maybe not. It may be safe to assume that in this economy, Pixar might be suffering just a tad bit just like the rest of us. Apparently, they thought the best way to boost sales was to force those of us who require captioning to buy their DVDs. Lame.

Let’s look at “manufacturing error.” Error? Yeah right. A complete set without bonus features conveniently ended up at rental places while the other batch (WITH bonus features) ended up in retail stores? A mistake can’t get any more perfect than that. For Pixar’s sake – let’s believe for a second that it truly was an error. With the movie being passed through so many hands from start to finish, it’s appalling to even think that everyone could have missed that.

Thousands of devoted fans have become disgruntled customers overnight. I guess Pixar just never accounted for how many there are of us out there. And by “us,” I mean those who need captioning to enjoy their movies and those who just like to have captioning on their screen. If everyone stands together and makes one united voice, we can truly make a difference.

Let this be a message to Pixar and anyone who will listen. Captioning is NOT a special feature!


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