By John Seiley
This past Tuesday, Disney released Disney Movies Anywhere, an iPad/iPhone app that was a long time coming, in the works for years and previously known by other names. Disney Movies Anywhere in its final form basically serves as an alternate face to the iOS native iTunes storefront and Videos app, specifically for movies released by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, including Disney, Pixar, Marvel and presumably Lucasfilm titles. That may sound unnecessary and anticlimactic to followers of the project, but there are some real benefits to using the app that make available new level of content consumption on iOS.
Upon free download and initial launch of the app, the user is prompted to connect their Apple ID to an existing or new Disney account. This enables all functions of the app and, for the time being, a free movie download of Pixar’s “The Incredibles” (a fantastic movie that on its own makes it worth connecting accounts.) The user interface organizes currently available and “vaulted” titles by genre, displaying each item with a poster that includes a blue ribbon if previously purchased. All movie titles obtained via Disney Movies Anywhere are purchased through iTunes Store and are also accessible via the iOS Videos app.
The real value in this new app, other than a convenient way to organize and play Disney titles, is the previously unavailable features it enables. Of most interest to film fans are the (finally) playable bonus features included with purchase of major titles.
iTunes Extras have always been advertised in the iTunes Store as being included with purchase, but have only been available to watch on Mac or PC. This has always frustrated me since I have built quite a library of movies with extras, but have found it incredibly inconvenient to watch them. I usually either view movies on my iPad or Apple TV, and it’s a real let down when you’ve finished a film and are reminded you have to get to a desktop or laptop to get a glimpse behind the scenes. For the first time, for Buena Vista titles anyway, this has been remedied.
Any iTunes Extras can be seen according to their respective title, and some are even available free as an incentive to buy. These include behind-the-scenes documentaries, deleted scenes, bloopers, animated shorts, karaoke songs and more. There were only a few exceptions to this I found, such as the recently released “The Jungle Book”, whose bonuses were mysteriously absent from its respective menu.
Another welcome advantage to using Disney Movies Anywhere is the automatic accrediting of Disney Movie Rewards points on purchase. For the past decade, points could be accumulated by entering codes found inside Disney DVDs and Blu-rays on their website. Now, you can achieve 150 points for each High-def purchase and 100 points for each Standard-def purchase, and use them on rewards of all points ranges right from within the app.
Disney is likely hoping these features will prompt continued purchase of their films through iTunes in an era when much of their content can be viewed on Netflix. For a movie buff like me, it certainly goes a long way towards encouraging purchases, if not breaking my habit of waiting for store sales and discounts. When it comes to Disney’s most popular echelon of titles, such as their Diamond Edition releases of their Animated Classics, purchasing is the only option and wise considering their practice of “vaulting” them for as much as a decade.
Disney Movies Anywhere will be a welcome app for any film fan. I think I speak for most of us when I say Disney classics hold a special place in our movie-loving hearts. Having a dedicated app is very appropriate and warranted overall. It’s also a good model for other Hollywood studios to follow suit.