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Monday, July 17, 2006
Disney to Develop Original Blu-ray Titles

Raising the bar in the Blu-ray Disc vs. HD DVD battle, Walt Disney Co. is creating a series of short films to be shot in high-definition to accompany select films the company will release in the Blu-ray format.

It's the first move by any studio to develop original content for the Sony-developed Blu-ray, a step observers feel is critical to giving the format the upper edge over Toshiba's rival HD DVD.

The "Blu-Scape" shorts will be shot by cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg, who two years ago directed a theatrical feature film, "America's Heart and Soul," for Walt Disney Pictures.

Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment unit is expected to announce Monday its first nine titles in the next-generation Blu-ray Disc format, coming in two waves, beginning September 19. Five of them -- Walt Disney Pictures' "Dinosaur," "Eight Below," "Glory Road" and "Haunted Mansion," along with Touchstone Pictures' "Gone in Sixty Seconds" -- will come with the exclusive shorts, which the studio says will be "inspired" by the respective films.

"Dinosaur" and "Eight Below" are slated for September 19 release, along with Miramax Films' "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" and "The Great Raid."

The second wave of titles, due October 17, includes "Glory Road, "Haunted Mansion" and "Gone in Sixty Seconds," as well as Touchstone's "Dark Water" and Dimension Films' "The Brothers Grimm."

Most Buena Vista Blu-ray titles will list for $34.99.

At launch, Buena Vista's Blu-ray titles will feature advanced new menus, with seamless navigation and settings that can be accessed while the movie is playing. They also will come with new layering coating technology that provides a scratch-resistant surface.

Still being developed: more groundbreaking interactive features; personalized chapter selections; and compelling online content, including Web connectivity that will allow users to connect to live events hosted by the studio.

Buena Vista's expected announcement will make it the fourth studio to announce titles and release dates for Blu-ray, tipping the scale in favor of the format. Warner Home Video weighed in last week with four titles, while Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Lionsgate have both been releasing product since late June.

HD-DVD has only three studios releasing product: Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Paramount Home Entertainment and Warner.

Paramount and 20th Century Fox are expected to announce their inaugural Blu-ray Disc lineups shortly.

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