Underground Fun The Snow White DVD even includes a game, Dopey's Wild Mine Ride - a difficult feat given that the average DVD player isn't designed for interactive game playing. A rescue adventure most likely to appeal to young children, it resembles many of the early CD-ROM games for computers. Players help Dopey navigate through the tunnels of the dwarfs' mine in a rickety mining car, completing several tasks and gathering other dwarfs in an effort to save Snow White from the Wicked Queen.
David Jessen, director of DVD productions, assigned the task of developing the game to a three-man crew in the Special Projects group at Walt Disney Television Animation: Ed Wexler, Antran Manoogian, and Gary Katona. More than any other team on the DVD project, the trio exudes an aura of wacky fun and in-the-trenches camaraderie reminiscent of the wonderful fellowship of Snow White's dwarfs.
The game is built around a series of clips from the movie, with choices for the player to make using the directional arrows of a remote control. For example, "You come to a place in the mine where you have to choose [which way to go], and given the technology parameters, we couldn't make that choice seamless," Carey explained. "There would always be that wait-and-load kind of thing. So the challenge was to come up with something that makes the waiting feel natural, so it's part of the story."
To cloak the pause that follows the player's choice of a direction at the mine crossroads, "we used pieces of original artwork, like a track switcher, and kept the textures consistent between the movie image and the graphics," said Wexler. To match the look of the game to the movie, the team used two-dimensional animation of the characters in three-dimensional environments. "The effect was pretty 3-D," he said, "like the effects that come from using a multiplane camera like they did to create the Snow White film."
Elfin Outtakes The members of the Special Projects trio got a big kick out of creating activities that challenge game players to choose a correct animated sequence from the film out of a lineup of imposters. "One that we had fun with, but we couldn't use, involved a panning shot of the dwarfs' beds showing their names carved into the headboards," said Manoogian.
"Instead of 'Sneezy,' it said 'Larry,'" deadpanned Wexler.
"Yeah, and there was also a 'Cheesy,'" added Manoogian. "But it was too much of a challenge for internationalization," chimed in Deneroff. "The names would have had to have been translated into 32 languages, and we would have had to create a new version of the sequence for every single language."
Another clip eliminated from the game was a mining-car crash. "That crash caused some concern because there was a fear that the dwarfs had met their demise," said Katona. "It turns out that they were fine, but we decided we didn't want to go there."
Coming Attractions While many of the elements of the Snow White DVD will likely be employed in future Platinum DVDs, Carey hopes the lessons learned here will allow future releases to be even more innovative. And he said that the play-and-pause-to-load sluggishness of current DVD players will be gradually addressed. "The programming logic of current DVDs is like extremely basic computer programming. It's 'if-this-then-go-to' for all your choices, so it relies heavily on a set of film clips and menus." He expects the next generation of Web-enabled DVD players to allow for small amounts of material to be downloaded, such as updates of trailers already on the DVD, additional promotional offers, or new game-play elements.
And how would Walt Disney himself feel about all the digital tinkering with his film? "He'd have loved it all, because at heart, he was a technologist," said Roy Disney. "He saw technology the way an artist views paint brushes - as the tools that are needed to produce art and almost as important as the art itself. He'd have been so far ahead of us with computers, it would have made your head swim."
Ed Wexler shows how the Special Projects team created new animation of Dopey for the DVD's game.
Carey poses in front of the Disney headquarters. The building's facade, with seven oversized pillars depicting the legendary dwarfs, emphasizes the importance of Snow White in Disney's history.
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