Menus and Easter Eggs

At the beginning of the year, I worked on a couple of sample columns for a pitch for a DVD web site. It never went anywhere, but today I’m presenting the second column for one and all to read. This isn’t a complete column, but the nuts and bolts of my point are there. With a little extra time, I would have added more examples and ranted a bit more, I’m sure.

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I donít understand the bells and whistles of menu designs.

They can be cute, but it seems that more and more often they just slow you down in an effort to look fancy and win design awards. I want a DVD menu that pops up right away, gets me to the option I want the quickest way possible, and wonít have incomprehensible labels to slow me down.

SHREK annoys me. After I click on a menu option, I have to wait for Donkey to fly off the screen to get to the next screen. When I get to that menu, I have to wait for the Gingerbread Man to say his piece and have a cute bit of animation to go along with it until the menu pops up.

TOY STORY pleases me, if only for the insert that comes with it to show the layout of the menus. All of the special edition Disney DVDs have that today and itís greatly welcome. When you have as much material on a disc to pour through as that, itís a great asset to be able to know where youíre going and whatís there. And if you donít have the foldout in front of you, the menu labels are pretty easy to follow.

This runs contrary to THE ABYSS, which is so insufferably pleased with itself that the menu options have a nautical theme, but are absolutely meaningless to someone who just wants to get to the scene selections.

Furthermore, I donít need a ton of animation on my menu. I certainly donít need spoilers running in the background of the menu for the movie Iím about to watch as I wait for the menu to load. No, wait. The menu isnít loading. The options on it are slowly fading in to the music. ARGH! People have no problem complaining about the FBI Warning slowing them down, but they donít say Ďbooí when it comes to menu designs that slow you down.

About the only fancy piece of menu animation I enjoy is the scene selection menu. That menu works best when small clips of the movie are included with each chapter.

The scene selection in Disneyís FANTASIA DVDs is the most annoying and tedious thing Iíve ever used on a DVD. Say you want to get to the 10th scene stop. You have to cursor down past the first nine scenes to get there. It wouldnít be so bad if it werenít for the fact that each time you cursor down thereís a noticeable blip while the disc loads the image and title of that scene.

While Iím at it, letís kill the Easter Eggs. Why are they there? Half of them arenít hidden all that well, and the other half are so impossible to find you need a guidebook to get to them. If it werenít for web sites like this one, how would you even know to look for one? It gets even better when the press releases from the studios brag that easter eggs will be found on the disc. Why not just add the bullet point to the back of the packaging and include the bonus ďfeatureĒ on the menu properly? If you want to keep with the spirit of the easter egg, then just include the item in the menu and donít mention it on the packaging. Itíll be a pleasant surprise for those who buy the disc, but wonít cause them any heartache in typing in lengthy codes to get to see an entire alternate version of a movie. (TERMINATOR 2, anyone?)


One Response to “Menus and Easter Eggs”

  1. Franklin Harris
    30. September 2002 at 10:32

    I agree totally about the “Easter Eggs” The only ones I’ve ever seen that are worth the trouble are the ones on ADV’s “Excel Saga” DVDs, and, fortunately, they are easy to find. Either label them as true features or don’t bother with them. Simply don’t waste my time looking for them.