By Steve Daly
Updated October 04, 2007 at 12:00 PM EDT

When did George Orwell’s ghost start working for the Disney company’s DVD division?

I’m speaking, my friends, of an insidious, hateful new concept called “Disney’s FastPlay.” Pop any recent Disney disc, like The Jungle Book, into your player, and the first thing that comes up is this message, delivered by an announcer in that hyped-up announcer-type voice:

This Disney DVD is enhanced with Disney’s FastPlay. Your movie and a selection of bonus features will begin automatically. To bypass Fast Play, select the Main Menu button at any time. Fast Play will begin in a moment…

And boom — before you know it, without having actually made a selection (you’ve got to be really quick to select “Main Menu” — which, trust me, is what you want to do), FastPlay engages. Except it ISN’T fast play: It’s slow play. Notice the announcer said “your movie and selection of bonus features.” But when he soothingly coos “bonus features,” he ain’t talking about fun stuff like behind-the-scenes documentaries or production-art galleries, folks. He’s talking about commercials for other Disney DVDs (a term the company loves to repeat ad nauseum, as if it were a unique technology instead of just a label distinction), plugs for other Disney products, and those infuriating FBI warnings.

Of course, as announcer-man said, you can jump out of thisirritating trap at any time by hitting “Menu.” But why should you haveto? And shouldn’t Disney be ashamed of itself for deliberately making the choice so confusing, the language so Orwellian? They’re playing Pinocchio — as in the bad, lying Pinocchio — when they call their new feature FastPlay, since it takes nearly seven minutes for the movie to begin if you select that option — or let the DVD player select it for you, which it does like a three-card-monty huckster trying to take your money.

Try Googling “Disney FastPlay” and you’ll find Disney’s officialwebsite about it, which is even more Orwellian than the dang featureitself. Everything about how Disney is touting this feature is designedto confuse, bamboozle, anesthetize, and lull you into giving up andgiving in to watching their promos. They know most kids and parents aretoo lazy or techno-phobic to hit any button, and will wind up sittingthrough this annoying crud.

It used to be worse: When Disney first joined the DVD market, theycoded their discs in a way that made it impossible to jump out of thepreviews. Fans went berserk, and so Disney relented by opening eachdisc with a logo that clearly explained you could jump out by hitting”Menu.” That escape hatch still exists with FastPlay — but now it’smuch more confusing and hard to grasp that you’ve got a bail-outbutton.

And as nefarious as Disney’s FastPlay spiels are, what they’re doingis better than the approach taken by some other big studios (Universaland Paramount, are you listening?), which still encode theirDVDs in ways that make it often impossible not to have to sit throughcompany fanfares and trailers you don’t want to see. (Best trick: Hitthe “Menu” button repeatedly the moment you load the DVD, go to the”Scene Selection” menu choice, select “Scene 1,” and voila — the moviestarts, with no FBI logo, no pesky trailers or ads or filler. Worksmost of the time — and, at 30 seconds, offers truly fast play.)

Can you imagine if every time you loaded a CD you had to wadethrough a public service announcement that couldn’t be skipped through,or required you to hit three buttons and wait nearly a half-minute toget to the music? Is the DVD industry trying to hasten its own death?Good job, fellas!

No wonder fed-up fans have been downloading online freeware like DVD Shrink and DVD Decrypter. These programs stripout all the crap the studios try to force you to watch, as if you werepoor Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. I know technotypes who “shrink” every single DVD they buy, to avoid annoyingcome-ons like FastPlay. Drop this sad charade now, Disney — or fanswill use this freeware in greater and greater numbers and do it for you.

So let’s hear from the poor strapped-in test subjects now (or atleast that’s how Disney sees you). Does FastPlay piss you guys off too?Who’s the worst studio with locked-in playback before the movie? What’sthe longest stretch you’ve ever had to wait to get to watch your movie?We’re all ears — and we’ve got plenty of time, since it’ll be at least7 minutes before we can figure out how to get our Jungle Book DVD to actually do what we paid for: Show us the movie.