Tarzan Viewers Protest Endless Ads on DVDs

Back in the good old days of video rentals, you just popped the tape in the player and started watching the movie. Then film studios figured out that they could add "trailers"—short ads for other movies—to the beginning of tapes in the hope of getting a little more exposure for their products—just like in the theater.

In both movie theaters and in the home, trailers are an irritating fact of life. With tape, most movie fans can simply fast-forward through them and get down to business. DVD has made it even easier, with a menu that appears when the disc is loaded. Viewers can choose to start the movie immediately, or can choose to view all the extra features the format allows—including ads and trailers. The vast majority of film fans watch the movies first.

Apparently, choice is not an option with Disney's new Tarzan DVD, which forces viewers through four minutes of previews before the film begins. There is no menu included to bypass the trailers and the advertisements for Disney's products and website—in other words, no way of avoiding the commercials except by fast-forwarding. The process can seem to take forever when a parent is trying to entertain an impatient pre-schooler.

The loss of control has provoked howls of complaint from consumers who have purchased the Tarzan disc to keep their children entertained. The movie-review section of Amazon.com's movie catalog has been inundated with complaints about the absence of a menu on the disc, and Disney's corporate headquarters has also heard plenty about it.

Whether a simple oversight or an attempt to take advantage of a captive audience, Tarzan's advertising onslaught is backfiring on Disney. The length of the ads is exceptional, according to industry observers, and may be alienating Disney loyalists, many of whom buy all of the company's animated features for their kids.

"The reason I bought my DVD player is so my kids don't have to wait for a movie to start," irate parent Joseph Lee told CNET News.com. "I have to let Disney know just how offensive this is, that they would shove this material down my throat every single time my kids want to watch." Disney execs have not yet said whether they would issue a menu-optimized version of Tarzan, but this experiment is probably sufficient to warn the entire home-video industry about the dangers of taking too much control away from consumers.